When you think of therapy, convenience isn't a word that often comes to mind. It might seem like a word better applied to fast food or online ordering. But when it comes to your counseling practice, increasing the convenience factor can have a surprisingly positive impact for both you and your client.
Think about it - when something is convenient, it’s easier to do. So it’s less stress on your client, which makes them more likely to try it. And the more they try therapy, the more they get out of it, leading to healthier and happier lives.
Making it convenient for your client to start and continue therapy has significant benefits for you, too. Not only the obvious financial benefit of having regular client visits and lower no-show rates, but the professional pleasure of having your clients get better results because they’re coming more often. This positive reputation can leak out to the community as well, leading to more referrals over time.
Getting outcomes like these is surprisingly easy. Practice management tools make it simple to automate convenience for your clients on a regular basis. I’m going to show you 6 simple ways you can use your practice management system to make therapy super-convenient for your client right now. The best part? Each step will take you just a few minutes, but pay endless dividends in the quality of service you can provide to your clients.
1 - Allow clients to self-schedule.
When it comes to improving client convenience, a key phrase to keep in mind is reducing friction. The standard way of making appointments is a multi-step process. First, the client calls in and requests an appointment. Then you look at your schedule and suggest available times. Then, you agree on a time, and both of you register the appointment in your respective calendars. That’s about four steps, give or take. But what if you’re not available, or on the other line? Then they have to leave a message, and hope they don’t miss it when you call back. There’s a few more steps in there. That's friction. It gets frustrating, and that’s when it’s easy for clients to give up.
Alternatively, you could allow clients to self-schedule. All they have to do is open your online scheduler linked to your web page, and choose from the available times. Four or more steps, reduced to two. You can easily allow online scheduling today by adjusting the settings in your practice management portal.
2 - Use appointment reminders.
Even after booking the appointment, there’s a lot of things that can go wrong before the client gets in the door. They can write down the date wrong, or simply forget. They can double-book. It’s normal and human. But making mistakes is inconvenient. It's frustrating for both you and them when they realize their mistake too late.
When a client misses an appointment, they may be subject to a no-show fee, or feel they have disappointed you. That can drive a wedge in the therapy process. I’ve found it to be so much more convenient all around to employ the use of automated appointment reminders to go out 24 hours before the client’s scheduled appointment. Email, text or automated phone call reminders are incredibly convenient for the client, and lead to a dramatic reduction in no-shows and late-cancels. Not to mention, increased harmony in the therapeutic relationship!
3 - Set recurring appointments.
Another factor important to convenience is reducing decision-making. Making decisions is rarely convenient. It requires a lot of brainpower, and energy. I encourage you to make it simple for your clients to just decide once and let you know if the situation changes. Try to set aside the same time for them each week in your calendar or your online scheduler. That allows them to get into a habit and reduce the inconvenience of finding a new appointment time that works each week.
4 - Request permission to coordinate care with significant people in your intake forms.
Another rule of thumb to making your client's lives more convenient is anticipating their needs. For many of our clients, at some point during our professional relationship, they will want us to coordinate care with their doctor, school counselor, or another health care professional. Standard practice is to follow up with your client and get the release forms signed when the occasion comes up that you need to talk to the other professional. But if you do that, then again you're facing multiple steps, and potential delays to getting that call accomplished while gaining permission. Instead, you could add just a few lines to your intake forms and then it’s already done!
5 - Smooth out the payment process by putting payment cards on file.
Another ingredient of convenience is doing as much as you can behind the scenes. Asking a client to place a card on file at intake does just that. Make sure somewhere in your paperwork it is clear under what circumstances you will charge the card, such as session fees, late-cancel, and no-show fees, and that they agree to your terms in writing. From then on, whenever your client comes in for an appointment, just charge the card on file and send them an electronic receipt.
This makes it more convenient for the client because all they have to do is show up. It also allows more time in session if you’re a solo practitioner, as you don’t have to eat up several minutes each week in running the payment manually.
6 - Go paperless.
The management of a traditional paper office is what makes it inconvenient. The client has to come in early to an appointment or print out paper forms at home. After the client turns in the paperwork, the therapist has to physically store and secure those documents, for several years. Every time the information changes, the client has to fill out a new form, adding to the overload. And if the client’s handwriting is illegible, the therapist can miss out on key information.
Electronic medical records simplify all that. The client can type out the information, and update it by logging into the secure client area. It’s plain to read, and requires no physical space in the counselor’s office to store and secure.
Setting it up, too, can be a quicker process than you might think. Many practice management tools have pre-populated questions to ask your clients, you just have to direct your clients to use them! Or, you can upload the paper copies of your forms and have clients review and e-sign your documents.
When going to therapy is convenient, both the therapist and the client benefit. What might be different for you and your clients, if you took a few minutes today and tried some of these strategies for yourself?