Vacations in Private Practice

*Last updated 7/10/19

When we meet with future bootcampers, one of the potential questions we ask is about their time off. We want to know not only how much time they are investing in working on their business directly but also how much time they are investing in themselves and their practice in for it’s longevity.

The most popular response? "um....." Hesitation. It’s comes from a place of focusing so much on the doing of business, there is a miss or a lack of intention when it comes to time off.

We all need to be taking a vacation. It is good for you, good for our community, and good for your clients! With planning you can take time off without worry.

Planning also gives value to the client relationship. Imagine meeting with a client and already knowing the dates you will be out and having a procedure for how you handle that time off with your clients. Setting that structure in place helps the client know what to expect. In our experience, if you don't take a vacation, your clients notice.

It’s also good to have breaks for the therapeutic process. Their reaction to you taking time off is simply more grist for the mill in your work together. 

Ultimately, time away is therapeutic for you and the client.

But I don't get paid if I don't work!

It’s an easy mentality to get stuck in. If you have a fee structure that is set so that you may take time off for vacation, then your vacation time is covered. You need to be setting aside funds from the time you are working to cover your expenses and life while you are on vacation.

If you are a person who gets stuck at looking at the numbers every week, you will panic when you see a zero on the week you are off. But if you look at your entire financial plan and understand that you have planned for the time off, your fee covers the expenses so you can take time off and you have saved in order to take time off, the panic is less likely to strike.

Another route is to have other streams of income in your practice that generate income when you are not there. These avenues vary from having employees to selling books or online courses. But first step is always have a fee structure that supports your vacation time.

But how do you take a vacation (even if it is a staycation) in this field when you are a solo practitioner?

Here's a quick checklist.

  • Give your clients some advanced notice if you don't have a routinely vacation planned. We like to give clients at least a 2 week notice if not a 4 week notice. This isn't always possible. Sometimes you might end up with an opportunity at the last minute. No worries, just notify your clients at the earliest convenience.

  • Update your informed consent to include regular time off dates. If you take off every 3 months for a week, you can already have this in your informed consent. It’s something you can prepare clients for from the beginning of your relationship with them.

  • Have a back up clinician in place. Talk to a trusted colleague and ask them if they can handle crisis while you are gone. We recommend having a professional will for this and to also have the contact information in your informed consent.

  • Turn on your vacation responder for your email. Let people know when you will return their email and give them the contact details of your coverage person.

  • Change your outbound message for voicemail with these same details.

  • Automate your social media and blog posts. When you know that a vacation is coming, you can plan to still provide information and marketing for your practice while you are gone.

  • Set some boundaries for yourself. We take off our inbox on our phones so we don't get emails while we are out. This is where you get to really know yourself and what distracts you. Is it facebook? What if you didn't check facebook on vacation? Do what it takes to create space separate from your work. To be perfectly honest, one year Kelly didn't plan her vacation for the holidays well enough in advance and thus had a coaching call while away. But, she learned from it and planned accordingly for the next year.

  • Get a tax write off. Sometimes you can arrange travel to include some work and then tack on a family trip and get a partial write off. Speak with your accountant about how to do this legally. HOWEVER, please don’t make all your trips like this. Sometimes we need time off without any other commitment at all.

The more you take vacations, the more you learn what is best for you in terms of length of your vacations and the process you have in your practice. 

When you are getting started, take a small step. The thought of being gone a full week might feel too much to take on. Try a shorter day, then a day off, then maybe a long weekend.

Kelly is at the point now of taking 2 to 4 weeks off at a time. But that didn’t happen overnight. She had to learn to trust that everything was ok, learn how to organize her time and tasks and to really open up her dreams for travel.

Staycations are great too! Sometimes being a tourist in our own town is what we need.

Just know this, when we take vacations we are taking care of ourselves, which does also take care of our clients. If you burn out, you aren't going to be the stellar clinician that your clients deserve and that you deserve. 

Now for some fun, where are you going on vacation next? Share below and let's encourage each other to take time off!