Self-evaluation: How Am I Doing in My Practice?

Whether you start the year in January with New Year’s resolutions, in the Spring as new life blossoms and cheeps, in the Summer with rest and rejuvenation, or in the Fall when all true academics know the year really begins, you may find a self-evaluation useful. This is an informative and enlightening exercise that organizations engage in periodically. Individuals can benefit from the practice, as well. For psychologists, investing the time to conduct a self-evaluation can provide valuable insight into the structure and quality of your practice. This is an interesting and fruitful process that is well worth doing. Here are some sample self-evaluation questions to get you on your way:

Scheduling
1. Am I overscheduled? Underscheduled?
2. Do I allow myself regular breaks between clients/patients (e.g., an hour off after seeing three in a row)?
3. If there are times of the day when I know I don’t work at my best, do I plan to do non-clinical tasks during those hours (paperwork, returning phone calls, consulting with peers, napping)?
4. Am I getting enough rest? Do I feel drowsy or nearly fall asleep while seeing clients/patients?
5. Do I undertake a variety of professional activities to keep me engaged and interested in my career?
6. Do I have too many professional activities? Am I stretched too thin?
7. When was the last time I took a day off? A week? Two weeks? A month?
8. Do I cancel clients/patients when I am sick?
9. When was the last time I said “no” to something?

In the therapy room
1. Do I have the right mix of clients/patients, a balance between those who are functioning well with mild conditions and those who have severe conditions and are very challenging?
2. Do I feel irritable and angry when clients/patients don’t “get better”?
3. Do I start and end sessions at the scheduled times?
4. Am I really listening to each client/patient, or am I planning what I’ll do after work, or over the weekend?
5. Am I self-disclosing appropriately? That is, am I disclosing only the type and degree of information that is in the best interests of the client/patient?
6. Is there something I am doing professionally that is bothering me even slightly? If so, to which peer can I talk about it in confidentiality? For example: not wanting to address a client’s/patient’s excessive phone calls, dressing extra nicely on the day a particular client/patient is scheduled, “phoning in” the therapy with a certain client/patient, verbally attacking a client/patient, or not inquiring about suicidality with a client/patient with a history of suicidal ideation and/or self-harm.

Financially
1. Am I making enough money to meet my needs?
2. Is my fee commensurate with that of colleagues in the area?
3. If I have a sliding fee scale, do I apply it even-handedly to all who ask for it?
4. Do I deposit checks promptly (within a week)?
5. Do I prepare bills monthly?
6. Do I pay bills monthly?
7. If a client/patient is behind on his or her bill, do I address it? If the bill remains unpaid, what do I do about it?

Self-care
1. What is my favorite way to relax? When was the last time I did it?
2. Am I able to let go of my clients/patients when I leave work, or do I ruminate or worry about them while driving, in bed, while visiting with friends, while watching television, etc. (Fassell, 1990; Robinson, 1989)?
3. Do I stop to eat lunch, or do I eat while writing progress notes or reports, answering email, and returning phone calls (Robinson, 1989)?
4. Do I put as much time and energy into my personal relationships (e.g., partner, children, friends) as I do into my clients/patients (Robinson, 1989)?
5. Do I suffer (perhaps silently) from headaches, stomachaches, nausea, muscle aches, or sleeping problems that have no physical explanation (such as a new baby or the Chinese food I ate last night) (Robinson, 1989)?
6. Do I have a peer consultation group that meets regularly to provide support?
7. Do I have and use a supervisor, even if it’s not required?
8. Is there something going on in my personal life that might be affecting my practice? If so, which trusted colleague can I ask to help me monitor and manage this? For example, conflict at home, falling in love, my own or a family member’s physical illness.
9. What do I do for self-care? Do I exercise? Do I eat the number of meals (at least 3) that is right for me? Do I avoid mood-altering drugs (including caffeine)? Do I get enough sleep? Do I have regular positive experiences such as reading the Sunday paper, taking a bubble bath, or going out to a movie, dancing, or for a leisurely meal? When was the last time I spent time outdoors?
10. Do I look forward to going to the office?
11. Do I enjoy what I do in my profession?
12. What are my ideals (e.g., simplicity, love, spontaneity, delight, freedom) and am I attaining and experiencing them regularly (Killinger, 1997)?

Housekeeping
1. Am I keeping up with my mail, email, bills, and banking?
2. Is my license current?
3. Am I keeping up with continuing education requirements?

As psychotherapists know, if you come across a question that gives you an uneasy feeling, note it as something to come back to for further exploration. Take it to your next supervision or peer consultation session.