One of the toughest things about running a therapy practice isn’t gaining clients, it’s retaining them. Counselling can be uncomfortable. It’s understandable that many patients simply find it to be ‘too much’ and choose to end their sessions.
However, there are some strategies you can use to help improve retention:
Make an induction part of your sessions
Many people come to counselling and therapy without quite understanding what it actually involves, and are taken aback as a result. As part of your welcome to new clients, try to guide them through what to expect. Let them know what sort of topics you’ll be discussing in the first few sessions, and what kinds of emotions and feelings you expect them to experience.
Include their preferences
As a trained professional, it’s your job to give your clients the treatment options you think will work best. However, it’s very likely they’ll also have their own preferences as to how they’d like their sessions to proceed. It’s important to help them feel included in how the sessions go, so do listen to what they have to say and take their session feedback onboard.
Make sure you emphasize that change is possible
Many people seek counselling as a ‘last shot’ at changing the things about their life they’re unhappy with. So, in your first few sessions, try to remind clients that change can – and does – happen, and that they’re doing the right thing. By emphasising this, they’ll feel more comfortable with the potentially challenging work to come, because they know what the results can be.
Talk your clients through their progress
It’s important to ask your clients how they feel things are progressing and to get regular feedback yourself. After all, progress can vary substantially from patient to patient, and you may find some problem areas take a lot longer to work through than you expected. Be sure to acknowledge this and explain why. If they’re frustrated, explain why there have been problems. Be open with your clients, and receptive to how they feel things are going.
Discuss potential termination points
Clients are less likely to be intimidated by therapy if they have a rough endpoint in their sight, rather than if they think the process will be indefinite. Be realistic, of course, but at the start don’t be afraid to offer potential endpoints. If they have to be adjusted later on, of course, openly explain why.