- Many therapists find that private practice offers more flexibility to balance the demands of parental leave and parenting.
- It takes some time and careful planning, but many providers are able to temporarily step away from client work without sacrificing their livelihoods.
- With the right support, you can take time to attend to what matters most while still providing excellent care to your clients.
If you’re a working parent trying to balance the demands of family and running a private practice, you’re far from alone.
According to recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 89% of families with children in the United States have at least one working parent. And in 62% of households comprised of married couples with children, both spouses work.
Being a working parent has never been easy. It seems like there are always tough choices to make because you can’t be in two (or more!) places at once. If you’re like most therapists, you want to give your clients the best care possible. But you don’t want work to come at the expense of being there for your children. On top of that, many parents struggle to find adequate childcare as they attempt to balance their work schedules with the ever-changing demands of parenthood.
These challenges can make it difficult to cultivate a sense of work/life balance as you build your private practice. But fortunately, the world of work is changing. Thanks to an increase in options for delivering digital care, therapists can rethink the limitations of a traditional practice schedule. In partnering with flexible telehealth platforms, therapists have the freedom to create a schedule that honors all of their most important roles.
I was working really long hours for an agency, and I decided I wanted more flexibility and control over my schedule. I often tell my clients, “Honor your wants and needs.” I’m a mom, and I found that my wants and needs pointed to being able to be more present with my son. So I decided to start my own private practice to make it happen. – Michelle Munõz LMFT
Navigating parental leave in private practice
In traditional employment settings, your employer dictates the parameters of your parental leave. They tell you how much leave you qualify for and what compensation you might earn during that time, if any. But what happens when all of those decisions are up to you? If you’re a parent (or soon-to-be-parent) who is new to private practice, or considering making the transition, you might be wondering how to plan for parental leave when you’re self-employed.
The time spent anticipating the arrival of a new baby goes by quickly and there’s so much to accomplish during that time. But parental leave is more complicated for people in helping professions so it pays to plan ahead. It’s not just about delegating tasks while you’re away and putting a return date on the calendar. Rather, you need to not only consider what you and your family will need during that time, but also how to best support your clients through this transition.
The good news is that many private practice therapists are able to temporarily step away from client work without sacrificing their livelihoods. With some careful planning, you can create a schedule that allows you to make time for what matters most while still delivering excellent care to your clients.
Future-proofing your private practice for parental leave
If you’re thinking you might need to take parental leave sometime in the future, there are some important things to consider as you look ahead.
1. Financial planning:
Stepping away from your private practice usually means an interruption in income. Ask yourself:
- How much money will I need during my parental leave?
- Can I reduce any business or personal expenses during that time?
- Will I have other sources of income while I’m not seeing clients?
- How much money can I save each month leading up to my parental leave?
Keep in mind that this doesn’t have to be an “all or nothing” situation. Some therapists choose to see a limited number of clients during their parental leave. This is by no means a requirement, but it can help to have this option depending on your financial situation.
2. Client communication:
How and when you share the news of your upcoming parental leave with clients is up to you. Each client’s needs are different, so think about:
- Which of my clients might benefit from more time to process the transition?
- What reactions might I receive from my clients when I share this news?
- How can I prepare to respond to these reactions?
- How will I describe the referral process and options to resuming sessions once my leave comes to an end?
It’s been wonderful to not have to deal with billing, insurance, or any of that stuff. Instead, I get extra time to focus on my business, my family, and all the other things going on in my life. –
3. Cultivating referrals:
Some of your lower acuity clients may not need to meet with a different therapist during your leave. But either way, it’s important to support all of your clients with options for trusted referrals while you’re unable to see them. Prior to your leave, consider:
- Who can I reach out to in my network that might be a fit for some of my current clients?
- Do I have any clients that might benefit from a permanent referral?
- Would it be helpful to offer a warm hand-off for some clients?
- What releases or other forms of paperwork will I need to ensure a smooth transition?
4. Returning to work:
As you prepare to return to private practice after taking parental leave, consider how you can use this time to revamp your schedule in a way that reflects your new reality. It’s likely that life has gotten a bit more complicated since bringing a new baby into the world. So as you begin to ramp back up and rebuild your caseload, think about:
- What days and times work best for me to see clients right now?
- Who can I reach out to for new referrals?
- How large do I want my caseload to be at this time?
- What’s the best way to reach out to past clients?
- How can I show myself grace and compassion as I navigate this new chapter?
That flexibility also allows me to set up my schedule in a way that works best for my family. I have a five-year-old and I’m currently expecting, so being able to choose my own hours is essential. – Nichole Prince LMFT
Upsides of private therapy practice for parents
The flexibility of private practice can make a huge difference for parents as kids grow up and schedules become more difficult to juggle. Here are a few ways private practice can be supportive for working parents:
- When you set your own hours, you can accommodate picking kids up from school and activities without having to miss work.
- Private practice means deciding how many clients you’d like to see, so you can flex your hours up and down depending on what else is on your family’s plate.
- If you decide to reduce your client volume, working in private practice means you have more control over the types of clients you see. So you can focus on the clients your practice is the best fit for, even when working fewer hours.
Path, parents, and private practice
At Path, we understand what it’s like to juggle all the responsibilities of private practice and parenthood. Our telehealth platform gives working parents and caregivers the flexibility and freedom to attend to family while also supporting their clients. Life doesn’t always align with a nine-to-five schedule so Path gives therapists complete autonomy over how and when they see their clients.
With Path, there’s never a minimum or maximum caseload size and you can shift your availability whenever you need to. What’s more, you won’t ever have to operate in isolation. Our community of fellow providers and dedicated support team will be there to support you as you navigate all the ups and downs of parenting while building a thriving private practice.
If you’re a parent who wants to build a flexible, thriving private practice that supports work-life balance, we invite you to explore working with Path.