What’s the first thing a potential client notices about you, after seeing your profile on Psychology Today?
It’s how quickly you respond to his or her email or phone call, how much time you take responding to questions, and how you present as a professional businesses.
I handle the referral phone calls, intake and coordination of appointments for busy therapists, and attempt to find other clinicians for them if the fit doesn’t seem right. (Clinicians tend to focus on or specialize in particular areas, and may not feel comfortable addressing issues outside those areas, whether it’s domestic violence, porn addiction, court-ordered substance abuse evaluations, gender concerns, children, adults, no insurance/certain insurances… the spectrum is as broad as there are people.)
It’s surprisingly time-consuming, but during this process I’m helping the client feel more comfortable with the decision to engage in therapy, and also setting up expectations with that client: what therapy is like in general, what therapy will be like with the clinician under discussion (whether it’s cognitive behavioral therapy, gestalt, or another style), insurance payments (if any) and the client’s share, confidentiality, no show & late cancel fees, humor…
And, I’m getting that client prepared for meeting with a professional whose livelihood depends on his clients showing up when they say they will.
My style is professional but sympathetic, chatty but intent on finding out needed information, and focused on changing a potential client’s anxieties into confidence that therapy will a safe and constructive place.
The client gets to know me (over the phone) as the person helping bridge that often nerve-wracking first step.
It seems to work much better than when the too-busy clinician can’t answer a call until late at night, early in the morning or during a desperately needed lunch break; I have my nice little checklist of everything to cover and usually (not always!) am able to send off the opening documents packet to the client immediately, and can follow up with the insurance company within 24 hours or so.
It’s all very professional but reassuring for the client. And after that first look at your Psychology Today profile and uncertain reaching out (is this the right clinician? do I really want to do this? what if s/he thinks I’m stupid or crazy?), the client can go into their first session with a far better sense of what to expect, and the knowledge that I’m still out there to check in with if there are any non-clinical questions.