Do you over-prepare for your sessions?

Do you spend hours scouring the internet, reading journal articles or going down TikTok rabbit holes?

Or do you spend hours scrolling Pinterest, TpT or Twinkl trying to find that ideal resource?

Do you feel like you are letting your clients down or having less than perfect sessions if you don’t spend the time planning?

I know this is a topic that comes up a lot in my 1:1 mentoring sessions.

Part of the issue is Uni. How can we forget the hours spent writing pages and pages of session plans? Not only that but then having our work critiqued which inevitably led to more hours spent getting everything ‘just right’.

Then you are thrust into the workplace, seeing 4-6+ clients a day with 15 minutes to plan your sessions! 

How does that work? How do you learn to pivot?

Firstly we have to realise the purpose of our session planning. At Uni, it was to show what you know. So that you can demonstrate it both in your planning and in your delivery so that you can pass and become qualified. 

Once you are working, planning is all about you knowing what you are going to do in the session. So rather than rocking up and winging it, you put time aside to analyse your assessment results, map out therapy goals and think about how you will tackle those based on your clients, their needs and any limitations you encounter. 

No one really gets to see your planning. No one is marking your work. So after so much time having the feedback it can leave you wondering – am I doing it right? How do I know if no one is checking my work?

So we have to tackle planning and preparing through a different lens. The lens of success and impact.

Is what I am doing working? Is it working in the way it is supposed to? Is it working in the time frame it is supposed to?

Being able to answer these questions takes time and practise. It also means you will need to have experienced clinicians around you to guide you. To help you understand what is typical, what is not, what to look out for and why. You don’t come out of Uni knowing this. It’s only with the hours of practise under your belt that you start to build a picture. You start to see patterns. You reflect and work out why it’s working, what to do more of and what to tweak. 

But what about over-prepping and over-planning? What do we do about that?

Well, that isn’t about success and impact. It’s actually about self-confidence, breaking the perfectionist cycle and developing self-trust. These are all topics I have written about because often the underlying cause or root of many of the habits or traits which suck up time and stop us from moving forward are due to lack of self-trust, self-confidence and the perfectionist cycle. 

So when you are planning for a client and you decide to scour the internet – ask yourself why? Is it because the client has a condition or diagnosis you have never heard of? Or are you lacking self-confidence and feel being over-prepared is the antidote?

When you go down the TikTok rabbit hole, is it because of the dopamine hit or because you don’t trust the plan you have created for your client? 

Next time you are scrolling on TpT or Twinkl, ask yourself, is it because you truly have nothing in your resources to target that skill or is it the desire to have the perfect activity that’s driving it?

There is nothing wrong with learning, acquiring new knowledge and applying it. It makes you a fabulous therapist who is innovative and can provide tailored therapy. But if the desire to learn is fueled by self-doubt, low confidence or the need for perfection, working on those areas will not only kill the over-planning and preparing but will also free up a lot of time and mental headspace. It will give you more success and a much better life-work balance too.