It might sound a little crazy, but having too many clients can be a common (and very real!) problem for counsellors and therapists who are established and receiving regular referrals.
So, how do you know when enough is enough? How can you tell when you have enough clients on your caseload, and shouldn’t take on anymore? Better yet, what can you do about it?
Firstly, here are a few ways you can tell if you have too many clients, or you are quickly reaching that point:
You’re Booked Up For Weeks or Months in Advance
A new or returning client contacts you, and you can’t find a spot for them for another 3 or 4 weeks … or more! It’s alright if this happens once or twice, but if you’re starting to find this happening on a more regular basis (a few times per month or more), it’s a good indication that you have too many clients!
You’re Regularly Booking Clients Outside of Your Normal Work Hours
You’ve set work hours for yourself that you had planned to stick to, but your regular clients just don’t seem to fit within them. You find yourself scheduling clients outside of the hours that you told yourself (and your family) you would stick to!
You’re Seeing More Clients In a Week Than You’d Like To
You have an ideal number in your head of how many clients you’d like to see in a given week, and somehow each week, you manage to go over. The income you are generating feels good, but you know you’re headed towards burnout if you keep operating at that pace.
You Have Trouble Taking Vacations or Time Off
You know how many days per week you want to be working, and you’ve told yourself you’ll take at least 1 to 2 days off per week (hopefully at least two… I personally recommend 3 if you are working full-time as a therapist!) but it just doesn’t seem to be happening. You’ve also promised yourself you’ll take a few week’s vacation each year too, which isn’t turning out the way you had hoped!
For those of you who aren’t quite there yet, this can seem like a really good problem to have! However, if it’s happening to you, you probably feel a bit stressed out and overwhelmed, and like you’re letting your clients down. It can be frustrating for your clients too, which isn’t great for either your reputation as a dependable therapist, or for your client’s progress in therapy when they can’t get in to see you.
If you’re starting to feel like you have too many clients, here’s what you can do:
Limit the Total Number of Clients on Your Caseload
If you do a bit of math, you can probably figure out how many clients you need to have in your practice (i.e. on your active caseload list) in order to be full each week. Typically, 30-35 active clients at any given time (provided they are coming regularly), will yield 15-20 clients per week. Any more than that, and you probably won’t be able to fit people in when you would like to.
Get Your Clients on a Regular Schedule
Kindly inform your clients that due to your practice being very busy, and the fact that you want to be able to accommodate everyone, you are requesting that all of your clients get on a regular weekly or biweekly schedule. This may not work for everyone, but it will for most. Create a cancellation or “re-scheduling” policy with a bit of flexibility, but in general, have the majority of your clients scheduled in at the same day and time, every week or every second week. This prevents issues with clients not being able to get in to see you when they want to, allows you to feel more secure in your caseload, and enables you to serve your clients better. When your clients can’t get in to see you when they want to, it is also great motivation for requesting that they get on a regular schedule with you! (And as a nice bonus, when your clients are on a regular schedule, it great reduces the amount of administration time that YOU have to spend on scheduling!)
Raise Your Rates
In my practice, when I am full (based on the criteria above) and on the verge of having to start a waitlist, I use the opportunity to raise my rates (at least for current clients who can afford it, and all new clients). If your practice is so busy that you are having a hard time taking on new clients, have started a waitlist, or can’t find time within a two week timeframe to schedule new clients in, you’re obviously doing something right…. and you are most likely undercharging!