As self employed therapists in private practice, it is important to consider our holiday plans in advance. Organising ahead means we can more accurately plan and project income as well as when we take on new clients.
Burnout & Vicarious Trauma
We support our clients through challenging times so taking regular breaks is a necessity. I see it as setting an example and taking responsibility for my own wellbeing, so that I am able to be available to my clients. We have the immense privilege of bearing witness to our clients’ pain, sorrow and trauma. If we do not take care of our needs and have regular breaks, we can suffer overwhelm, burnout and the effects of vicarious trauma. In this respect, we can see how taking holidays in our field is essential.
I do not start working with new clients in the two weeks before I go on holiday. For me and the way I work, it is disruptive to building trust and to the flow of the work. The interruption to momentum can reduce commitment and motivation and clients may drift away. I try to schedule new clients so that they have at least three but preferably six sessions, before I go on a break.
How much holiday should we take?
In Europe, the statutory holiday requirement is four weeks’ holiday per year not including Bank holidays. Some European countries give 25 days as basic and some also restrict the working week to 35 hours.
In private practice, we are both our employers and employees.
As an employee, we might ask ourselves how much time we need off and which benefits might be helpful. As an employer, we might consider ways to make this work financially in order to best support our employee. Some countries such as the United States tend to offer fewer days off, however, one of the freedoms of private practice is that we can decide how much holiday or vacation time we need and will benefit from.
If we consider the six categories of self care as described in my Private Practice Paperwork Essentials course, taking a holiday fulfills several components.
Whilst financially it may feel like a loss if you are not in sessions for a week or month, we can also consider the quality of our work as a byproduct of how well tested and cared for we are, thereby affecting our financial needs in the long run. If we are tired and stale, have not rested and kept things to ourselves, we may not enjoy our work as much or be as available emotionally.
To address the administration category of the Professional Self Care model, we can consider Out of Office Arrangements and provisions we might put in place prior to going away. Have you considered having a colleague on call in your absence?
This could be used as a standard Out of Office template:
“Thank you for your message.
I will be on annual leave between [insert date] and [insert date] without access to telephone messages.
I will check my email every [insert regularity]/ will not be able to check my email].
In an emergency, please contact your doctor or go to your nearest emergency room.”
If you wanted to refer elsewhere you could add colleagues’ details or other resources below. This addresses our ethical obligations.
Creativity and Connection are the main aspects of Professional Self Care that benefit from regular weeks off. I get all my best ideas when I am away from the office, doing something unrelated to therapy. I might suddenly think of a new exercise or perspective, a metaphor or story to illustrate a therapeutic concept with clients.
Take as many breaks as you need.
I encourage you to take weekends away, weeks in the summer and fortnights during holiday season. If you work evenings, you could schedule one night every few weeks off so you can be home for dinner or catch a movie. If you work early, I recommend booking a later start once in a while so you can have a break from the rush hour commute. Decide what is important to you and prioritise that, whether it is avoiding busy trains or being home to put your kids to bed.
Do you have an Out Of Office wording you would like feedback on?
Pop over to our Facebook group and let us know how you manage holiday plans at your practice.
Keep your eyes open or sign up to our mailing list for our upcoming blogpost on how we can learn to really switch off when we actually do take a holiday.