Mental health counseling services cover a broad range of issues: anxiety disorders, mood and personality disorders, past trauma. Despite having different causes and expressions, they share some qualities—such as being highly sensitive subjects to talk about.
For many people, sharing their inner thoughts to a stranger can seem like a nearly insurmountable obstacle. Nevertheless, they made the call and booked with you because they are keen to make a change. And as a mental health counselor, it’s your job to give them confidence in that decision.
We recommend starting that process before they sit in your office.
Virtual onboarding services help ease your clients into their mental health journey by removing uncertainty, empowering them, and giving them the knowledge they need to proceed with confidence. Here are some things you can address ahead of time via virtual onboarding for in-person mental health services.
Going into a new situation is daunting. Going into a new situation where you have to spill your inner feelings and discuss touchy subjects? Very daunting.
During virtual onboarding, be sure to let them know what they can expect during that first appointment. Clarify that your main goal is to build trust in the early stages of your relationship. Explain what it is you do, and how that differs from psychiatrists and coaches. Give an overview of the physical environment they will soon find themselves in. Differentiate between different therapeutic approaches.
They may have reached out, but that doesn’t mean they know exactly what they’re getting into. If your client doesn’t get an explanation about what they can expect, their mind will fill in the blanks—and that can be an issue.
Make sure their expectations align with reality by providing them with the information they need straight away.
Clients know that they want to achieve better mental health through their sessions with you. But once they get in that office chair, their minds may go blank and wonder what’s up for discussion. Do they mention the recurring thoughts that have been keeping them up at night? That fight with their friend? What about the traumatic event that happened ten years ago?
Virtual onboarding can help clients with good starting points and assure them that there is no issue too small to address—within reason. The caveat is this: small talk should not be used as a way to deflect from larger, deep-rooted issues. You want to hear their perspective on events and conversations that have emotional significance to them. Make that clear during onboarding.
To you it’s common knowledge, but patients may not know that you are legally obligated to keep discussions with them completely confidential (barring few exceptions). Get this topic out of the way prior to their first appointment so they can discuss their issues without reservation.
Far too often, we see clients who expect to get better just by attending therapy, but mental health counseling is not a miracle cure. Ultimately, your client is the one who has to work through their issues, develop healthy mental habits, and take an active role in their own mental wellbeing. Effort is required on their part. Virtual onboarding can help clarify this from the beginning so they know what they’re getting into.
You are not all-knowing, you are not their enemy, and you are not their best friend. You are a professional who is there to help them in their mental health journey. That’s an important distinction to make. By making your role clear from the start, you can help them find the best fit for their needs (even if it’s not you!) and avoid therapist dependance.
Most people don’t go into therapy thinking it will last forever. They usually have an issue that needs to be resolved, and they intend on stopping treatment once they have reached their end goal. The problem? It can be hard for clients to identify if they’re making progress, and how much progress has been made. Measuring mental health isn’t easy, particularly if you lack professional expertise in the field.
Virtual onboarding can help you educate your clients about common success markers so they can track their progress. This will provide them with a sense of momentum during their sessions with you, and will later help them answer the question: when do I stop therapy?
This also lets clients know that your primary goal is to help them achieve their goals and attain positive mental health, not retain a paying customer for an indefinite length of time. If you want to build a positive, trusting client-therapist relationship, this is a great way to start.
As a mental health counselor with a full schedule, you probably recognize the value of properly onboarding all of your clients ahead of time, but the thought of developing all that content may be overwhelming.
The good news is you don’t have to.
Shrink Think is a virtual therapy onboarding platform that covers all these topics and more, preparing your clients before they set foot in your office. Simply subscribe, send new clients our link, and give them time to work through the six modules. Developed by professional therapists, Shrink Think ensures that clients show up to their appointments feeling informed, eager, and confident.