October 4, 2019

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Kayla Winslow

How To Structure Your Therapy Phone Consultations

Often, it can be hard to know exactly what to ask or how to lead a phone consultation. One thing I will tell you: clients are largely more uncomfortable than you are. Many times, this is their first therapeutic engagement.

Often, it can be hard to know exactly what to ask or how to lead a phone consultation. One thing I will tell you: clients are largely more uncomfortable than you are. Many times, this is their first therapeutic engagement.

First, I recommend leading with a welcoming statement.

Some options:

  • “Thank you for making the time to talk today. I appreciate your making your health a priority.”
  • “I am happy to connect with you today.”

Next, it is always helpful to add some structure to the call.

Help the client know what to expect. Based on your technique, training, and perspective, you may want to take more of the lead, or offer the client the opportunity to take the lead.

Some options:

  • “I am happy to start by sharing more about what I do, and opening up shortly to learn more about you, what you’re going through, and what your hopes and fears are about therapy. Please don’t hesitate to ask any questions as they come to you.”
  • “I understand you may have some questions. Would you like to jump right in, or do you prefer I share a little more about myself and the work I do first?”
  • “I’d love to share a little bit more about my style of work and then open up to hear some more about where you are coming from and what you’re looking for. How does that sound?”
  • “I always like to first open the space for you to lead if you have certain things you’d like to ask or say. Would you like to ask or share anything about your past experiences with therapy, or lack thereof, or things you’re thinking or feeling now? If not, of course, I understand, I am happy to share about my work and we’ll take it from there.”

The conversation will likely flow naturally from there.

Topics and questions you may want to cover:

  • “Have you ever been to therapy before? How was it? Anything you loved or hated?”
  • “Can you share a little more with me about what’s brought you to therapy?”

These types of questions will help you contextualize how to begin building rapport with your new client and how to approach your early sessions and the trajectory of your work together.

Toward the end of the call, we recommend asking,

“Can we talk about logistics for a few minutes?”

This will give you an opportunity to discuss fee, scheduling, cancellation policies, and more.

If you would like to schedule with the client, I recommend scheduling your next in-person appointment right there on the call.

Some options:

  • “I have really enjoyed getting to know you a little bit on this call. Thank you again for making the time. Would you like to schedule our first appointment together while we’re on the phone?”
  • “Thank you again for connecting with me today. I’d love to schedule a first appointment together while we’re on the phone. What does your availability look like in the coming days or weeks?”

If you do not believe the client is a good fit, it is better to be straightforward.

You can say things like:

  • “Thank you again for making time to connect today. I am not sure we are the best fit at this time, but I would love to refer you to a colleague. Would that be all right with you?”
  • (If you’re a MyWellbeing member): “Thank you for making time to connect today. I am not sure I am the best fit for you and your needs at this time. Can I inform Alyssa at My Wellbeing to reach back out to you with another match?”

Right after the phone consultation:

  1. Follow up with the client.
  2. Send an email to thank the client for meeting with you and to remind them of important contact information (office address, phone number, email, etc.)
  3. Let the client know how and when they can reach you and be honest/accurate about typical response time (within 12 hours, within 24 hours, within 3 days, etc.)
  4. *Note: Many clients will be especially receptive to and appreciative of fast response times from the practitioner that they work with.  
  5. If you feel like this is an area where you struggle, let us know. We can support our members to make changes so that you are better able to respond to clients promptly.
  6. If you do not hear from the client within 1 week, and you had plans to reconnect but did not book a particular appointment time, you are welcome to send the client a note to remind them. It is possible they forgot or a life circumstance has hindered their scheduling.

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About the author

Today’s piece was written by our Head of Member Experience, Kayla. Through her own personal experience with therapy and training in Clinical Psychology, Kayla has developed an awareness of how therapy can be an extraordinarily helpful way to improve our overall health and wellbeing.