A Game-Changing, Time-Saving Tip for Service Providers:
I kept meaning to share this in a video, but lately I’ve lost my taste for making videos, so blog post it is😊 I want to tell you about a change that I made in my private practice intake protocol that was a total game changer for me, and could probably be helpful for other therapists, speakers, professionals, coaches, tutors, consultants, caterers, make-up artists- people who offer time-based services.
A few years ago, I found myself in a particularly busy season. This happens every so often, where, sometimes, following a particular lecture, podcast or other exposure, the influx of new potential clients is a lot more than usual, and sometimes more than I could even accommodate for a wait list. I felt bad, because when someone reaches out for therapy, it’s a very vulnerable thing, and even if I don’t have availability to see them, or if it was clear that I wasn’t the right practitioner for them, I still wanted to be able to acknowledge their message, and possibly refer them elsewhere.
Until then, my approach had been, what I think is the industry standard:
I’d get a call or email from someone interested in therapy. I’d call them back, and spend anywhere from five to 15 minutes on the phone with them, hearing about their situation, telling them how I work, and together determining whether it made sense for us to work together. Often, I would tell them that I didn’t have the specialty they needed and recommend someone else. Or, they would hear something about the way I work- such as the slot availability, rates, or location- that made them realize this wasn’t what they were looking for. It got to the point where I simply didn’t have the time to make all these calls, or even keep track of the messages, but I didn’t want to just ignore them. (Nor was this something that’s easily delegated to an assistant or office manager.)
So I created a document, a New Client FAQ Sheet, listing all the most common questions from these intake calls and my answers, along with the general information I find myself sharing about how I work. Now, when new clients reach out, I just ask for an email address, and then email them this information. (I do not add them to my weekly email list, though.)
Generally, those for whom I would not be the right fit will learn this from the FAQ sheet, and can move on to another more appropriate professional for their needs. In this email, I say that if after reading all the information, you still have more questions, feel free to reply to the email with those questions. I find email to be more time-efficient for this than a phone call. Then I say, if after reading the document, you’re still interested in working together, please reply with your phone number, a short summary of what you’re looking to do in therapy, and your best times and days for scheduling. I add that I try to accommodate timing needs, but if I can’t, then I’ll offer the closest option I have. If my caseload is completely full, I’ll add them to a wait list, and then invite them to follow up as well. The document also offers resources for alternative referrals, if they don't want to wait, or just want to research other therapists.
This preliminary information document approach can be a huge a time-saver for both clinician and client. It is not necessarily recommended for professionals who rely heavily on consultation calls to engage clients, and there are some prospective clients who feel strongly that they want to be able to speak directly with the therapist to feel out the fit. But if you are struggling to keep up with your potential client calls, this can be incredibly helpful.
The list of questions I pre-answer in the email includes:
What type of issues do you usually treat? (I also include some that I specifically don’t treat.)
What is your therapeutic approach?
What hours do you work? (Mine are atypical.)
How long is the wait to schedule?
Where are you located?
Do you offer virtual sessions?
What are your rates?
Do you accept insurance?
Do you have a sliding scale or package option?
How long is treatment on average?
How often are sessions?
What’s your cancellation policy?
What can I do to prepare for therapy?
Do you have any written or video materials that I can see to learn more about your work?
If you offer multiple services in your industry (like lectures, support groups, supervision classes, digital courses, etc.) your document can include information on these options as well. This system of onboarding new potential clients and redirecting others has saved me many hours worth of repetitive phone calls, and I only wish I’d discovered it sooner. Which is why I’m spreading the word.