This blog is the fifth chapter in a series describing my mid-life career transition from engineering to a counsellor and psychotherapist working in private practice. (Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 3, Chapter 4)
A few months ago, a friend asked me for help finding a therapist in a city I am unfamiliar with. I figured this would be a straightforward process, given that I am “in the know”. I started by following the instructions found in an excellent article on our own practice web site (I couldn’t resist the shameless self-promotion).
Indeed, I was quickly able to create a solid short-list of obviously qualified therapists and started to contact them. My experiences from that point reminded me how important our interactions are with prospective new clients.
Here are a few tips I’d like to pass on to others:
- Respond to voice mail and email messages within two business days. Most of the therapists I contacted responded within a day. That built immediate trust. To the therapist who returned my voice mail message a month after I left it…all I can say is…THAT WAS NOT HELPFUL!
- Start with the client—demonstrate listening and understanding. Most of the therapists I contacted started by asking how they could be helpful. That built a connection. To the therapists who started by talking about themselves before understanding why I was calling, I recognize you were trying to give me useful information, but it didn’t feel right. Of course I wanted to know about you, but with my needs, and not your qualifications, at the center of the conversation.
- Discuss needs before fees. Most of the therapists I spoke with waited until after we had determined fit before discussing fees and appointment schedules. That demonstrated respect in my eyes. To the therapist who started discussing fees before asking how they could help, I know it’s stressful to earn a living through private practice, but please see point #2 (start with the client).
As my wonderful practicum supervisor said to me over and over again, “Remember that every single interaction is a therapeutic interaction”. I’m not sure I realized the profound importance of this statement until I was walking in the shoes our prospective clients wear every time they reach out to us for help.
Rhea Plosker is an Engineer and Counsellor. She works in private practice with www.williamcooke.ca and also works as a project consultant in health care and not-for-profit organizations. Rhea can be reached at [email protected]
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA