Welcome to The Work Day, a series that charts a single day in various women’s working lives — from gallery owners to stay-at-home parents to chief executives. In this installment, we hear from therapist Laura Morrison, who recorded a workday in October.
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Name: Laura Morrison
Location: Durham, N.C.
Job title/current role: Licensed clinical social worker and owner of a private therapy practice
Previous jobs: For several months right out of college, I cobbled together three part-time jobs before landing a full-time role as the executive assistant at a nonprofit, where I stayed for six years; by the time I left, my title was “associate vice president for membership.”
I switched tracks in 2014 and went back to graduate school for social work. After earning my master’s in social work, I held a number of clinical and therapeutic roles in Georgia, Virginia and North Carolina. In January, I decided to try out self-employment, and I launched my private practice in Durham.
What led me to my current role: Since childhood, I’ve been drawn to helping roles that are geared toward relationship building, and I’ve always felt curious about understanding people — their motivations, their desires, all the things that make a person who they are. Those interests align well with a career in social work and therapy. Plus, my own experience with childhood trauma and my many positive experiences as a therapy client helped me find footing in my social work career.
How do you spend the majority of your day? I devote the biggest chunk of my workday to meeting with clients. I see four or five clients each day, which maps onto about five hours of daily clinical work or 25 hours of weekly clinical work. Right now, because of the pandemic, most of my therapy sessions are virtual. In the hours I am not with clients, I take on all the administrative tasks necessary to keep a business running: completing notes for therapy sessions, monitoring emails, budgeting, updating my website … the list goes on and on.
I operate from a strengths-based and relational therapeutic framework, which means much of my time with clients is spent carefully listening and building genuine, authentic relationships in which clients feel safe, heard, understood and supported. Clients bring a number of concerns to our sessions — anything from anxiety and depression to concerns around grief and loss, life transitions, and questions about identity and relationships.
I spend a lot of time with clients exploring their internal world, their emotions and their thoughts, but often, the therapeutic work also focuses on a client’s external world — everything going on around them at a relational, community and societal level. We pay a lot of attention to the ways systemic and institutional oppression — racism, white supremacy, capitalism and sexism, to name a few — affect clients’ mental health. It’s often heavy and tender work, but don’t get me wrong, there are also moments of joy, connection and laughter in therapy sessions.
7 a.m.: When my alarm goes off, I hit snooze only once — a rarity! — before rolling out of bed. I usually start my day a little earlier (around 6:30 a.m.), but this morning, I have a few client cancellations, so I can afford a more leisurely approach. I feed the cats (Skittles and Thor), wash my face, throw on some gym clothes and head out for a walk with my husband, Joe. We live about a block from a university, and we often take advantage of the two-mile trail that loops around part of the campus closest to our home. After our walk, Joe makes us breakfast, and we chat about our upcoming days.
8:30 a.m.: I sit on my porch with a cup of tea and have a brief phone call with a friend I met during graduate school. She is thinking about starting her own private therapy practice, which is a nerve-racking process. We talk through some of the steps in the process (I give her some feedback about what launching my business was like for me), and we commiserate about how terrifying and draining it can be to make major career shifts.
9 a.m.: I shower and swing by my favorite local coffee shop for a mocha before starting my workday.
10:30 a.m.: I arrive at the office, and I have plenty of administrative tasks to knock out before I see clients. I define any work that does not involve direct contact with a client as “administrative” and anything client-facing as “clinical.” Today’s administrative tasks include responding to emails, submitting claims to insurance providers, checking my income for October, calculating how much to pay myself vs. how much to save for taxes, finishing required reading for a class I take on Monday evenings and creating a treatment plan for a new client. A treatment plan summarizes the client’s presenting concerns (what they want to work on in therapy), outlines their goals for the therapeutic treatment, and describes the therapeutic interventions and tools I might use to support the client in their progress toward their goals.
Noon: I meet with the day’s first client for a 55-minute virtual therapy session.
1 p.m.: I take a quick walk home for lunch with Joe, who works virtually from a desk in our living room. I snuggle with our dog, Howard, for a few minutes, and then I walk back to my office for the next round of clients.
2 p.m.: For the next three hours, I meet with three clients; each of these sessions is virtual. Client sessions are 45 to 55 minutes long, with 5- to 15-minute breaks between sessions. In these small breaks, I run to the bathroom, stretch, eat a snack or drink some water. If I have a longer break, I sometimes try to complete my clinical documentation for the day’s sessions. More often than not, though, I give myself time to rest and reset rather than stress about my clinical notes between sessions.
5 p.m.: I take 15 minutes to write my clinical notes for the day before walking home. At home, I feed the cats, then I sit on the couch for a bit and decompress from the day with some mindless scrolling through social media. Joe and I sit down to dinner — a vegetable cobbler dish we meal-prepped over the weekend — and catch up.
6:30 p.m.: The workday isn’t quite over yet! I sign on to Zoom for a continuing education course on psychoanalysis. It’s a 16-week course, and I am about halfway through. Continuing education is important for three reasons: It’s required to maintain my clinical license in the state of North Carolina; it helps me grow my skills and capacity as a therapist; and it helps me build a network of other therapists I can consult with or refer clients to. That last one is major, because owning a small private practice can sometimes feel isolating. Tonight’s lecture focuses on family therapy techniques … an interesting topic, but I find myself getting distracted, because the class is late in the day and I’m tired.
8 p.m.: The workday is finally over, and I spend the last two hours of the day winding down. My wind-down tonight includes journaling, reading, running the dishwasher, online shopping for changing tables (we have a baby due in early 2022) and curling up on the couch with Howard, who gets extra love because he’s feeling a little anxious about the thunderstorm swirling around outside.
10 p.m.: Lights out and lots of sleep (hopefully) before tomorrow.