How many clients should we see? How many clients do others see?  How many is too much? This is something many of us wonder and ask ourselves.

Personal capacity is something very individual to us and isn’t a fixed entity. It is vital to find what feels personally right for us and to recognise that capacity changes. Here are some questions below to help you assess your current capacity.

Do you tend to feel energised by seeing others?

If you are an extroverted person who thrives on the company of others you may find yourself at ease seeing many clients in a day. Indeed, you may find yourself restless and unstimulated with a low number of appointments. If you are a more introverted counsellor, you may find yourself feeling drained after a few sessions and needing some alone time to restore your energy, you may thus prefer to keep numbers low or factor in breaks during the day.

Does the time of the day have an impact?

Do you notice you are more energised in mornings or do you come alive at night?  It is important that we work with, rather than against ourselves. If you are a morning person, perhaps seeing a few people each morning works best for you. Or maybe you are someone who feels more productive starting in the afternoon and working into the evening. Figuring out when you feel more alive in the day can help you to get the most out of your working week.

How intense is your current caseload?

Consider the situations you are supporting around. For instance if you are currently supporting several people who are suicidal can you pace this support throughout the week?

How do you know when you are reaching (or have reached!) your capacity?

What are the signs you notice when you are working too much? Do you find yourself snappy after a busy day? Maybe you feel lethargic after the third client of the day, or are struggling to concentrate. Perhaps you find yourself having frequent headaches or colds, or you notice weekends filled with tears as the working week catches up with you. These are important signs that you need to slow down, revaluate capacity and tend to self care.

What are your key motivations?

Are you working more than you would like to as finances are tight? If so, is there another way you could bring in income?  Perhaps another income stream you could develop, such as supervision or training? Have you considered raising your fees up a little?  Or taking on work that requires a more physical rather than emotional input.

Or perhaps you are struggling to turn people away due to guilt and feeling responsible? If so, it can be very beneficial to use supervision or personal therapy to reflect on the (perhaps unconscious) reasons behind this.

Is it sustainable?

Right now you might feel able to take on a ton of clients, you might be happy to work long days and weekends, but is it sustainable?  It’s useful to consider the impact of long term stress on our bodies and wellbeing. It is also vital to remember our duty to our clients and that when we are working beyond our capacity our client work is affected.

When might your capacity change?

It is important to recognise that our capacity changes and can wax and wane. Changes might occur in times of:

  • Personal crisis such as a relationship breakdown.
  • Personal change (including positive changes) such as moving home or adopting a child.
  • Health issues-such as managing a long term health condition and having a flare up.
  • Times of national change such as a pandemic.

As I write this, I’m aware so many of us are home-working and using technology where we would usually meet in person. It is important to recognise that working online tends to be more tiring and thus it’s vital to ensure we take regular breaks and get some fresh air wherever we can.

Added to this we are supporting clients going through a collective trauma whilst also navigating this ourselves. We should also bear in mind how this pandemic and resulting self isolation is impacting on our sleep, energy and motivation.

Ethical guidelines to consider:

It is worth bearing in mind the BACP ethical guidance around self care when considering capacity:

As BACP members we commit to:

Work to professional standards by ensuring that our wellbeing is sufficient to sustain the quality of the work

We will maintain our own physical and psychological health at a level that enables us to work effectively with our clients (Good practice Point 18).

We will take responsibility for our own wellbeing as essential to sustaining good practice by:
a. taking precautions to protect our own physical safety
b. monitoring our own psychological and physical health
c. seeking professional support and services as the need arises
d. keeping a healthy balance between our work and other aspects of our life (Good Practice, Point 91 a-d)


Further guidance can be found via:

  • BACP Fact sheet: GPiA078 Fitness to Practise in the counselling professions
  • BACP Fact sheet: GPiA099 Workloads in the counselling professions



Image Credit
By lime517 Licensed under Creative Commons