Build rapport and be supportive to reduce no-shows
For the second time this week you had a no-show. Today, you came into the office after a long day of running errands for the one appointment you had scheduled before realizing it was smack dab in the middle of your daughter’s school’s instrumental concert. Then, you waited and waited, only to realize you were being stood up, just to miss out on the show and your expected income.
You know how to get therapy clients to come in for their first session. Besides maintaining your website and social channels, you also put in a lot of effort to be an active member of your community. You’d like to believe that same caring attitude will keep your clients returning for all their scheduled appointments, but, like today, that isn’t always the case. In fact, you find yourself in this situation more often than you’d like.
The key for change isn’t knowing how to deal with missed appointments; it’s finding the tools or the skills to inspire your clients to continue coming back for therapy, regardless of what makes them fearful or uninterested in returning.
How to get therapy clients who are new to come back
A lot happens in the initial counseling appointment. Not only do you have to go over all the forms included in the new client welcome packet, but you also need to discuss practice policies such as confidentiality and billing. Besides the basic to-dos, you gather personal information from your client all while beginning to build rapport and lay the foundation for a clinical relationship. That’s a lot of pressure for one 60- to 90-minute meeting!
New clients are often guarded during the initial meeting with a therapist. Even if they want help, they may feel uncomfortable sharing their personal traumas, or simply don’t know where to begin. They’re looking for guidance, so be that lighthouse in the dark for them. Eventually, your new clients will open up all on their own, but right now, they need you to guide the conversation. Explain the therapeutic process so that they know what to expect, and also that as time goes on, you’ll expect them to take the wheel and guide the treatment process.
How to get therapy clients to return when you’ve already built the relationship
There are many reasons why clients miss appointments. Sometimes, the reason is as simple as they forgot. Everyone has a lot going on in their life and missed appointments can indeed happen on accident. However, no-shows often occur when clients feel anxious to return, so take a moment to identify what might hold them back.
Do they have a balance that’s gone unpaid for a long time? Have they backtracked, and might be worried about discussing their transgressions when you discuss outcome methods? The only way you can know how to rein clients back in is to determine if there is something particular holding them back. While you can’t force a client to return to treatment, it’s worth it to reach out by phone to try to reschedule the last canceled appointment. Sometimes, all people need is reassurance that you aren’t upset or that they’re able to return to feel confident to schedule their next appointment.
To prevent no shows before a missed appointment happens, end the therapy session with a goal or a “homework” assignment that your client would enjoy completing. And the key is finding something they will enjoy. For example, creating a calming soundtrack or playlist may interest your music-loving clientele, but others may prefer keeping a food journal or creating a healthy stress-reducing recipe for dinner.
Clients with a billing balance
If your client no shows after receiving a collection letter from your billing manager, it may be that he or she simply cannot afford to pay the past-due balance at this time or is too embarrassed to discuss payment with you. Are you willing to set up a payment plan? If so, reach out—first by the phone—to offer this option. Then, get everything in writing for the next appointment. By making an agreement that works for your client, you’re giving them the power to take charge of their finances and their therapy.
Clients stalled or defaulting on progress
Another reason why clients may no-show is that they may have backtracked in the therapeutic progress—someone battling addictions may have used again, or someone working on codependency issues may have started seeing their former partner. It’s tough to know how to get therapy clients who are transgressing to return to treatment. You can try to reach out, offering appointments on their timeline, but it’s up to them to make the decision to rejoin treatment. If you seem to have lost a client, take a low-touch approach by nurturing the relationship with print mailers every six months or so (assuming you have permission to contact them).
If no shows are a regular part of your practice and clients admit it’s because they simply forgot, SimplePractice has a solution for you. Our appointment reminders allow you to send text, email, and voice reminders, depending on your client’s personal preference. Try us free for 30 days.
Do you have any tips on how to get therapy clients to keep coming back? Share your ideas in the comments section.