Balancing life and work may seem impossible for a therapist, but it’s easier than you think
“Never permit a dichotomy to rule your life. A dichotomy in which you hate what you do so you can have pleasure in your spare time. Look for a situation in which your work will give you as much happiness as your spare time.” -Pablo Picasso
You love your job; there’s no doubting that. Even in high school, when someone asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up, you’d tell them your dream was to be a counselor and help people. Well, you’re finally grown up (though you may still feel young at heart!), and you’re lucky to be working in the same field you always wanted to. However, that doesn’t mean you live a stress-free life. Running a private practice can get hectic at times. As much as you remind your clients and colleagues to practice self-care, you occasionally find it challenging to do in your own life. Balancing life and work isn’t a 50/50% split that can be measured. Instead, consider it a harmony that requires both aspects of your life to work together.
Four tips for balancing life and work as a counselor
1. Analyze and tweak your schedule
The key to finding balance is to know what hours are best for your work life and family life. Are you more productive in the morning, afternoon, or evening? By analyzing your current schedule, you can identify the best times to book clients. However, don’t stop there. Balancing life and work requires you to consider the needs of your personal life as well.
Do you often miss your children’s sporting events because they take place while you’re in session? Alter your available hours to include time for your family. Doing so may mean you can only book four weeks into the future, but you’ll get more flexibility to be where you want to be when you want to be.
Similarly, if physical activity is a priority in your life, and your yoga instructor has changed her class time to 8 a.m., but you normally start work at 9 a.m., consider opening your practice at 9:30 instead, giving you time to go to class and commute to the office. Self-care is important for counselors, and altering your private practice hours to meet your personal needs will make you happier in both areas of your life.
2. Make time for vacations
According to Project: Time Off, “The inability to take time off has become one of America’s greatest work culture failings, defining hard work quantitatively not qualitatively, epitomized by the 658 million vacation days workers left unused last year.” As a counselor—especially one in private practice—taking time off may feel impossible. Your clients rely on your consistency. It isn’t like they can order a new counselor on Amazon with the same relationship you two share.
Take some pressure off yourself for a moment. Yes, of course, you’re an integral part of your clients’ lives right now, but to be the best therapist you can be, you need to have time to refresh. Being overworked and overwhelmed won’t help your clients in any way. Allow yourself time for vacations yearly, whether you sail away on a week-long cruise, or take a long vacation in the snowy mountains.
3. Keep a gratitude journal
It’s silly to suggest that a vacation from counseling and ordinary life will be the key to balancing life and work. While vacations are immediate stress relievers, there needs to be a long-term effort to find the harmony between both aspects of your life. A gratitude journal allows counselors to take note of what they’re appreciative of in their personal and professional lives. When days get stressful, they can thumb through their notes reminding them what’s important.
You love being there for your clients, and you also enjoy being your own boss and working with the population of clients who come through your doors. It’s easy to forget all this when you’re having a tough day in the office, and those stressors often follow you home at the end of the day. Your spouse, children, and animals deserve the best version of you. Even more than that, you deserve to feel the happiest and healthiest you’ve ever been. Gratitude will help remind you of all the good in your life.
4. Outsource your work
First, we don’t recommend calling in any random person off the street to sit in sessions with your clients. That would be…a very, very bad idea. However, you can hire a web designer to manage your website, a housekeeper to tidy your practice, and an administrative assistant to handle your billing needs. By outsourcing some of the tasks you dread, you free up mental capacity, creativity, and interest to work on the work you truly enjoy.
You know another way you can outsource some of your job in the hopes of balancing life and work? It’s simple: use SimplePractice. We can keep you organized and paid on time. Better yet, the software is as secure as a bank’s, so you can trust that your therapy notes are safer than being tucked away in a filing cabinet. Try us free for 30 days, and we’ll give you the keys to a harmonious work-and-personal life.
Do you have some additional tips for balancing life and work? Share your ideas and experience in the comments. Let’s work to keep our community healthy and strong.