Mistakes Therapists Make When Planning Holidays

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The holidays provide an opportunity for some much-needed time off with loved ones. As a caregiver, you know you’re not immune to needing to rest and recharge, especially during the festive holidays when many people celebrate with their family and friends. But now that you started your practice, you’ll want to consider mistakes therapists make when planning holidays.

You need and deserve time off, just like everyone else. But when you’re responsible for your practice and patient care, you have to plan carefully to make sure time off is relaxing instead of chaotic or stressful. Avoiding these mistakes will help you relax and enjoy your favorite holiday traditions.

1: Not Notifying Clients Well in Advance

Give your clients as much advance notification as possible that you’ll be out of the office. A month’s notice is terrific if you can provide it. Otherwise, let them know as soon as you do. 

Make them aware that you’ll be gone in two ways, like in person and in writing or via email and letter. Offer them alternatives for when they can meet with you if their regular appointment falls while you’re off. 

The good news during the holiday season is that many clients will also be traveling and taking time off, so schedules are more fluid during that time.

Understand that some of your clients may feel nervous about not being able to reach you. Reassure them that you have a plan if they have an emergency. Encourage them to have appointments in the weeks before and after you leave. Consider leaving some time blocked in your schedule when you return, just in case clients had issues arise while you were away.

2: Not Setting Up “Out of Office” Plans

You’re not taking time off if you’re still checking emails and phone messages every day. Make plans to be out of the office. Set up an “out of office” email auto-response and phone message. Tell clients when you’ll return and what they should do in the event of an emergency. 

Try to make an emergency plan for them, including contacting another counselor for essential issues and sending them to the emergency room for extreme concerns. If you are the emergency plan, you’re likely to end up working during whatever time off you have.

3: Leaving Tasks Unfinished

Chances are you’ll be busy preparing for vacation before you leave and catching up when you return. Complete all tasks, no matter how small, before you leave the office on your last day. That way, you can genuinely unplug during your time off. Even a few unfinished charts or lingering phone messages can keep you from relaxing completely. 

4: Leaving Staff Contact Open

You may have the administrative staff or even counseling partners working while you’re out of the office. They may cover some of your load in exchange for you returning the favor later. Still being in the office and working may tempt them to contact you to ask questions. Discourage them from reaching out to you unless it’s an absolute emergency. You don’t want to spend the time you should be drinking hot cocoa in front of the fire fielding work calls and answering questions from colleagues. That’s not relaxing. It’s working from a different location.

5: Budgeting Woes

You can take off whenever you want when you work for yourself, but that doesn’t mean your budget will allow you to do so. Build time off for the year into your budget when you create your business plan. Understand precisely how much time you can afford to spend away without it becoming a financial burden. It will be easier for you to relax when you know you have a plan and don’t have to worry about finances.

6: Not Taking Time Off

It can be nerve-wracking to step away from your practice, especially in the beginning when you’re building your client roster and counting every penny. But burnout is a genuine concern, especially among mental health professionals. Almost 80% of mental health professionals self-reported feeling burnout in a 2020 study. You may not be able to take weeks off at a time, but you can at least take a few uninterrupted days or a couple of extended weekends during the holidays to recharge and celebrate.

You have to care for yourself, so you can help others heal. You would encourage your clients to take time off, especially during the holidays. You should do the same. But you don’t want your counseling practice to suffer in the meantime. If you’re strategically building your practice and communicating well with your clients, you can take stress-free time away from the office for the holidays. 

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