When you work for an agency, you’re likely to be given a set number of clients you have to see. This can make it difficult for newly licensed therapists to know what the average workload is.
First, there is no set number of clients for a therapist to have. There’s also no “normal” number, as so many variables influence your practice.
In this guide, we’ll explore client numbers in detail.
What Is A Normal Caseload For A Mental Health Therapist?
There isn’t exactly a “normal” caseload for a mental health therapist. Psychology practices rarely exist in this black-and-white way of thinking. With that said, you can often expect a therapist to have 30 to 40 clients.
This number doesn’t account for many of the variables, so take any “normal caseload” with a pinch of salt. If you focus on group therapy or family therapy, your caseload will look vastly different to that of a therapist who mostly deals with clients 1:1.
A caseload will also vary hugely depending on how often you see your clients. If you see most patients once a week, or every two weeks, you will have a smaller caseload. If you tend to see clients monthly, or quarterly, your caseload might be in the hundreds.
If you work with an agency, or a similar form of employment, then you will often have your caseload determined by your employer. While this should be set at a comfortable level, some agencies will try to push the boundaries of what’s achievable.
How Many Clients Do Most Therapists See A Day?
The number of clients a therapist sees in a day varies massively, and it could be anywhere from 3 clients, to over 10. It typically averages out at 5 to 7 clients per day.
6 clients a day closely mimics the standard 40-hour work week, but it fails to factor in admin work, time spent preparing for the client, time spent on notes etc. While 6 clients a day might seem reasonable at the outset, this workload can quickly become incredibly heavy.
4 to 5 clients per day offers a better balance. Of course, for many therapists, this won’t offer enough financial support.
If you have control over your schedule, you might prefer to alter exactly when you see clients. Rather than spreading them throughout the week (for example, seeing 4 clients every day), you might prefer a weighted schedule (3 days with 7 clients, 2 days focusing on admin).
How Many Clients Do Most Therapists See In A Week?
Most therapists tend to see between 25 and 35 clients in a week, although there are therapists working beyond that spectrum.
The average, full-time mental health therapist will work around 40 hours a week. Although these hours might be a standard 9 to 5, some therapists choose to adjust their working hours to accommodate the needs of their clients.
For example, you might choose to open on a weekend, or in the evening, to make it easier for working clients to attend.
Of course, every working hour of the day won’t be spent with clients. There are tasks that you’ll need to complete throughout the day to keep your practice running smoothly, and you’ll have to fit these everyday responsibilities into your workload.
Additionally, it’s also important to take time between each client, so you can reflect on the session, and prepare for the next client.
Finding The Right Balance Of Clients
When choosing a caseload, you must keep in mind all the work that happens around a client! While it might be physically possible to fit 7 or 8 clients in every day, consider how much time you will actually be dedicating to each session.
How much time will you have to write notes, reflect on the case, and plan future actions? Don’t forget all the admin details that you will also be expected to care for.
Even if you believe you can balance your timings, there’s another essential factor to consider: your own mental health.
Trying to see too many clients in a single day can quickly lead to burnout. This will strongly affect the level of patient care you can provide, and will have a detrimental effect on your own health.
However, for private practice therapists, it’s impossible to overlook the financial factor. This is something an agency therapist is likely to have little control over, but as a private practice therapist, you have more say in your client level.
Although you might prefer to devote time to a smaller caseload, it might be necessary to work with more clients.
Creating A Schedule
If you’re working for an agency or in employment, you might not have much room to create your own schedule. Instead, you can be expected to work rigidly set hours, and adhere to a pre-set schedule.
However, if you have freedom to set your own hours, it’s important to consider a schedule that will meet your needs, as well as the clients. This might mean working different hours to the standard 9 to 5.
For example, if you’re something of a night owl, later opening hours will suit your own needs, and can attract clients with their own busy schedules.
Creating your own schedule might also involve adjusting to “client” days, and “non-client” days, which are focused on admin. While this won’t affect your overall client load, it will change how many you see each day.
As you can probably tell, it’s impossible to determine a “normal” client number of a therapist—there are just too many variables to take into account. If you’re an agency mental health therapist, then you might be required to see a set number of clients. This tends to be on the higher side, perhaps 7 to 9 clients a day.
Private practice therapists have more freedom with client numbers. They may choose to see between 3 and 5 clients a day, and have a caseload around 20 to 30 clients.
When choosing your client list, don’t get caught up in the averages. Instead, build a caseload that works for you, your practice, and your clients.