So you’re about to embark on a new career as a therapist. You’ve studied hard, put in the hours with case studies, you have the qualifications, and now you’re ready to start building a busy practice. This is the exciting part, to actually start seeing the results of your hard work, reaping the professional and financial rewards. But as tempting as it may be to book in every client that comes your way, it’s important to check that your services will be in both your and their best interests…
Susannah Saunders, a Clinical Hypnotherapist and Coach with over 20 years experience in child and adult mental heath at her private practice in London, shares her tips on what to look out for when taking on new clients.
Building a reputable practice starts with trust. Show clients that you are highly skilled, and that they are in safe hands, by paying attention to their individual requirements. Putting in the groundwork at the beginning will help the therapeutic process go as smoothly as possible. The relationship between a therapist and client is like any other relationship – it involves give and take, listening and understanding from both sides, and for both parties to be on the same page at all times. So what do you need to consider when taking on new clients?
Regardless of the type of therapy you’re offering, it’s always important to determine whether your client is committed to change and if they can commit to the required number of sessions. Without commitment, they will not get the results they need and you’ll both be wasting your time and you will potentially end up with negative feedback. Don’t get dollar signs in your eyes at every booking that comes your way: if they’re not the right client for your service, then both you and they could potentially walk away from the experience worse off.
What are their expectations of therapy? If the client has unrealistic expectations they may give up on the therapy prematurely, or not put in the work they need to experience change. Ask them what they hope to gain from the therapy, and how they will know once treatment has been successful. If they’re expecting a quick fix or magic wand solution, you can gently correct them. They will trust and appreciate your honesty.
Know when to refer clients on
Is their problem safe to treat and are you the best person to help them? Sometimes a client may present with physical symptoms that they’ve assumed are psychological in nature but they must be checked out by a medical professional first. A client may also present with a problem that is outside of your specialty or training, in which case you can kindly explain that they would benefit from seeing someone with that specialist knowledge. Being open and honest will reward you too, as these clients will gain trust in you and therefore be more likely to seek your help again for something else in future, as well as recommending you to others.
Clients who suffer from depression or suicidal thoughts need continuous support, so it’s wise to encourage them to build a support network. They will most likely need help outside of their sessions with you, so talk with them beforehand to ensure this is in place before doing any therapy work.
Trust your intuition
If you get that “red flag” feeling when talking with a prospective client, lean into it. Maybe you sense some resistance from them, or perhaps they’re being flaky and cancelling appointments with you. Or maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it but something is telling you to steer clear. Listen to your gut and don’t take them on as a client – let them know there are other options out there. You don’t have to be their therapist and you may simply not be the right match for them. It will be the kindest approach for both you and them.