You know how frustrating it is to go away on vacation, only to come home to pay the price? You know: a voice mailbox full of calls to return… a desk piled high with work… a crisis or two to handle — NOW!
You’d think being in private practice would eliminate post-vacation headaches, right? Well… I guess that depends.
I just got back from a much-needed 13 days away from my practice. Today, I was excited and ready to see my first 13 (of 34) clients for the week. I was raring to go. Refreshed. Ready to roll up my sleeves. Then…
UGH… I had 4 no-shows today. FOUR. I can’t remember the last time I’ve had 4 no-shows in a month let alone one day!
It’s not a financial hardship, as my clients all know that they are responsible for the full fee for missed sessions. They will be frustrated that they missed their appointments, but what makes it most frustrating is that I had 5 people on a waiting list for the week. 5 people who really wanted/needed an appointment!
I just couldn’t understand how this happened. Then… I realized my mistake. I forgot my own rule…
Here’s the rule I set for my “house” — I’d like to share with you (I know I’ll never forget it again!)…
Whenever I am going to be away long enough to break my clients’ momentum (i.e. clients who come weekly or every other week, who are going to miss there regularly scheduled appointments because I’m going to be away) I make sure to take a few minutes when I get back to make reminder calls/texts.
When you tell your clients that you will be away, let them know that when you get back you’ll remind them of their next appointment (I’ve never had anyone refuse this service). They will be appreciative and somewhat relieved that they don’t have to worry about the change in their schedules.
It only takes a few minutes of your time. It shows your clients that you are really looking forward to coming back and working with them; and… you won’t be left twiddling your thumbs wondering if they will remember on their own.
What rules have you set up for your “house”?
I agree with reminders of some sort. I work in a low income mental health clinic. Clients that only come every 2 weeks are most prone to forgetting their appointments. Since I don’t get paid when clients don’t show, I need to jog their memory.
I am doing a practicum in a college counseling center this year. These students have poor executive function in addition to their major diagnoses. If I don’t remind them, they will not show up.
But let me be a little provocative. Are we helping clients to be resilient, resourceful, and organized if we have to be their frontal lobes by reminding them, jogging their memory, giving them a little boost, whatever????
@Maureen — glad to see that you still have electricity during the storm! You pose an interesting question here. Clearly client reminders (like everything else) have clinical implications, right? However, “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar” and business is business. I don’t make it a habit to remind my clients every session (my personal preference, for the reason you stated above) — just when I’m the one who changes up the schedule, increasing the chances for no-shows. You make a very good point!
Thanks for the advice -my clients are understanding but I will keep this idea in the back of my mind
@Norman — I’m glad to hear your clients are understanding; that kind of mutual respect says a lot about you as a clinician and as a business person.