The key to keep clients coming back and retaining clients for the long-term is to keep clients satisfied with the work you’re doing. This doesn’t mean trying to always “keep clients happy” because as counselors, we know the counseling process is filled with ups and downs and not everyone will always “be happy.”
Not only is seeing a client long-term good for business, it’s good for the client! In just about every field, research shows that more treatment leads to better outcomes. In addition to being part of a business-savvy private practice, don’t forget the value of long-term relationships. This is certainly true in intuitive eating and eating disorder recovery. My group practice is full of long-term clients.
Here are 5 tips to keep clients coming back!
1. Set clear expectations upfront when scheduling the appointment. Clients should know what’s expected when they begin the counseling process. I tell my clients that, on average, I see clients 6 months to 1 year. This way there are no surprises!
2. Know that the counseling process is a journey filled with highs and lows. It’s impossible to make progress in a linear fashion. Celebrate success, but also teach clients it’s normal to take 2 steps forward and 1 step backward. Be careful of being too much of a “cheerleader” and brushing off difficult topics. You want clients to be honest with you when they’re not doing well.
3. Schedule the follow-up session at the end of the first session. The reason for doing this is accountability — to see how they’re doing and show the client that you value their progress. I recommend keeping the appointment time consistent (aka “you are my Monday at 5pm client.”)
4. Talk about open communication. Let your client know that if there is a sense of tension in the room, you’re going to ask about it! Clients should feel like they can tell you anything — both good and bad. That’s why it’s important to have a non-judgmental attitude. Talk about how much you value honesty as a counselor, no matter what’s going on. I also tell clients that if we’re not the right match for one another, I am happy to help them find someone who is.
5. Communicate with the client’s team of professionals to reinforce your goals. If a client has a therapist, dietitian, doctor, or personal trainer to reinforce what you’ve done in your session, chances are they’re going to feel even more supported. Your role in their care is also going to be strengthened as others are going to talk about how important your work is! Talking to a client’s team is also a great way to network and get more referrals.
One important thing to remember is that retaining clients isn’t necessarily all about you. It’s the match between you and the client! So, if it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, just know there are plenty of clients out there waiting for YOU and need YOU right now!
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