In 2023, I sought to work with two different therapists and encountered the same challenge; both individuals wanted me to commit to a regular cadence, either once a week or once every two weeks. Given that I have a full-time corporate career and work as a therapist in the evening, my time is valuable and stretched thin. I countered their request by suggesting we meet once every three weeks or once a month, considering my issues were minor and manageable. Unfortunately, my proposition wasn’t met in agreement, and our work ceased before it even began.
From a client’s perspective, I felt put off by the rigidity of the situation. From a therapist’s perspective, I was left considering what kind of practitioner I want to be for the people I serve.
Therapist Point of View
Let’s consider why some therapists impose calendar restrictions on their clients.
First, building the therapist-client relationship is the most valuable part of establishing mutual trust. Trust is built over time. If time is limited, the process and therapeutic benefit will take longer to co-create. While I agree with the initial regularity of creating the space to get to know clients for the first few sessions, there should be room to make adjustments once enough ground is established.
The main reason is financial. If mental health practitioners with private practice base their sole income on client work, they risk the impacts of market fluctuations, especially new therapists starting in the field who may not have a full client roster. In times of economic prosperity, people have additional income to spend on therapy, and the opposite is true when the winds of uncertainty arrive.
Client Point of View
Building on the last point, in a struggling economy, clients (in particular those who do not have health coverage) will most likely spend their hard-earned money on life’s essentials — food, shelter, and other primary necessities and forgo therapy as a ‘nice to have.’ Would you rather eat a chicken dinner or work on your anxiety? When money is tight, the chicken wins.
Therapists benefit from creating multiple income streams to help brace for tough financial times. For example, from day one of starting the five-year Gestalt Institute of Toronto, I knew I would not abandon my corporate career given the uncertainty of finding and maintaining therapy clients. Writing, ski coaching, and course content creation are other ways I can quickly funnel new revenue streams. These decisions allow me to give clients personal freedom to see me when they want to and have space when my services are not required. Everyone wins.
Your Opinion Matters
In the comment section, let me know your beliefs regarding whether therapists should enforce a regular schedule on clients. What is your experience to date? Am I missing any unearthed points of view?