We have discussed so many important things about getting your business started, but that is only half of what will make your practice successful. One of my favorite pieces of advice I have received is that 75% of successful counseling is making people feel like they are cared for. You have years of education and experience, but none of that will matter if you can’t reach your clients.
The most important concept to remember is that you are meeting your client where they are already at on their journey. Some tips to keep in mind are the following:
- Use the client’s first name when speaking to them. Not only does this feel personable to them, but the more you say someone’s name, the easier it is to remember.
- Always introduce yourself at the first session. Provide a small background about yourself so the client learns a little about you.
- Use small talk after introductions to help the client feel more comfortable. Some of my go-to’s are the traffic or the weather.
- Ask them to tell you a little bit about their self and what brings them to your office.
- If it is a follow-up visit, start by asking how they have been doing since the last time you met.
Diving into the session
Motivational interviewing - When working with patients, I have found that motivational interviewing techniques work best. This is a goal-oriented, client-centered counseling style for eliciting behavior change by helping clients explore and resolve their doubts and struggles. Using open ended questions is the key, and the client should be doing most of the talking.
Example: “What do you normally have for breakfast?” instead of “Do you normally eat breakfast?”
Reflective listening - This is a great communication strategy that helps you understand a speaker's idea, then offering the idea back to the speaker to confirm the idea has been understood correctly. It allows you to express understanding and empathy to your client, so they may be more receptive to the advice you have to offer
Example: “I completely understand that you have no energy by the time you get home from work which makes prepping dinner seem daunting. What are some things you think could help make dinner preparation a little less time consuming?”
Assess their behavior - Another important aspect is to monitor the client’s readiness to change, so you have a better understanding of where they are currently at.
Example: The client is struggling to meet their goals, maybe they are really still in the contemplation stage of change and you should dive deeper into the deeper issue.
By helping the client identify their motivators and keeping these present in your sessions, the client will begin to explore their own options instead of just listening to you explain it to them. They will want more than just the facts: clients need compassion, connection and care. Communication is key. If you are interested, Molly Kellogg is a great resource to learn more about motivational interviewing.
Remember, the key points to address during your consultation are to:
- Take time to listen to your client. Do not give too much information away the first session.
- Emphasize the importance of follow-up appointments every 1-2 weeks in the beginning.
- Follow up with your clients, and let them know they can email you with questions. Don't forget to send your charting notes to their physician if necessary.