How to Prepare for Maternity Leave As a Therapist
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Maternity Leave. As therapists, some of us are tickled about bringing a little one into the world, but some of us…not so much. If you’re in private practice and about to take maternity leave, it can feel overwhelming and like a rollercoaster of emotions. Some days you’re ready for the change of pace from clinical work. On other days, you may be wondering how life will look without the structure of client days and admin days. There may be a mix of anxiety, frustration, grief, and multiple other emotions—thanks hormones! I’ve made it a point in my own pregnancy to prep for maternity leave and speak with other private practice therapists and practice owners to gather some advice.
Sharing my concerns in both my personal and professional life has been so helpful in letting me feel heard and validated that these feelings are all normal. I’ve gathered advice for other soon-to-be moms below who are about to take some time away from their caseloads.
Advice to prepare for maternity leave as a therapist:
1. Save money ahead of time if you’re in private practice to “pay yourself” while on leave. This could be chunks at a time closer to your due date or slowly taking small amounts from each paycheck to put aside each month starting from the beginning of your pregnancy.
2. Determine your pediatrician a few months ahead of delivery. You don’t want to be scrambling looking for someone last minute, especially if your dream pediatrician has a waitlist. Take the time to interview a few different practices and find the one best for your family.
3. Let your clients know about your upcoming maternity leave at least 3 months in advance. If they haven’t already noticed the bump, your clients may have no idea you are pregnant. For any clients who are anxious or struggle with change, keeping them in the loop gives them plenty of time to adapt to the change and ask questions. It also gives you time to determine long-term homework for them if needed. They can also do some research on potential temporary therapists while you’re out.
4. Consider adding a waiting list to your website. There will likely be potential clients that are interested in working with you. Give them the option to join your waitlist and a solid heads-up that you’ll be returning in X-number of weeks.
5. If you have a free consultation service in place, go ahead and close consultations for new clients at least 6 weeks in advance. Be sure to redirect them to your waitlist or another practitioner.
6. Don’t forget to update all therapist directories to “not taking new clients,” or the “waitlist” option. We don’t want to mislead a potential client coming from a directory only to find that your website says that you’re unavailable. Save them time and energy.
7. Send an email blast to all referral sources announcing your maternity leave and when you’ll be back. Arrange for home care, pet care, and/or child care as needed. Will your parents help out? Do you have a neighbor to watch the house? Determine this ahead of time before your due date.
8. Determine a list of therapist referrals for clients while you’re out and send the list to clients for options and let your colleagues know they may be receiving referrals. This way, there are no surprises for either client or therapist while you’re away. I personally sent out a small list of therapists to clients a month in advance and a reminder email to all clients a week before I went on maternity leave so that it was top of mind. I also sent a reminder email to the therapists on that list that they may be receiving temporary clients from me.
9. Either make sure each client is set up with an appointment with a clinician who can provide similar services or have that clinician as a point of contact in case the client needs something while you’re out. We want to make sure that clients have options and resources—cover the bases now.
10. Determine childcare (i.e. daycare or whom the baby will see when you return to work.) Also, determine how many clients per day/week you can handle. Come back to your full caseload slowly rather than all at once.
11. Determine how accessible you’ll be on maternity leave (i.e. email, phone, meetings, etc.) We highly encourage you to fully step away, be present with your family and little one, and make the memories now rather than checking email trying to keep up while running on no sleep. Let your clinical director and/or supervisor know when you’ll be out and when you plan to come back.
12. Brainstorm an away notice or out-of-office email autoresponder with emergency numbers to contact on your email inbox. Note when you are going out on maternity leave and an anticipated return window. Be sure to review any digital calendars to decline meetings and block out your leave.
13. In each client file, document that you have discussed going on maternity leave and will reach back out when coming off leave. Note if the client wants to work with another therapist or wait for you to contact them when you’re back in the office.
14. Send a reminder email to clients a week before maternity leave with the list of therapist recommendations to contact as needed.
15. Pack your hospital bag ahead of time. Please don’t be running around while in labor trying to remember everything. Have a packing list handy and be sure to pack an extra day of clothes/supplies.
16. Set your out-of-office email autoresponder the night before your maternity leave starts to mitigate any late-night emails.
17. Actually rest on your maternity leave and be present with your loved ones.
Coming Back from Maternity Leave:
1. Send an email blast to all referral sources. Either let them know you are taking on new clients or you starting to see your caseload again starting XX-date.
2. Send a reminder email to clients about scheduling sessions at least a few weeks in advance of when you want to come back. Include your client portal link and a reminder that you’ll be coming back slowly rather than an entire typical schedule pre-baby.
3. Brainstorm the feeding plan. Depending on your plan for feeding your baby, be sure to carve out time to pump or breastfeed between sessions.
4. Be kind to yourself that things won’t be exactly as you had them pre-baby. Know that you’ll find a new routine and balance it with practice.
My favorite items that helped during pregnancy:
Labor Tea: I haven’t a clue if it actually works, but man does it taste great!
Belly Band: This product is great for back pain relief, especially in the third trimester.
Yoga Ball: This works wonders for stretching and hip movement.
Maternity leggings: I lived in these for errands and going to the gym.
Cocoa butter: This is amazing for preventing stretch marks.
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