Building a successful therapy business is a matter of thinking and taking action that support the business, you as clinician, and your clients. I have had the unique opportunity to visit with many very successful therapy business owners. Here is a partial list of what they do and recommend for building a financially and emotionally sustainable practice.
1. Make answering the phone or returning phone calls a priority. I know. On one hand, this seems like a no-brainer. People call because they want help. They are asking to be your client and give you money. On the other hand, when we have our clinician’s hat on, it can be hard to switch into receptionist/scheduler mode. Because this can be a difficult switch, many therapists delay returning calls. But here is the truth. The first person to speak to the client usually gets the client. You actually worked hard to get them to call you. Why wouldn’t you want to get them booked on your calendar? (Note: if you are already full see #7 in this article.)
Here are 2 tips to making phone answering easier:
a. Make time every couple of hours to return calls. Doing client sessions makes you money today. But what about tomorrow? Returning phone calls today makes you money tomorrow and next week. Increase the priority of answering the phone.
b. Think about this. If someone offered you a free ‘scratch-off’ lottery ticket that that had a 30 to 70% chance to win $1500, would you take the lottery ticket – and spend a few minutes scratching to see what you won? Most of us could use an extra several hundred dollars a month! Each prospective client call that you delay in answering or returning is like saying no to a potential income increase of hundreds of dollars.
2. Understand that money is a clinical issue. As a therapist, you and your client have a contract. You agree to be present with them for the session – with all your experience, all your knowledge, and all your caring – helping them to a better life. The client agrees in return to pay you for the time. Both the therapist and the client need to be held accountable to the contract.
Sometimes therapists are nervous about enforcing the cancellation and rescheduling agreement. They don’t want to upset the client by discussing it with the client. They might either ignore a late cancellation. Some therapists charge the client’s credit card for the missed session without talking to the client. Neither is helpful to the business and the relationship with the client.
I recommend telling the client the policies up front (in person.) Then if they are broken, it becomes a matter for clinical discussion – what it means to both of you – and then a recommitment to the policy. We give our clients one ‘get out of jail free’ card (one missed session at no charge) and get a renewed understanding and commitment. If it happens again, we discuss it with the client in session. To not talk about it (and the consequences) with the client in session is, in my opinion, to miss a perfect clinical opportunity. Let’s model good self care and open communication with our clients in session.
3. Check in with clients regularly to ensure how the client perceives the relationship. Scott D Miller says that 50% of clients leave therapy before their goals have been met. He also says that the best predictor of positive outcomes is: “the relationship as perceived by the client.” If we want to help the client stay in treatment until her goals are met – and we want to ensure she has the best outcomes, it is imperative that we regularly check in with our clients to see how they perceive the relationship and their progress. This is also beneficial in that keeping a client you already have is usually less expensive than getting a new one –so everyone wins – you, the client, and the business.
Suggestion: Consider using the Feedback Informed Treatment protocols or some system to see regularly how the client is progressing. If a client has started cancelling on a regular basis, consider that there may have been a therapeutic break. Consider mending it in ways that support the client. One idea is to offer a client who is coming to session sporadically a ‘reconnection’ session at no charge. This can often lead to a client returning to treatment and a renewed connection with you and therapy.
4. Decide that you own a business and that business needs fuel – steady clients. Every therapist I know wants a ‘steady’ stream of clients – so that new ones come in as others are graduating. This requires a steady and consistent marketing strategy both online and in in the community. This is not rocket science.
Find 3 things each week that are proven to propel your business forward and do them. Connect with existing referral sources. Reconnect with clients that have graduated to check in with them. Offer a presentation in your community to ideal clients and have a way to turn audience members into clients. Get support if you aren’t sure how to do this.
Start with these tips, and I’ll be back in the next post with a few more.
And if you could use help with implementing these steps in your business, why not work with one of my Elite coaching team? http://BeAWealthyTherapist.net/help