You're feeling troubled and need some help, so you browse the web to find a local therapist that you like the look of - one that has experience in the issues you're dealing with, one that seems approachable and warm.
You've kept the number in your diary for a couple of weeks, and every time you go to dial the number you put the phone back down again, hands shaking.
Finally you pluck up the courage to ring and make an appointment.
Nervously, you dial the number...
No answer. Oh.
No answer, then generic mobile phone voicemail message. Oh!
Do you leave a message, not really knowing if your confidential, personal message will get to the right person? Well, I wouldn't!
No, you feel let down, and go to the next person on your list.
Your client is looking for a safe, trustworthy and confidential place to go and talk through their difficulties and it's your job to provide that.
They need to know that if they leave a voicemail message it's safe and with the right person and no one other than you will hear it.
1st impressions count, so make sure your voicemail is both warm & professional #TherapistTips
You work hard to get clients:
Which all take time, money and effort.
So it makes sense that when clients want to use your services - which for some people takes a whole lot of courage to pick up that phone - you provide an amazing experience for them.
It's not expensive to get a mobile phone (take a look HERE for some) and a SIM only deal.
Now, you're voicemail message can be specific to your private practice.
This has the added bonus of making it easy to 'switch off work' for the day and achieve a better work/life balance.
Since I've had a contract mobile phone with squillions of minutes included, I very rarely use my landline anymore so it's become my business phone.
I keep it in my spare room so no one can hear an answerphone message and the kids have strict instructions never to answer it if it rings.
You need to confirm they've reached the right place, that the message will be confidential (make sure it is) and what you want them to do next.
I like to make sure they leave their number, even if they think I already have it as it saves me having to go search it out.
Depending on your niche, you may wish to include instructions on what to do if they're in crisis, like visit their GP, call The Samaritans or go to A&E, or you could direct them to a crisis page on your website with helplines etc on and make it simple to find, like www.yourname.co.uk/crisis - take a look at Minds website for inspiration
Hi, you've reached the confidential voicemail of ______ , therapist.
I'm unable to answer your call at the moment, but if you leave your name, phone number (even if you already think I already have it) and a short message I'll return your call as soon as possible.
Remember, first impressions count so you want to sound both warm and professional.
When you record the message, stand up (this will make you sound more confident) and smile (this will soften the voice and make you appear warm).
Some clients will have a shortlist of people they want to call, so you may not be the only one they are considering. Therefore, make sure you check your messages and reply as soon as you possibly can.
It's frustrating to discover you've lost a client because you weren't quick enough to get back to them.
If you are working full time and don't want to miss your calls, consider a call answering service.
Basically, it's like having a receptionist to answer your calls and take messages.
There are many, many services out there at all different price ranges, and some are specifically for health service providers and so have a better understanding of the need for confidentiality.
Questions to consider are the training they receive and confidentiality.
There are reports of voicemail being hacked, so protect yourself and your clients by adding a password.
If you can dial in from externally to pick up messages, you should have an option to add password and on a mobile, there should be a password option in the menu.
Make sure you change it from the default password.
So my challenge to you is to look at the process around how clients contact you, and make it as simple and user friendly as possible.
You can't help people if they can't get in touch with you, so don’t lose that client!
Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found with her feet up and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends.