Navigating the Intersection of Work and Mental Health

Working Better and Stressing Less

Ideas on work and mental health

Running a business and a family in parallel

Not so tiny anymore...

Not so tiny anymore...

My blog’s theme is generally, “behind the scenes in counseling.” I don’t often post my personal operational updates here and usually speak in broad terms on counseling issues. However, as I began the process of making my practice and schedule work with my son’s Fall, 2017 kindergarten schedule, I started wondering, “would it be useful to share the complexities of this exercise with my colleagues, community, and clients?” Useful or not, I want to share it here just in case it’s helpful to anyone either going through this transition themselves or who wants to learn about my practice.

For those of you who don’t know, I left the software and technology world in 2010 to go back to school for a master’s degree in counseling psychology from Pacific University. I got married in the spring of my first year in graduate school and my son was born midway through my second year. I graduated, started a private practice as a registered intern, and then had my daughter, 21 months after my son was born. With two children, I was only able to practice a few hours a week and constantly reorganized childcare until they both entered the same preschool in 2014. I dabbled in consulting/software projects and continued with my private practice until I became fully licensed in the spring of 2016. Other than the usual sick days and snow days, in the last year, my schedule has finally really smoothed out.

Calm seas don’t stay that way forever though. In August, my oldest starts kindergarten and with it, a 8:45-3pm school schedule each day. This is challenging because my most popular client appointments are from 3pm-8pm. Herein lies the conundrum. My husband and I feel like it’s going to be challenging for our son to transition from a 12-person preschool classroom to a 25-person kindergarten. While the aftercare program at school is great, we have a feeling that at least for the first year, it’s probably a best fit to bring him home right after school. For the record, I want to acknowledge that having the ability to make this decision is a marker of incredible privilege. That privilege is also why I’ve felt so guilty thinking of cutting back those after-school/after-work hours. Part of why I’ve been so dedicated to keeping them for all of this time is because I believe providing mental health care is one of the few things I feel qualified to do in the social justice arena. And unless you have a non-standard schedule, enough seniority to leave work mid-day for a weekly appointment, or a very flexible employer, after work is when you need appointments.

It is only a season though. It won’t be long before my kids feel too cool to hang out with mom and choose spending time with their friends instead. I hope my clients will understand when my hours shift and I hope my colleagues keep inviting me to networking events and happy hours that occur during times and in places I can’t go, at least for awhile.

So all this to say, my schedule will be shifting in August and I’m starting a very slow transition now. Eventually, my availability for regular appointments will look something like the screenshot below and I’ll have occasional appointments available on Mondays and Friday early afternoons for those who can’t fit into my regular calendar. Mondays and Fridays are frequent in-service and holiday days for Portland Public Schools and so I’ve decided to leave them off my regular calendar. 

Schedule beginning in late August, 2017

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Interim schedule beginning Spring/Summer, 2017

So then there’s the question of how to get from here to there. Right now, I have afternoon appointments five days a week but don’t begin seeing clients until around noon. In order to begin the process of moving folks from the current schedule to the new one, I need to open up a lot of new times and maintain older ones.

It’s always something and maybe that’s ok

I teach people to be more flexible in order to manage the changing circumstances and seasons of their lives. I strive to live what I teach. Yet, there is part of my brain that is so in love with a mythical ideal of a final, perfect form of my business. “Yes – I have you scheduled in the 2pm spot for the next five years,” would feel stable. Yet, I also don’t do that type of therapy. I’m not a psychoanalyst that believes in clients being in therapy for years and years on end. Sure some folks need long term therapy but even they can’t predict that they can keep the 2pm spot for five years either. Part of my practice is to teach people to adapt to change and organize their work lives in a way that serves their WHOLE lives. Most therapists agree that you can’t take clients places you haven’t been. Asking for what you want is hard. So here I am, asking: can we find a time that works with both of our schedules?




Katie PlayfairComment