If you have been in private practice long enough, the Summer season is either a welcomed break or a lesson learned. Every year mental health practices around the country experience what is frequently referred to as the “Summer Slump.”
Like clockwork, office referrals decrease over summer break because kids are out of school, people are vacationing, and it’s honestly just too pretty outside for many clients to be attracted to an hour- long session in the office. For many clinicians, this is an opportunity to relax and catch their breath. For others, this can be devastating if their caseload is not managed well, and can send providers into a frenzy.
For those that are biting their nails this season, there are a few basic guidelines for prepared:

1. Don’t forget your inactive caseload

If your practice is primary focused on schools that were beating down your door last month begging you to accept a new referral, or pleading with you to see your a student for an extra session during the week, those students are still in need. While all of your clients aren’t conveniently lined up ready to see you at their school, many of these families are left scratching their heads during the summer because the school counselor isn’t available to coordinate services for them.

This is a perfect opportunity for therapists to help the families by taking clients into the community to practice those coping strategies in the real-world. It’s also a way to mix up your day by finding creating settings for providing your services. ¬†What about family therapy? Schedules can be so busy during the school year that families can be left in the dark about how their child is doing in session. Summer is a great time to bring everyone together. Besides, most insurance payers expect family therapy to take place when working with a child individually.

Finally, consider those clients who needed more intensive services when your caseload was stacked. You have much more time now to focus on these clients, and most insurance payers are happy to allow many sessions during the week to avoid paying for hospitalization.

2. Get out of the office

Wondering why you are seeing increased no-shows from clients when the weather is beautiful? Clients want to be outside as much as therapists do. Who said therapy is limited to a stale office setting? Some of the most productive therapists never step foot in an office. Instead, they find a variety of settings to be more conducive to therapy. Many practices thrive during the Summer by offering activity-based services such as horse-riding, climbing, hiking, gyms, walking in the neighborhood, or teaching skills at a department store. I recently read about a therapist who runs a group teaching youth how to sail!

Summer is the time to use your creativity to engage clients.

3. Don’t dump your caseload before Summer begins

By the end of the school year, many therapists are so swamped with clients that they prematurely terminate clients to free up their calendar. Best practice is to stay client-centered and not worry about your calendar. When your schedule is maxed, remember that the best practices operate with a week-to-week mentality. You may have 40 clients scheduled this week, but you are likely to have 15 of those cancel and a few more terminate next week. This may not be a problem when referrals are coming in by the busload, but it is harder to recover when we are blessed with beautiful weather and going to the pool is more likely than going to therapy.

 

 

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