As a group practice owner, every year around the holidays I start to panic. There are probably some personal attributes that I possess that make me more prone to panic than some (haha), but I’m guessing I’m not the only who feels the holiday stress! So many seasoned and new group practice owners are very professionally driven, and sometimes perfectionistic. And what better time than the holidays to bring out the best (worst) in us?
I’d like to share with you some things that I have learned as I’m now going into my third holiday season as a group practice owner. I’m hoping that some of this information will help you take a step back and enjoy your holiday season more instead of less as a new group practice owner. The end result being, that you are fully present and mindful of the extra time you’re getting to spend with your family, friends, or other loved ones.
Schedule Time Off in Advance (Even Though You Are a New Group Practice Owner)
My first year as a new group practice owner I neglected to schedule my time off in advance. I ended up working over the holidays. I felt resentful that everyone around me was taking time off but I was still there, supporting my clients in need. And yes, the holidays are for sure a vulnerable time for many of our clients, and that is why planning ahead with your own time off is essential so that you can show up as your best self to help them get through their hard times.
Share with your team what days you will be taking off so that everyone knows this. And then, encourage your therapists/team to schedule their time off in advance. If you need to have a therapist “on-call” while everyone else is out, perhaps offer a financial incentive for the on-call therapist. Or rotate who is on-call for what holidays. You don’t need to take everything on as the group practice owner, it’s a team effort to provide on-call coverage. Doing this also gives you a good chance to model for your therapists/team what good self-care looks like.
Set Your Boundaries and Stick
Now that you’ve scheduled your time off and your team is set with who is on vacation and who is not, make sure that you stick to your boundaries. If you’re out of the office for a week, make it clear that you’re not available unless in the case of emergency. And then make sure everyone knows what constitutes an emergency. Is not knowing how to complete a group note in your EHR an emergency? Probably not. Is an office flood an emergency? Probably so.
Sticking to your boundaries and not being available at a moment’s notice for your team is a nice way to set up that the entire team is no longer dependent on you for everything. Maybe your therapists and admin staff need to figure things out on their own, or make some of their own decisions, instead of always asking for your approval. And you know what? That is okay! You hired smart, experienced people on your team. They can do this while you rest up and rejuvenate, coming back after your time off healthier and ready to resume as a group practice boss.
Be Creative In Your Role as a New Group Practice Owner
Maybe it’s the case that you and your two other therapists are all taking the exact same week off this holiday season. But you have some vulnerable clients that need some extra support. What can you offer that is efficient with your and your therapists’ time, but gives your clients the support they need? Can you offer a “Holiday Survival Group” that can serve up to 10 clients at a time in one hour, instead of 10 1- hour sessions? Or perhaps you contact another local group practice owner and arrange for them to help cover your practice while you’re out, signing a BAA in case any of your clients contact them.
However you get through this holiday season, make sure you’re not putting yourself last as the group practice owner. To lead and manage your growing group practice, you need to be at your best and that means taking time off this holiday season to connect with loved ones, de-stress, and enjoy your holidays. Try it, and see what you think!
Previous Articles by Shannon Heers
Shannon Heers is a licensed professional counselor in Colorado. She owns the private-pay group practice Catalyss Counseling in the Denver metro area, focusing on helping adults manage their anxiety, grief, and trauma. Shannon is also an experienced clinical supervisor and manager who offers business consultation services to other therapists. She balances working with raising her two young children.
Group practice ownership is daunting but can be done easily if you do your homework, prepare, and learn all you can about the process!