It happened every December. I would dutifully attend the annual Holiday Party for the Dallas Psychological Association and mingle awkwardly with the other guests, most of whom I knew only vaguely. Struggling to find an interest in common with a random semi-stranger, I would ask the question “How is your private practice going?”
It was a question only slightly elevated above “cold outside today, huh?” but better than nothing.
The inevitable answer was “Great! My practice is full. Never better!” I would feel inferior at that point, thinking about the sparse 25 client appointments I had on my schedule for the next week.
That is, until someone asked ME that question, and I heard myself say “Great! Never better!” and instantly wondered if we were BOTH whistling in the dark.
What is a "full" therapy practice?
So what constitutes a full practice? How many clients should you try to schedule in a week to create a balance somewhere between financial collapse and harried overwork? I learned from my party experience that I wasn’t going to get a straight answer from any of my colleagues!
One thing that most therapists would agree upon is that “40” is not the number. On the very rare occasions I met or exceeded that number due to weird circumstances, I would start fantasizing about becoming a night watchman or a forest ranger, or any other profession that would be less emotionally exhausting.
But if not 40, what is the target number that would make me think “my practice is full”?
Of course, it is a matter of personal taste and preference. If you have two kids in college and want to go skiing five times each winter, you will want to push the target number upwards. On the other hand, if you are nearing retirement with a comfortable nest egg tucked away, and think of your practice more as an avocation than a vocation, that target may be quite small.
But this may not satisfy your curiosity if you are mid-career and semi-consciously wondering how you measure up with your professional colleagues. If so, I can be of help. Without revealing any individual’s personal information, I can answer the question “How many clients per week does the average therapist see?”
How many appointments do most therapists schedule per week?
Across all therapists using TherapyAppointment for practice management, the average therapist schedules 19.2 appointments per week.
You may recall from your statistics class that, in a situation like this one, a median is a better number than a mean (the “average” quoted above). The median therapist sees 18.7 clients per week. The modal number of appointments per week is 15.
Those numbers include therapists who are part-time for some reason. Perhaps they are just starting out, or perhaps they see a few clients in the evening as a “side hustle” after their main workday for an agency. You may think that these part-timers skew the averages listed above.
But even if we exclude those who see fewer than six appointments per week (a crude way of looking only at full-time therapists), the numbers don’t change substantially.
You may also think that the numbers are skewed because of therapist holidays and vacations. True, but adjusting for those factors, the average therapist still sees about 20 client appointments per week.
Of course, as they say in the car commercials, “Your mileage may vary.” Some therapists who use TherapyAppointment consistently schedule more than 50 appointments per week; others see less than one per week.
But you may be relieved to learn that the standard is far less than 40. It takes a lot of effort to maintain grades good enough to qualify for entry into graduate school; it takes even more effort to complete graduate training and become a licensed therapist.
Thus, most therapists are high achievers who may scold themselves for becoming lazy now that they have graduated.
If you are doing so because you schedule “only” 20 appointments per week, you can now officially give yourself a break. You are in the sweet spot!