Calling clients is a part of having a private practice. I’m not particularly comfortable with making phone calls but I’ve had to overcome this. I tell myself that I am running a business and this is an essential part of the business. Some therapists worry about the ethics of calling a client but if you have them sign a form with a number you can contact them at, it shouldn’t be a problem. Learn what situations to call clients about.
When to Call Clients
- Client is late
- Client didn’t show for appointment
- Client didn’t schedule appointment at last session
- Client cancelled and did not reschedule
- Haven’t heard from a client in a while
- Correct scheduling mistakes
Sometimes you have to call a client who is late or doesn’t show for their appointment. I make it a point to call if the client is 15 minutes late. If they don’t answer, I just leave a message that says the client had an appointment and was late or did not show at whatever time. I let them know they can contact me for another appointment and leave my number. This shows you are a professional and don’t take it personally. I think some clients worry that a therapist will be mad at them.
I usually schedule the next appointment at the end of each session. Sometimes a client won’t be able to make an appointment at that time. They may not know their work schedule or have a busy week coming up. If they don’t call within a week to schedule, I give them a call and ask if they want to schedule. Usually, they will schedule but I’ve had some say no. If they say no, I ask them if they aren’t going to continue therapy, would they like to come in once to wrap-up therapy. If not, I send them a termination letter.
Clients will sometimes cancel and not reschedule. Often the client is trying to end therapy. But we need to be sure to not abandon a client. I make the same call as for people who didn’t make an appointment at their last session. I think a simple phone call can show you care about your clients and don’t want them to miss therapy. If they are not interested or don’t answer, I note that in their chart and send a termination letter.
Sometimes you have a client who has made excuses and not come to therapy for a while. It doesn’t hurt to give them a call to let them know you are concerned about them. They may decide to return to therapy because you called. Sometimes, It is difficult for a depressed or anxious person to pick up the phone to call. Calling shows your concern about them.
Sometimes we can make scheduling mistakes and have to call a client to correct them. One time I booked two clients back to back who I realized knew each other but was unaware the other person was seeing me. I called one and asked them to come earlier to avoid them seeing each other. This usually doesn’t happen because of the set up of my waiting area but I didn’t want to take a chance.
Ethics of Calling Clients
Some counselors feel uncomfortable about reaching out to clients and calling no-shows. I always ask a new client for a phone number that I can call them at and leave a message. As long as your caller ID won’t show that the client is getting a phone call from a counselor and you have previous permission to call them, you are not betraying their confidentiality or doing anything unethical by calling a client.
There’s nothing wrong with calling a client to try to get them to return to therapy. Most people give you a cell phone number that only they use anyway. If someone else should answer, you can ask for the client. If the person asks what the call is about, you can just say it is a business matter or about an appointment but not what kind of appointment. By not mentioning counseling, you will keep the client’s confidentiality.
Whatever the situation, a simple phone call will help you get closure with clients who are not coming to therapy. Either they will return, or you will find out that they are not going to return and you can fill their time slot with a new client.