5 Time Management Tips for Therapists
Updated: Jan 5, 2022
Every therapist is different when it comes to what time boundaries work for them. However, given the nature of the mental health field it can be challenging to manage time. Sessions may run over, life events may throw us off, or we merely “slack off” when keeping our calendars updated. :) Below are some tips for better managing your time as a therapist.
Outline expectations with clients at intake
Provide information to clients about the length of sessions and how you typically structure them if applicable. You might also disclose information on what days/hours of the week you typically work, how you can be reached, and how soon you usually get back to clients. Clarifying time expectations as much as possible not only helps you to hold your own time boundaries, but it may also reinforce a sense of psychological safety for clients.
Implement structure to your sessions
One of my former clinical supervisors taught me a wonderful technique about having a beginning, middle, and end to sessions.
At the start of each session I typically check-in to see how the client is doing, how their week has been, and ask about whether or not they completed their therapy homework.
The “middle” of the session is our actual therapy discussion.
At the end of the session (within the final 5 minutes), I ask about whether or not the session was helpful, and if there was anything we did not discuss in the session that we need to address next time. I also schedule a follow-up with the client.
Have a time buffer between your sessions
Personally, I like to have a 15-minute buffer between sessions to have a nice transition period. (For example, if a session ends at 1:00, my next one would start at 1:15.) I can use this time to get up and stretch, have a snack, catch up on documentation, send an email, or request a consultation. There have also been occasions when sessions have run over due to extenuating circumstances (like safety issues), and it can be nice to allow for that extra time without impacting your upcoming session.
Block out administrative time the way that you would block out session slots
It’s easy to fall down an email rabbit hole throughout the day. And if you’re one to get easily distracted, it’s probably best to avoid administrative work right before a session. Instead, schedule blocks of time dedicated to administrative tasks such as emails, phone calls, or paperwork. Aim to check emails only at the beginning and end of the workday if you can. Complete clinical notes immediately after a session. This can help to conserve your mental energy and keep healthier time boundaries.
Prioritize your self-care time
This can be especially challenging if you’re salaried, working independently, or in private practice. You may fall into the trap of doing “just one or two” sessions on your typical days off, or taking on a new referral when you’re already at capacity. Be mindful of your daily breaks so that you can get up and stretch, eat, or walk. Honor your weekends by ensuring you’re not booking clients on your days off. Every few months or so, proactively schedule your vacation days/weeks off of work.
How do you manage your own time? How do you make sure to honor your own time boundaries?