The Two Important Stages of the Consultation for Psychotherapists in Private Practice
Psychotherapists in private practice must begin to look at a crucial part of their business in order to drastically improve being able to help more clients.
That part of private practice management is in the client initial consultation call or face to face meeting.
In this article we will breakdown two stages of this initial consultation that will improve the enrollment process so that you will:
- Be able to communicate your value as a therapist more effectively
- Increase your success rate from initial consultation to client
- Filling your practice with clients that are good fit for your business
Let’s unpack the two stages
Stage 1 Discovery:
This stage is about asking the right questions and finding out more about the potential client and what their situation is. Here you will be able to exhibit those excellent listening skills to start building trust and establishing rapport.
At this stage be aware of what the potential client’s pain and issues are and also the goals of the potential client.
It helps to take notes and write down two categories “pain” and “goals” on a piece of paper and start listing the pain/issues the potential clients are going through and also what they want to gain from psychotherapy.
“My relationship is falling apart. I’m going to lose my husband because of my dependence with alcohol and I’m ready to stop”
Pain=alcohol dependence, relationship issues
Goals=wants to stop drinking, keep relationship
“I’m having trouble communicating with my aging father. He only cares about himself. I want to communicate without losing my anger and have a better relationship with him”
Pain= lack of communication, family issues
Goals= improve communication, improved relationship with aging father
Another thing to be aware of in this stage is to notice if the client is a good fit for your practice based on personality and if you are the right specialist that can help the person.
If it is not a good fit both ways I suggest stopping the call here to save time for both you and the potential client and offering outside resources or referring to another therapist that is a better fit. Many therapists go through the whole call when they already know after this stage that it’s not a good fit. This will save time for you and the potential client and also not build too much rapport and then have to let the person know at the end of the call that you are not the person that can help them.
Stage 2 Value Bridge:
Now that you have determined that the potential client is a good fit both ways it is now on to stage 2 which is the value bridge.
This is where you start to discuss yourself as the therapist and you will refer to the pain and goals that you have determined.
This stage can be difficult for some therapists because of not wanting to self promote or be pushy towards the prospective client. This stage is not about either of those things. It is about letting the client know how you will be able to help and support them. During the discovery stage if you were not able to help the potential client you would have already referred them elsewhere.
We call this stage a value bridge because you will begin to communicate how you will bridge the gap between where the client is now (pain) and where they want to be (goals).
“We will meet once a week and work through the issues you discussed. I will use my extensive training as a clinician to listen to what you are going through and we will find out the cause of these topics you have concerns with. We will then find solutions together to improve communication between you and your father”
“You shared that you have some concerns about your drinking. My specialty is in helping people with dependency with alcohol and/or drugs. I will help you discovery the reasons you drink and help with looking at the relationship you have with your husband as well to move foward with a healthier relationship to yourself and your husband.”
These are only guidelines and we never want you to sound scripted. However the more you practice your “value bridge”, or what you bring as a therapist and talking about these things , the more comfortable you will be. Comfort with talking about how you help will lead you to more clients you will be able to support. The idea here is creating an outline of this process and then adding your personality as well as skills of building rapport and trust throughout the consultation.
If you feel that you are lacking confidence as a clinician or fearful of not being able to help the client those are entirely different topics and may be addressed through a mentor, coach, therapist, or other resource. Lack of confidence as a clinician is common and can lead to an empty practice, undercharging clients and many other things detrimental to a private practice business owner. (Yes, you are a business owner and starting to say these things out loud are necessary)
From here you will assess if it is still a good fit and then if so either wait for the client to ask what the next steps will be or ask them if they would like to move forward.
In summary, the two important steps of the consultation is in The Discovery and The Value Bridge. Focus on these two parts and you will be able to fill your practice with more of the right clients for you.
Brian Kang is a business strategist, consultant and coach that helps psychotherapists grow their private practice to support more clients. Click HERE to schedule an initial 30 minute “Grow Your Private Practice” strategy call.