How To Conduct The Perfect Consultation: This Is The Step By Step Methodology For The Most Effective Initial Therapy Practice Phone Consultation
Written by Christoffer Nettelbladt on March 26, 2020
The purpose of this article is to arm you with the 9 step methodology to conduct the initial consultations as effective as humanly possible.
You step into your practice ready to start the day, as you sit yourself down in your chair that’s when you hear it...
It’s your practice phone ringing the first tones for the day.
At the other end is a new prospective client reaching out to learn more about what you do and if that is in line with what the person is looking for.
The manner in which you handle this call will be the difference between this person receiving your life-changing help or them continuing their journey – and might never finding a therapist anywhere near as skilful and compassionate as you are.
Now there are some fields that truly make or break a practice.
Of all the fields to focus improvement towards within your practice, the manner in which you handle the initial phone consultation is without breaking a sweat the top two most important.
Let’s dive in and look at nine steps you can take to make sure you’re conducting the best, most effective phone consults possible.

1. Respond To Calls Immediately – or Call Back As Soon As Possible

Now this isn’t the obvious bullet point you would think it is.
believe it or not, most therapists don’t bother to answer, and worse yet, they are in no rush to call potential clients back!
I know it to be true because I’ve seen therapists and practitioners enroll my system and change their phone routines into prioritizing rapid phone response, and calling back missed calls as soon as humanly possible.
When drilling further into this many of them remember prospective clients saying things like: 
“None else even picked up their phone.”
“You literally are the one therapist who bothered with calling me back.” 
Now, a prospective client is of course in some difficult situation since he or she is seeking therapeutic counselling. This first impression of being put to the side by the majority and prioritized by you who immediately answered, or called back when you had the first chance is something the prospect will not forget.
Implement this routine for incoming calls right now if not already in place.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re going to give the telemarketers and anyone a chance to pour their agenda all over you.
True, but you just immediately and politely end the call because you have no time for their agendas.
However, when it’s a prospective client in the other end, they will be very grateful that you took the call or even called back within reasonable time unlike all other therapists they’ve talked to so far.
Why do we do this? Simply because you will be the one who change the clients life whenever there is a client in the other end.
This tremendous gain from something so small as a incoming calls routine far outweighs the small downside of every now and then telling telemarketers to politely take their business elsewhere and end the call.
Beyond that is the fact that your phone is by far the most personal and intimate way a potential client can reach out to you on.
So, how you treat that is very important, especially in the eyes of a person who right now is hoping that a compassionate and professional therapist will pick up their phone and transform their life.

2. Follow Up Missed Calls Even If They Don’t Leave A Voicemail 

There are endless reasons for people not to leave you a voicemail when they reach out to you initially.
Again, they are calling in an extraordinary life situation and most people don’t want to share that over a recorded message to a phone number they have never called before. 
It is not an indicator to show how interested they are, contrary to popular belief.
Just follow up every missed call as a non negotiable routine.
During these calls it’s of importance to embody reasonable privacy protocols. Such as not identifying yourself as a therapist. 
State you first name and that you have received a missed call from this number moments ago…  
Don’t give any further identifying information than that initially.
Remain silent and await their response.
Get into a state of mind to aid a person who’s been on the lookout for a therapist to guide him or her through a time of need without success, and in many cases simply because no one else is answering or returning their calls.
This simple routine is actually a “needle moving” action.
What I mean by that is, therapists who implement this into their practice see results on their bottom line. Because they are getting clients that others miss and ultimately ignore.
Your practice phone is your best friend, and potential clients most personal way of communicating with you, not a disturbance or outlet for telemarketers to force their agenda upon you.

3. Obtain the Lead And Guide The Consultation

In any conversation taking place in any setting and about any topic there are two “positions” if you will. There will be an alpha position and a beta position. Now, these positions or roles can, and do often shift between the people within the conversation.
The person currently in the alpha position is the one guiding the conversation by for example asking questions, stating a hypothesis or asking for feedback on an opinion. 
The person currently in the beta role is the one answering the questions, leaving feedback on the hypothesis or opinions stated.
It is of utmost importance to immediately take lead by embodying the alpha role of the conversation and remain in lead for the entire conversation.
Why is this so tremendously important?
Because the single most important thing your prospective clients are trying to judge is your ability and confidence in your ability to guide them through whatever situation they need help with.
And so, by taking lead right from the start and persiding the conversation with prospective clients, you exercise confidence and professionalism, which will be noticed and appreciated by the prospects as they are ultimately looking for someone to guide and perside them through the situation they are seeking a therapist for.
It is very important for me to note that taking lead and persiding the conversation, is not done by being pushy or dominant in any way.
The key is to lead the prospect through the conversation while being humble and professional. A humble leader is instantly recognized as a professional authority.
The initial consultation is a tremendously important service you provide anyone who take contact with you and your practice.
An initial consult is a hugely valuable service you offer to anyone who calls into your practice.
For some people it will be their first interaction with a therapist in the situation of personally looking to one for guidance and care.
So, the consultation help them understand what it means to be looking for a therapist, and what it would be working with one.
The manner in which you conduct the consultation, your questions and how you explain and present what you do interconnects and educate the prospect about what therapy is, how it work and how it can be of benefit for them in their current situation they find themself in.
Now, all that derive from and are dependant on that you take the lead and perside the conversation from start to finish.

4. How You Listen Is More Important Than How You Speak - Listen More Than You Speak

In a great initial phone consult, you’re doing most of the listening while the prospective client does most of the talking.
It is quite common for people to listen with the intention to reply, but you must listen with the intention of understanding and forming an initial diagnoze of the whole situation.
Now, you’re not clinically diagnosing anyone or anything at this point of course but you are forming your initial hypothesis about the prospect and whether or not you are a good fit working together, towards the desired outcome the prospect have.
Once You’ve asked a question then be silent and truly listen to what he or she is actually saying and how that connects to what else he or she has already said, to properly form a clear picture of here this person currently are in their life and where they wish and desire to be.
It is very important not to interrupt long and vague thoughts as the prospect might lose their trail of thought and valuable information might slip away.
Keep asking your questions one by one and remain quite while the person are answering your questions, without any assisting in forming their thoughts. It is crucially important that the prospect get to tell their story in their own words in an uninterrupted manner for vital parts not to be missed. If you find yourself needing more clarification about a particular part or have a follow up question about any detail, make it a note and deliver this request after the person have finished their thought about your previous question.
Then, ask another question.
Remain fully focused on the prospective client until you find yourself well into the call.
So, what are you doing with all this listening for?
Well, you have to…

5. Identify & Diagnose Whether Or Not You Can Help the Prospective Client

You will not be the optimal fit for every person looking for a therapist. Nor should you be.
The specific way of approaching different fields, your personal “style” of operating and what you offer will be the optimal fit for, and resonate perfectly with certain people with particular needs. So naturally your offer will not be the best possible option for some others who will do more effective work with another therapist whose approach, personal style and and personality is a more natural fit for them.
Beyond whether or not you are the ideal therapist for the prospective client it is equally important for you to determine if this person is is the type of client you are passionate about working with, and would therefore like to add to your clientbase.
Are they in need of skills and knowledge due to their challenges you’re qualified to provide?
Are they showing qualities you are looking for in your ideal clients?
Is there any signs pointing towards they need a level of care above what you provide?
As Earlier stated, you are not conducting a clinical diagnosis. You are however diagnosing whether or not:
You are able to help this person.
This person are a potential client you are truly passionate about working with.

6. Map the prospect’s Past, Present, and Desire For The Future 

Ask questions that reveal what’s happened in the prospective client’s life up to this point, what’s happening in their present that’s leading them to reach out for therapy now, and where they ideally would like to be in their future for therapy to have been a success.
Ask questions that will clarity about what happened in the person's life that lead up to to here.
Ask questions about what's going on in their present time that drives them to reach out to you as a therapist right now.
Also ask questions about their vision for the future in order for therapy to have been successful.
 In many cases people have not reflected on these things so just be answering these questions they are in a state of more clarity and understanding about their entire situation.

Because you took your time to listen and get a blueprint of their past, present and vision for the future you can present as clear as day how your services can bridge the gap between this person’s present situation and their desired situation.
That is what will drive someone to decide if you are the therapist for them.

7. Ask For Permission Before You State What You Do

After a period of time asking questions and listening to their past, present, and future, it will then be time for you to shift into more of a speaking role.
After you have asked your questions to have a good picture about where this person is, why they are in this situation and where they desire to go it's time for the conversation to take a new turn.
Up to this point you will have asked your questions and let your prospect talk freely to give their vivid answers, and now it’s time for you to take on a more speaking role in the call and for the prospect to listen.
Because this is a very drastic shift in the dynamics of the conversation it’s important for you to ask permission before you state what you do and present you offer.
In addition of being a polite gesture it further demonstrates your respect for the person and your humility as the leader of this consultation. 
At the point when you feel that you have gathered the answers you need to proceed with the consultation you simply say:
“Based on what what you have said to me, I can definitely help you.
Now, would you like to hear about what I do?”
That, or something to the same effect.
And then be silent until the person say yes, just as you’ve stated your questions earlier and then turned silent while awaiting their response.

8. State Your Service & Offer Within Terms of What They Actually Need

At this point you got your initial knowledge about this person's situation and their permission to state you offer.
This is not when we direct “sunlight” and attention towards education, experience, referrals or any type of credentials at all.
This is not a time to let the ego out and beat our chests.
This is when the understanding of the person's situation we gathered earlier comes in handy.
Because you patiently took your time to really understand this person's past, present and future you are now in a position where you can state your offer as a bridge between where they are now and where they desire to be.
You explain how your service will address and resolve specific problems they told you about earlier.
So the process is to listen carefully with intention to understand the situation and then if it sounds like a good fit for you to work with this person you present how your service will resolve the exact problems they have told you they desire to address. 
This is not only the best most effective way of initially diagnose if you are a good fit to work together, it is also the most effective process to convert an ideal prospect into a paying client.

9. Wrap It Up With A Definite Yes or No

The worst possible outcome from an initial consult is a “maybe.”
The only outcome we don’t want is a “perhaps”, “maybe” and “I’ll think about it”.
A “Sure, so how soon can we get started?” or anything to the same effect is naturally the response we are looking for here.
A “No thank you.” or “Actually I think I’m gonna have to find someone else who can address my specific situation better.” is also fine. A definite no is the silver medal because it is also definite and we can refer someone else who might be a good fit.
A yes and a no ends the call with clarity for you both which is a good thing. It’s the maybe ones that cause frustration and cost time and energy.
So, how do you make sure you end every single consultation with clarity and avoid ending up with a frustrated mind over another maybe call?
Up to this point you’ve followed a specific framework to establish whether or not you are good fit, to state your service and offer in a way that perfectly address the person's specific problems and bridge the gap towards their desired future.
The framework continues by demanding a definite response in a natural and respectful process.
You do this by explaining your service like we’ve described how to do, you state you policies, attendance expectancy and price.
Then you ask when would be a good time to meet for your first session.
Many of you wont be used to asking prospects right of the bat to schedule a first session, and it will possibly move you away from your comfort zone.
What you’ve actually done is providing clarity for the both of you.
For the people who are actually willing to commit, you’ve made it very easy for them to go from uncertainty to clarity with one single phone call, and they will be grateful for it.
And for the people who aren't ready to commit right now they will not have to walk around with uncertainty and carry the decision around with them.
Asking people directly during the first consultation to become a client is a win win situation and it’s good for business.
You both walk away with a clear decision.
Ready to move on to the next thing.
Mastering the field of client conversion is very important to operate a sustainable private-pay practice and to further grow it.

If you are looking to take it to the next level and pursue mastery in this field then I encourage you to schedule a time for us to speak more about how to realize the practice you have envisioned.

Click here to schedule a time to talk to me personally about taking your practice to the next level. 
To your success

Let Us Help You Build & Grow Your Private Practice Into A Wildly Profitable Business. By Teaching You The Methodology & Skills Required
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Christoffer Nettelbladt

Christoffer Nettelblad helps people start & grow their private practice using online methods while making it simple to understand.
If you're interested in starting your own practice or grow your existing one, then you should definitely reach out and request a free strategy session today.
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