When it comes to how to grow your therapy practice, of course you need to become known for what you do. But there’s more to a thriving business than your treatment and services themselves – no matter how wonderful they are. Success is also built on everything else you do to connect with your clients, and to ensure that someone feels welcomed, safely held and valued.
Some of the ways you can make your client’s experience feel outstanding may sound simple or just like common sense. Because of that, we often don’t take the time to prioritise them!
And so one answer to how to grow you therapy practice is to totally up-level your client care and communication. Even if you’re busy building a website or growing your social media following, don’t miss these elements out. They will be part of the reason by your clients rebook, again and again.
1. Look at everything from your client’s perspective.
With the best of intentions, we can forget what it’s like to be the client. We get so used to ‘how things work’ that we forget how important it is to walk someone through a process. This can make all the difference between someone feeling confused/on-edge, or safe and relaxed, and therefore whether someone feels comfortable about returning.
Looking at things from your client’s perspective means being ‘client-centred’ in the way you design your practice. Things like…the temperature in your treatment room. The accessibility of your premises. The directions you give first-time clients. How clearly you explain what will happen next (eg I’ll be leaving the room for a few minutes while your undress, and I will always knock and wait for a reply before I re-enter)…
Try thinking about things like:
- How it feels when you first arrive at your clinic/premises. Is it obvious where someone should sit and wait? Has your client already been told (eg. in a confirmation email) what to expect when they arrive?
- How your treatment room looks and feels from your client’s perspective. Sit in the chair your client will sit in when they arrive – what do you notice about the room? Is there a light glaring in your eyes? A spot under the table that’s escaped the hoover? Or anything else in your client’s line of vision that might be unsettling in some way?
- How you feel when you visit a practitioner or therapist yourself. What do you particularly appreciate about how you’re greeted, the ease of access, the setup in the treatment room, the time you have before or after the session begins? Look at the things you’re used to, and notice whether they feel positive, negative or neutral. Is there anything you could incorporate into how you design things at your own practice, or anything you realise you could do better?
2. Create a Welcome Email.
What usually happens when you book in a new client for their first appointment? Do you verbally confirm the date and time, and make sure they have the right address, then that’s it until you meet them at their session?
Here’s what I recommend, for an extra touch of professionalism and client-care. Create a Welcome Email and make this a template email that you can send out to Every New Client, straight after they’ve booked (it can be automated if you take online bookings). You’ll want your Welcome Email to include things like:
- Confirmation of their first appointment date and time
- Details of what to expect at their first session
- Any online forms or consent forms they need to fill in beforehand
- Directions to your practice
- Answers to common questions about your therapy, etc.
Even if all or most of the information is available on your website, I highly recommend adding this step.
It really does reflect a level of professionalism that people won’t be used to. It creates a feeling and sets the tone for the kind of communication and care they can expect as your client. And of course, it serves the purpose of not only welcoming them, but making sure they have the important information they need, such as your cancellation policy.
And there’s one other powerful thing about this step…
Doing what you say you’re going to do builds trust.
It may sound like a small thing, but when you tell someone what’s going to happen next (“You’ll receive a Welcome Email with all the information you need”) and then you follow through and do what you said you would (ie. you send the email), you’re making it clear from the start that you are trustworthy and reliable.
Remember: trust is actually the most important factor alongside your treatment itself, when it comes to how likely it is that someone rebooks and returns!
3. Be inclusive. Make it clear that being inclusive is important to you.
Not every therapist is going to be ideally positioned to treat or work with every different kind of client. In fact, being truly inclusive may sometimes be about recognising if it’s appropriate to refer your client to another practitioner who works specifically with their needs.
But it IS essential that as practitioners we do all we can to honour the different identities and experiences of clients who come to us for help. We can do this by making changes in the way we design our practices and by communicating our values clearly. Because it’s not enough for you to feel that everyone is welcome at your practice. You need to make it clear to the people you wish to welcome.
A few questions as a starting point:
- Are the images or stock photos of people that you use representative of diverse body shapes, sizes, skin colours? Most wellness marketing you see offers a narrow and ultimately body-shaming perspective. By being aware and intentional about this when you’re searching for images for your website, you can give a different, more positive and inclusive message.
- Is it obvious from your website that you care about the experience of people who might otherwise feel excluded, marginalised, unsafe or unsure of how welcome they will be? Is there a statement you could include to share your care and commitment to creating a safe space for all?
- Do the processes in your practice reflect your values? For example, does your initial consultation form ask people for their preferred pronouns?
- Do you clearly share on your website / in your welcome email what kind of access is available for people with disabilities?
What matters most isn’t ‘getting it all right’ but being willing and committed to exploring these areas, and to educating yourself. Doing so means you’ll able to create a safer and more affirming space for your clients! It’s a lifelong process to understand the ways that privilege and oppression have shaped us and our cultures. But if inclusivity matters to you, the first step is simply to spend some time looking into the ways you can prioritise inclusive language, actions and values throughout your practice.
Then, lead by example!
4. Show that you care
Showing that you care isn’t only about how much you empathise, or the words you use. It’s also about how you design your processes, which are the steps your clients go through as part of their journey through your services. This includes what your new client reads or experiences before they’ve met you, what happens at their first appointment, and how you communicate with them between sessions.
– Put care and creative effort into your FAQ page. Acknowledge that there may be doubts, concerns and unanswered questions, and answer them as best as you can. Don’t just copy and paste standard answers. Write in your natural voice, just as you would if you were reassuring someone in person about what to expect!
–Design your initial consultation so there is enough time. This will mean something different for your practice, compared with another therapist, and this might mean slightly longer sessions than the standard length in your field. ‘Enough time’ isn’t just about the treatment and consultation. It’s also about allowing time for questions and feedback, payment if not taken in advance, scheduling. You need your boundaries around timekeeping. But making sure that your client feels unrushed is something you can design into your treatment time…the opposite can un-do all the positive work you’ve just done with someone!
–Send a caring and professional follow-up email after every initial appointment, regardless of whether someone has rebooked. Whether this is simply to say how much you enjoyed meeting them, and that you’re there if they have any questions, or to check in specifically with how they are after their first session, if that’s appropriate. This takes only a moment or two, costs nothing and feels warm and supportive. It’s not about encouraging someone to rebook.
These are all the kind of details that inspire trust in you as a practitioner, through demonstrating how much you care.
5. Remember the little details
Not everything your client shares with you goes onto their notes – but that doesn’t make the details unimportant. If one of your regular monthly clients shares that their daughter is graduating from college next month, or they’re arranging a special family reunion, or they’re excited about their trip-of-a-lifetime coming up, make a note of it and ask them about it on their next visit.
You can’t be expected to remember everything. But you can pop it on a coloured post-it note, and add it to the top page in their file, so you’ll see it before they arrive for their next appointment. It’s powerful and appreciated by your client when you remember to ask about something important that they shared with you.
6. Stay in touch
Every practice is different, and how frequently you see your clients depends on many factors. Your clients may book regular sessions in advance, or they might reach out to you as and when they need to see you. Either way, there are ways to stay in touch between appointments that provide a sense of connection and remind your clients that you’re there if they need you.
- You could start a monthly newsletter for current clients only, with details of new treatments you’re offering, genuinely helpful resources and recommendations, updates or offers if appropriate (always get permission before adding people to your email list).
- You could invite your new and current clients to follow you on social media.
- Don’t forget that appointment reminders are part of your communication overall. You can send a friendly and personalised appointment reminder 48 hours before each session, to let someone know you’re looking forward to their visit. Even something as minor and practical as this can be done in a way that contributes to how valued your client feels.
7. Go the extra mile
In what ways could you add extra little touches that cost you little, but really make your practice stand out?
- If you’re an Aromatherapist who makes bespoke blends for each massage, could you add the remaining blend from the treatment to a tiny glass bottle for your client to take away with instructions for use at home, with details of the particular oils and their properties, and tips for how to enhance the benefits of the treatment?
- If you work particularly with certain conditions or symptoms, and you find that you are regularly advising clients on certain topics, could you create a series of blog posts with helpful tips, or other materials to support your clients to get the most from coming to see you?
It’s often the extra touches, curated resources, and the thought that goes into improving your clients’ experience that make all the difference.
These are just a few ideas… For a deep-dive into client-care and much more, you can join Pathway to a Full Practice, an 8-week journey for therapists and holistic practitioners to help you build a fully-booked practice. You’ll find all the details here!
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