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From enhancing communication between couples to guiding individuals through a life-altering event, the rewards of serving as a therapist are incalculable.1 Yet, it’s only natural to factor in a therapist’s caseload before embarking on a career in psychology. 

While, on average, a therapist may see 20 to 25 clients per week, several variables determine this number. That said, there are a few commonalities that may help you envision how your standard day might unfold.

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What’s a Typical Client Load?

The typical client load for a therapist relies on a handful of circumstances, including:

  • The number of hours a therapist dedicates to client sessions per week, with the understanding that several hours of the workweek must be committed to taking client notes, billing (for individual therapists), and other administrative tasks2
  • Whether you work for a mental health organization—which may have a required number of hours that must be fulfilled—or operate an independent practice

Generally, however, it’s estimated that therapists see between 15 and 30 clients per week. Let’s break this down further.

Average Number of Clients per Day

For matters of simplicity, let’s assume that a therapist works an 8-hour day 5 days per week, takes an hour lunch per day, and gives themselves 10-15 minutes to decompress between clients. 

Given that the industry standard clocks in at 45-50 minutes (in what’s known as the “therapy hour”) with a longer therapy session extending to 90 minutes, a therapist could conceivably conduct 3-6 individual sessions per day.3

Average Number of Clients per Week

If we follow the math above, we can assume that a full-time therapist sees 15 to 30 clients per week, with the average likely falling closer to the middle—20–25 clients per week. 

Factors Influencing Client Caseload

It’s important to keep in mind that other considerations may dictate your caseload:4

  • Amount of experience and financial requirements – Therapists who have just launched an independent practice may be eager to take on as many therapy clients as possible—to cover overhead costs and recoup the money they put into building a private practice, certainly, but also to ensure they have enough therapy clients to garner an ROI. On the other hand, more seasoned therapists might have the luxury of seeing fewer clients because they’ve built a nest egg or because they’re at liberty to charge more because of the experience they possess. They have also mastered how to build rapport with clients, which is crucial for fostering strong therapeutic relationships.
  • Location – Approximately 80-90% of mental health workers are employed in metropolitan areas, and it’s widely known that rural areas faced a dearth of psychologists and psychiatrists long before the pandemic hit.5 This doesn’t necessarily mean you must accept more clients if you live and work in a remote location. Nor does it guarantee that you’ll encounter tremendous competition in a big city. But it does underline the fact that where you set up shop may have a hand in your caseload.

Specializing and Client Matching

Your area of expertise might also have a direct and dramatic influence on how many clients you assist at any given time. Therapists who work in challenging arenas—such as sexual abuse or schizophrenia—might require more downtime between sessions. With this in mind, they may only be able to take on 2–3 clients per day.

If you haven’t selected a specialty yet—whether you’re in the first year of your undergraduate studies or exploring a doctorate in psychology—bear in mind that the field of psychology is vast. 

You might choose to focus on teen anxiety, depression, or eating disorders.6

This is just a small sampling of possibilities. Regardless of what you choose, “client matching”—or ensuring that you’re a good fit for your client—also impacts your caseload.

Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Therapist

Answering the question—how many clients do therapists have—also involves talking about stress load and work-life balance. According to findings recently published by the American Psychological Association, 45% of therapists report burnout.7

While burnout contains subjective qualifiers, the World Health Organization (WHO) defines it as an “occupational phenomena” that’s characterized by:8

  • Fatigue
  • Resentment
  • Decreased productivity

Additional research featured in Professional Psychology: Research and Practice demonstrates that burnout affects therapists’ physical health—and may reveal itself in a diminished quality of care and less-than-stellar client outcomes.9 What’s more, you may be more vulnerable to burnout and compassion fatigue if you work with clients who have endured profound traumas.

In summary: The potential for burnout should be taken into account as you figure out your ideal caseload. And the way to mitigate burnout? Through striking a balance between work and life and ensuring you have time to address your own needs. 

Prioritizing Self-Care and Wellness

Self-care is a term that’s as subjective as burnout. For some, it may mean carving out time for exercise or meditation. For others, it might mean maintaining social connections or taking a vacation every three months. 

However you categorize wellness, it’s vital to take care of yourself through the fundamentals: nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise.

Setting Boundaries and Managing Stress

Boundaries are imperative in any profession, but especially in the sphere of psychology. How you outline your borders depends on your personal preferences. 

Some therapists may choose to conduct all of the “housekeeping tasks” associated with their clients at the office to avoid bringing their work home. Others might choose to work only four days a week or to provide their clients with a separate contact number to decrease the possibility of receiving a middle-of-the-night phone call or text.

One of the wisest ways to clarify your boundaries is to talk with other mental health care professionals who have more seniority. Further, managing stress is equally crucial. Yoga, breathwork, time in nature, and even laughing can organically decrease your stress levels—and better prepare you for the rigors of your role.10

Preventing Therapist Burnout

In addition to the tips listed above, you may also want to seek out therapy for yourself or join a peer support group to discuss your situation. Having a sounding board for the challenges that arise in your profession within the industry will help you navigate the more difficult emotions involved.11

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Strategies for Finding Clients That Match Your Skills

What happens if you want more clients per day—or week? Consider the following:

Marketing Your Therapy Practice

Social media marketing isn’t just for enterprise brands. To spread the word about your services, you may want to weigh the benefits of promoting your practice on:12

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • LinkedIn

Building a Referral Network

The more you engage with other professionals within the realm of wellness, the higher your chances of constructing a powerful referral network. This may include getting to know the professionals and different types of counseling careers in your area:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Primary care physicians
  • Naturopathic doctors
  • Social workers

Leveraging Specialization in Psychology

If you haven’t chosen a speciality yet, consider the immediate needs of your community—or the community where you hope to establish yourself as a licensed therapist. 

Some parts of the country may have been devastated by a natural catastrophe like an earthquake and may need a mental health professional who specializes in PTSD, while other areas might welcome a licensed therapist who is passionate about helping those with substance use disorder(s).

No matter what you choose, the more you hone in on a specific niche, the greater your caseload might be. This may give you more leeway in determining a caseload that aligns with your desires and needs. 

Explore Alliant International University’s Psychology Programs

Helping others enhance their emotional well-being is one of many delights that may arrive with pursuing a career in psychology.

Alliant International University can jumpstart just such a profession with the right therapy degrees and certifications. With a master’s in clinical counseling, a master’s in marriage and family therapy, and three prestigious doctoral programs in psychology from which to choose, you’re bound to discover a program that suits your wishes and aspirations.

Request more information today—and start paving the way to designing your perfect work day.


Sources: 

  1. Silver, Freddie. “The Rewards of Being a Therapist.” Work, February 17, 2022. https://work.chron.com/rewards-being-therapist-7730.html. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  2.  “ADHD in Therapists.” Psychology Today, November 12, 2022. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/new-beginning/202212/adhd-in-th…. Accessed November 14, 2023. 
  3. Bologna, Caroline. “Why Are Therapy Sessions Usually Only 45 or 50 Minutes?” HuffPost, February 20, 2020. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/why-therapy-sessions-50-minutes_l_5e41cf…. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  4. Team, GoodTherapy Editor. “For Therapists: How to Identify Your Ideal Client Load.” GoodTherapy, July 2, 2020. https://www.goodtherapy.org/for-professionals/business-management/priva…. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  5. USDA Mental Health Awareness Month workshop series. https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/mental-health-awaren…. Accessed November 13, 2023.
  6. Metraux, Julia. “Study: It’s Important to Match Therapists and Clients Based on Specialty.” Verywell Health, July 9, 2021. https://www.verywellhealth.com/finding-the-right-therapist-study-5191507. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  7. Lin, Luona, Meron Assefa, and Karen Stamm. “Practitioners Are Overworked and Burned out, and They Need Our Support.” Monitor on Psychology, April 1, 2023. https://www.apa.org/monitor/2023/04/psychologists-covid-burnout. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  8. “Burn-out an ‘Occupational Phenomenon’: International Classification of Diseases.” World Health Organization, May 28, 2019. https://www.who.int/news/item/28-05-2019-burn-out-an-occupational-pheno…. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  9. Kim, Joanna J, Lauren Brookman-Frazee, Resham Gellatly, Nicole Stadnick, Miya L Barnett, and Anna S Lau. “Predictors of Burnout among Community Therapists in the Sustainment Phase of a System-Driven Implementation of Multiple Evidence-Based Practices in Children’s Mental Health.” Professional psychology, research and practice, April 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6157741/. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  10. “Stress Relief from Laughter? It’s No Joke.” Mayo Clinic, September 22, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth…. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  11. Barnett, Jeffrey. “Distress, Therapist Burnout, Self-Care, and the Promotion of Wellness for Psychotherapists and Trainees.” Society for the Advancement of Psychotherapy, 2023. https://societyforpsychotherapy.org/distress-therapist-burnout-self-car…. Accessed November 14, 2023.

  12. Jill E. Daino, LCSW-R. “Marketing for Therapists: 8 Effective Strategies.” Talkspace, July 26, 2023. https://www.talkspace.com/blog/marketing-for-therapists. Accessed November 14, 2023.

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