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9 Savvy ways therapists can survive and thrive throughout the Holiday Slump

In the world of private practice, we have both busy seasons and seasonal slumps, and statistically, mid-November and December tend to be slower months for therapists. Sessions may be down, certain clients might cancel or terminate therapy, and January may seem to loom off in the not-so-far-away distance. Regardless, the final two months of the year are a highly strategic and lucrative time for therapy work, and the seasonal slowdown is an excellent time to capitalize on opportunity, finish the year strong, and set your practice up for success in the new year. 

Here are nine ways to personally, financially, and clinically prepare your private practice to survive and thrive through the holiday slump.

1. Adjust your schedule to accommodate holiday hours.
Every November and December, children are out of school and on holiday break for around 2-3 weeks. During these holiday breaks, some of your clients will be traveling with their families, but many may not. Explore how your business hours might adjust to accommodate families looking for therapeutic support over the holiday breaks. With family schedules opening for a few weeks at the end of the year, now may be an excellent time to fill in some daytime appointments.

2. Get those parent check-ins on the calendar.
Parents often take time off from work around the holidays to reconnect with their children and tie up loose ends before the end of the year. Consequently, caregivers are often more inclined to touch base with their child’s therapist around this time of year, which makes November and December great months for scheduling those much needed parent check-ins.

3. Revisit and update client treatment goals.
No one likes to end the year with treatment goals in limbo. The strong desire many have to finish the year well and start the new year off strong makes the holiday months an excellent time to revisit treatment goals. Making it a point to reassess client priorities will not only encourage client retention, but it will also help optimize the client’s treatment experience.

Without the structure of seasonal check-ins, it can be easy for caregivers to view therapy as just one more thing on the family calendar that may or may not be adding value. However, by taking this time to report on progress and update treatment goals, you can clearly showcase the value of therapy and provide caregivers with a valid reason to feel positive about their child’s therapy journey before the year ends. 

4. Revisit and update your own goals.
It’s hard to believe, but there are only two months left to this year. Now is a good time to check back in on any goals you may have set back at the beginning of the year to gauge your own progress and see what you can do to meet milestones by the end of the year. Whether those were personal goals or professional ones, use this slower season to check back in on your own progress and update your goals accordingly.

5. Don’t wait! Start scheduling post-holiday family appointments NOW.

Plan ahead and start booking dates on your calendar for the coming months. Be proactive about pre-booking post-holiday appointments, and focus on reaching out to any clients who you suspect may not return after the holidays. If your clients are not ready or able to plan that far ahead, that’s ok. Simply lay some groundwork and set your future self up for success by letting those clients know that you’ll be checking back in with them after the New Year before your calendar fills up. 

6. Provide holiday-specific value and seasonal resources.
As a child therapist, you play an important role in the family support system, and let’s face it. The holidays can be very stressful and hard for some families. While these months may be slow for you, these months may feel very hectic to your clients. The way you show up for your client’s family over the holiday season can build rapport and encourage retention in a uniquely powerful way.
Here are a few holiday-specific ways to provide seasonal support:
  • Talk about what they can focus on during the break.
  • Be sensitive about holiday topics
  • Inquire about holiday-specific stressors.
  • Curate your social media marketing with mindful holiday content. 
  • Offer helpful solutions and resources for mitigating holiday stress. (IE: Hopscotch Kids Games is screentime parents can feel good about, and having therapeutic games at the ready can help make holiday travel less stressful.)
7. Prepare for the busy season.
If you are feeling the impact of the holiday slump now, rest assured, it probably will not last long. In stark contrast to November and December, January through April tend to be busy months in the therapy world. While the holiday months may be full of glad tidings and great joy for some families, the festive season is full of triggers and stressors for others. Consequently, the first few months of the year tend to pick back up for private practitioners, and there are many factors driving people towards therapy around the first of the year.

People feel motivated to take positive action in January, new year’s resolutions are in full swing, tax returns are right around the corner, insurance changes are in effect, and seasonal depression symptoms are taking a toll on people’s mental health. Take advantage of these slower weeks to get things in order. Take care of that pile of paperwork, organize your office files, follow up on personal action items, and do whatever you need to do to set yourself up for success for when work ramps back up. 


8. Honor your financial budget.
Sticking to your budget can make seasonal slumps way less stressful. Of course, financially planning for slow seasons is also a great idea, but if your finances concern you this time of year, consider where there might be room to push back against holiday commercialism. Stretching your finances beyond your budget will only add financial stress to the slower season, so give yourself and your private practice the gift of sticking to your financial budget. If that means family and friends get meaningful acts of kindness this year instead of pricy items, let that be ok. There is nothing wrong with prioritizing good vibes and thoughtful gestures over expensive gift giving.

Free or low-cost holiday gift ideas:
9. Take a personal break.
As therapists we advocate for the importance of self-care, but so many of us are guilty of not taking the time to do our own emotional reset. The holiday slump can trigger anxiety, but it can also be a welcome call for rest. If you are experiencing a holiday slump, then this may be the perfect time for you to take a break and reconnect with your own psychological well-being. 


The bottom line

If you are experiencing the holiday slump and business is not booming right now, take heart. The holiday months can be a whirlwind of personal and professional changes, and it’s normal to feel a bit out of sync. Whether you choose to use this time to proactively set yourself up for success in the future or recalibrate personally, give yourself some grace and space this holiday season. Busy seasons will return and chances are your practice will pick back up again before you know it.