If you’re new to the profession, early in your career, or about to become a licensed therapist, it’s natural to wonder what the average therapist caseload might look like. Knowing what to expect can give you an idea of how many clients you might be seeing on an average day or week. Caseload is also a critical consideration if you want to avoid burnout — research suggests there’s a direct link between therapist caseload and emotional exhaustion.
If you find yourself wondering ‘how many clients does a therapist have on average,’ read on for answers. We’ll also look at what a “full” caseload looks like, the factors that can influence how many patients you can see, and the impact your caseload might have on your well-being.
Average Caseload for Therapist
Wondering how many clients a therapist has on average? The average caseload for a therapist will vary widely, depending on areas of specialization, work setting, and how many hours a week you want to work. For example, if you’re going to work a full-time, 40-hour week, you might be seeing 30 clients a week and have 10 hours of paperwork and other housekeeping tasks. That’s a lot of patients and very little time accounted for breaks, meals, and travel time to and from your office.
Most full-time therapists fall more into the range of 15 – 20 clients at a given time. Research by the American Psychological Association (APA) found that almost 42% of psychologists work between 40 – 49 hours per week on average.
“It’s not uncommon for therapists to see an average of 6-9 clients per day and up to 20 plus per week. But, of course, it’s encouraged to assess and review with supervisors or clinical support groups ongoing to ensure fidelity in your work and also for the benefit of your health and well-being as a clinician.”– Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
What is a Full Caseload for a Therapist?
What determines “full” in terms of a good therapist caseload will depend on factors like capacity, specialty, and the type of work setting a provider is in.
- Capacity: Every clinician has their own comfort zone and limitations when managing clients. Some might be more experienced and able to handle dozens of clients every week. Others might have limits related to bandwidth or other factors.
- Type of therapy: Specific types of therapy might impact the number of clients a therapist can manage effectively. For example, intensive trauma therapists might have a smaller caseload due to the emotional demands of treating these complex, often emotionally draining cases.
- Work setting: Work environment and setting can also affect caseload. A private practice therapist can have different expectations than someone employed by an agency or a hospital, who might have additional demands and administrative tasks to complete. Learn more about private practice vs. agency work settings.
Factors that affect caseload
Multiple factors can influence a therapist’s caseload. Understanding these factors upfront can help you make informed decisions about how many therapy clients you can take while still achieving a healthy work-life balance and providing quality patient care.
- Experience: If you’re just starting out, you might have a smaller caseload while you build your client base and develop your skills. Typically, as your experience grows, so will your potential to increase your caseload.
- Specialized treatments: Therapists specializing in a specific area of treatment or population might see an increase or decrease in their caseload depending on demand for their services or the required intensity. For example, a therapist specializing in a specific issue, such as trauma recovery, might have fewer clients than someone in general counseling. The specialized and intensive nature of trauma therapy can result in therapists needing to maintain a smaller caseload.
- Type of practice: Your type of therapy practice can play a determining role in caseload size. Therapists with private practices have more control over their schedules and client caseloads than those who work for an agency, hospital, or other institution. The latter might find supervisors determine case assignments, and organizational policies can heavily dictate how many patients they see weekly.
- Scheduling flexibility: Offering flexible scheduling options — for example, evening or weekend appointments — might impact how many clients you can take on.
- Treatment modalities: Different therapy modalities — for example, individual, group, or family therapy — can affect how many clients you see. If you typically offer group sessions, you might have a much larger caseload than if you only do one-on-one therapy.
- Telehealth options: Offering telehealth with an online therapy platform like Talkspace allows therapists to reach more clients and potentially increase their caseload. Beyond this, there are additional benefits of a teletherapy practice that therapists can consider.
The Impact of Caseload on Therapist Well-Being
Establishing and maintaining a balanced caseload is critical so therapists can ensure their own mental health and well-being while still providing the best care possible to their clients. Excessive caseloads can lead to things like burnout, diminished job satisfaction, and, in extreme cases, compromised client care.
“There are no hard and fast rules or numbers regarding personal caseloads. It largely depends on a clinician’s scope of practice, regarding private practice, community or agency, and sometimes industry demands. But large undue expectations can certainly skew professional control and integrity and impact work-life balance.”– Talkspace therapist Elizabeth Keohan, LCSW-C, LICSW, LCSW
How to Determine Your Ideal Caseload
Finding the right balance between your workload and personal life is essential for any mental health professional. Determining the ideal therapist caseload will involve several factors. When done right, you can establish and maintain a healthy work-life balance and provide the best care to your patients.
Determine your ideal caseload by assessing the following factors:
- Desired income: Figuring out how much you want or need to make can give you a starting point for determining how many sessions per week you should aim for. Don’t forget to consider insurance, flexible fees, or additional revenue sources in your therapist salary calculations.
- Hours per week: Consider how many hours you want to work every week and then figure out how many client sessions you can take while still having time for completing basic administrative tasks and ongoing professional development.
- Type of therapy: The type of therapy you provide can play a significant role in how many clients you can see in a week. Intensive treatments like dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) can have longer sessions, affecting how many patients you can see in a week.
- Burnout prevention: Make sure you build enough downtime into your schedule so that stress doesn’t accumulate and you eventually burn out.
- Therapist caseload variety: Determine if you want to work with a diverse range of clients or specialize in a specific population. Consider how much variety you want in your caseload so you can actively manage the number of clients you see.
Join the Talkspace Network
If you’re a new therapist or if you’re looking to expand your practice and reach more clients, you might want to consider joining an online platform like Talkspace. Talkspace therapists have access to an extensive client base with the added benefit of flexible work options that let you manage your caseloads more effectivel.
Benefits of being a Talkspace therapist include:
- Flexible schedules: Talkspace therapists make their own hours and can work anywhere in the U.S. with an Internet connection.
- Diverse clientele: The Talkspace network offers therapists access to clients from different backgrounds and locations (within the state they’re licensed in). The diversity you can experience as a Talkspace provider can help you broaden your skill set and enrich your personal and professional experience.
- Continued support: Talkspace is committed to providing optional ongoing support for providers through continuing education opportunities, clinical groups, and regular check-ins with Team Leads if desired.
- Innovative technology: Talkspace uses cutting-edge technology like secure messaging platforms and video conferencing tools that are unparalleled in the market. Our technology makes it easy for therapists and clients to schedule sessions without limitations or time constraints.
- Earn competitive rates: Talkspace offers competitive pay rates that enable you to earn according to your workload.
- Kim JJ, Brookman-Frazee L, Gellatly R, Stadnick N, Barnett ML, Lau AS. 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. 2018;49(2):132-141. doi:10.1037/pro0000182. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6157741/. Accessed April 20, 2023.
- Research roundup: Burnout in mental health providers. American Psychological Association. https://www.apaservices.org/practice/update/2018/01-25/mental-health-providers. Published January 25, 2018. Accessed April 20, 2023.