Counseling in Troubled Times

In this time when people have lost money in their 401Ks and worry about losing their jobs, they get picky about how to spend their money. Counseling is less important than a redo of their spare bedroom for their unemployed son or even a trip to visit their cousins. As a therapist, you see your schedule get thinner and your revenues decrease.

You don’t have to be at the mercy of the recession. Here are some practical and effective ways to book more client hours and make more money.

  1. Most of us are locked into the fifty minute session. I recommend you see some clients for half hour sessions. You can accomplish a great deal in a half hour. You can charge forty-five dollars instead of ninety, and make client feel like it’s affordable even like they’re getting a bargain.
  2. For clients who have made significant progress and do not need intensive treatment at present, you can have them return once a week for a fifteen-minute-check in. That’s what psychiatrists do – there’s no reason why you shouldn’t, too. You keep your clients connected to your services, and should they run into a crisis, you just increase the length of their appointments.
  3. See clients with similar problems together. Let’s say you have two or three clients who have suffered from major depression. You may address their needs in group sessions and they may benefit from receiving suggestions from other group members.
  4. Get out of the habit of seeing people individually and into the habit of running lots of groups. In the men’s therapy groups that I run, I frequently see men make more progress in a group over individual counseling.
  5. Consider altering your practice to include court-referred clients. Many are required to attend treatment and pay regardless of their financial situation. If they don’t meet court requirements, they go to jail. It’s a natural motivator. See Restorative Treatment for Drug Court and Domestic Violence Clients and build your own successful practice helping court-referred clients reclaim their lives.
  6. Do market research. Find out who offers what in the community and what’s missing that you could offer. For example, does anybody in your community work with women who have been arrested for domestic violence? There are certainly lots of programs for male abusers, but every year ten to fifteen percent of these arrests are women.
  7. Make presentations to churches, civil organizations and schools. But don’t just talk – they’ll never remember your name. Hand out a business card describing your agency and a 5 x 8 card with some questions and statements. The questions can be: How helpful was this presentation? What did you like best? What else could I have talked about that would have been helpful? Have you thought about counseling? Would you like me to call you regarding counseling?
  8. Build a website. Write a blog. Websites are surprisingly inexpensive these days and they can be a great way of getting your word out.
  9. Follow up with clients who don’t show. Some therapists think that contacting clients who fail to keep a scheduled appointment is groveling to get them to return. Actually, it can express serious concern about why they missed such an important engagement. And it can, of course, encourage them to then reschedule or at least find out if financial matters are a concern, and to make adjustments if so.
  10. Stop thinking like a therapist and start thinking like a businessperson. Let go of your stereotype of a ruthless demon who takes advantage of others, oblivious to their consequences. Think instead of somebody, a well-intended good hearted person like you who has a valuable service and has the right to charge for it. Get aggressive. It’s in you. It’s just a part of you that’s not very well developed. Think big and bold – think out of the box. You may end up with a practice that’s far better than what you had before.
  11. Share your anxiety, hopes, successes, failures on this website. See what others are thinking and have done and see if you want to do it too.