Being a therapist can be intensely rewarding, but also mentally exhausting. Whilst connecting with clients and helping them progress towards greater mental health is one of the most satisfying parts of a therapist’s experience, sometimes it can take its toll. Maintaining a work-life balance may be tough, especially when dealing with emotionally charged issues, and it's not always easy to switch off when you leave the office. As a result, it's critical that you understand that taking a vacation now and again is sometimes the best thing to do, and you shouldn't feel guilty about it! You should never feel sorry for taking care of yourself. Prioritizing mental fitness is absolutely key when it comes to running a therapy clinic, as it ensures you’re able to effectively attend to your client’s issues, and promote positive treatment outcomes. To better understand how to take a break and make the most of your time, keep reading.
Taking a vacation as a private practitioner
Before you go on your well-deserved holiday, keep the following considerations in mind. You should have everything ready before you leave to ensure a seamless holiday with no interruptions and to preserve office efficiency and productivity. Even if you are on vacation, not everyone else is, and you surely do not want to lose out on connections or opportunities to interact with patients. Incorporating these elements can assist you in having all of the necessary procedures in place for you to enjoy and relax throughout your break.
Inform your clients about your absence ahead of time
To preserve your relationship with your clients, it’s important that you let them know ahead of time that you’ll be away. It’s a decent thing to do and is only needed if you’re away for at least a week or more. No big announcement is needed, sometimes it’s as simple as letting them know in person in a session close to the time, or in an email. Ideally, for larger vacations, 4 weeks' notice is an appropriate amount of time, and make sure that your clients are aware of your planned break.
Have a backup therapist for emergencies
Although it may not seem necessary to state, having a backup person is great for your peace of mind while out of the office. You can relax without having to worry about your clients, and any patient concerns can be resolved without interrupting your break. It allows you to uphold your standard level of care whilst relieving client queries, which can also take the pain off your to-do list for when you return. You definitely don’t want to spend time fielding calls or referring your clients elsewhere, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from a trusted backup therapist. Hiring a therapist doesn’t have to be tricky either!
Use this time for your self-care
Of course, prioritize your health and well-being by making time for self-care. Everyone, including you, requires a break from time to time. Being a therapist entails taking a break from one's own stresses as well as those of others. When you go on vacation, try to forget about your troubles and spend time separating from your daily life at home. This is your chance to catch up, and letting go can help you return to the office feeling more rejuvenated and revitalized than ever. This includes turning off your phone, getting off the grid, and restricting email notifications.
Set your boundaries during the time off
Having the proper boundaries in place for you to rest is part of the self-care process. After all, being a therapist is your work, and you, too, are a human being who needs to detach from time to time to find fulfillment elsewhere. Therapist burnout is a very real thing, and you should set limits wherever needed to avoid exacerbating it. This may entail leaving your phone at home, directing all tasks to assistants, or taking a vacation where there’s no wi-fi, in the case that things become too tempting.
Ensure your email and voicemail notify your absence
Because many clients are likely to forget you’re away, make sure to change your voicemail and email to serve as effective reminders. They’re easy to set up and can inform patients of your whereabouts to avoid miscommunication and client dissatisfaction.
Have an emergency plan
Emergencies can happen, and to prevent future anxiety and stress, make sure that you have an emergency plan in place. This may mean having a network of therapists and assistants in place to take care of tasks for you and spending time brainstorming potential ‘what-if’ scenarios can help you avoid serious mishaps.
What to do after you are back
Once you’ve had your vacation, and you’re ready to hit the ground running back at work, there are a few things that you should keep in mind. Hopefully, you’re feeling well-rested and re-energized at the thought of connecting with clients and returning to support their progress.
Catch up on client-related work without getting overwhelmed
It’s likely that while you’ve been away, your backup therapist or assistant has been handling your phone calls and emails. Chances are, you’ll have a bunch to sort through, and as we know, this can take some time. To prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed, make sure that you set aside specific time to go through all your deferred calls and emails, and that you don’t miss any clients! Having a ‘catch-up’ time can also help you prioritize who needs a response immediately, and who can wait a little bit later in the week for when you have more free time.
You’ll also want to schedule time with your team or backup therapist to discuss how sessions with clients went (obviously, if applicable!). This is especially the case if you have receptionists who have managed work. Spend time reading through clinical documentation and notes to get up to date, and if any emergencies occurred, it’s also important that you follow up on these. This may require contacting clients and discussing details with them, which can also take time.
Make sure to also change your email and voicemail settings back so clients know you’re back in business and are ready to take new sessions. It may take a moment to get back into the swing of things, but soon enough, you’ll be back to business!
Give yourself time to adjust
Don’t stress yourself if it takes a while to get back into your regular routine. Having a break means switching off, and adapting to a new mindset, so don’t be concerned if it takes a moment to then adapt back to your regular working routine. Readjusting can certainly be difficult, so allow yourself some grace! Sometimes this may mean setting regular breaks for you to take a moment to relax. Head out during your lunch break, and take a wander outside in fresh air, or head on over to a local cafe for a break from your office environment. In some cases, you may also want to postpone sessions to a later date for when you feel more prepared to deal with them.
You want to ensure that the best version of yourself is available to your clients, as it allows you to be able to listen and attend to their issues and invest in their progress without interference. The most important thing is to realize that this is normal, and you shouldn’t be too harsh on yourself!
Consider planning your next vacation
Planning your next getaway can be a great motivator, as it helps you look forward to a new event, and also helps you recharge. You spend so many hours looking after clients’ mental health, that it’s important to look after your own too! Get out your calendar and have a look at the next time that you’re able to have time away. There’s no reason to suggest that you also can’t have a well-deserved vacation every now and then, because as we know, therapy can be emotionally demanding and taxing. Looking forward to your next vacation can encourage you to work smarter, and have greater attendance to your clients.
Therapy can be demanding and difficult to manage at times. As a result, you must prioritize your own health and well-being and practice what you preach. There's no shame in taking a break now and then to recover and collect yourself, and taking holidays might help you return to work more energized than ever. You can grow to become more concerned about your client's health by giving them your undivided attention, and you can also see things with a fresh and clear attitude. You, too, are human and deserve breaks, so hopefully, this guide has helped you start to plan your next vacation. You can take time away without having to worry about tasks and workload buildup and can use your vacation wisely. Carepatron is a fantastic practice management tool to help you manage your client information and details, with all information, payments, appointments, emails, and contacts available from one place. You can enjoy your vacation with minimal work, and ensure you’re prioritizing both your and your client's health. But regardless of whether you use Carepatron or not, we hope that you strongly consider taking some time off - be kind to yourself!