Free initial consultation in your practice?

Should you offer a free initial consultation in your practice?  

If you’re starting your therapy practice, you might have received all kinds of advice on how to go about it. Offering a free consultation is one of the most common ideas to kickstart your business and many professionals like lawyers, dentists and even some doctors do it. But would this be a smart strategy for you?  

Why some therapists consider offering a free session

The first session could give potential clients a chance to get to know you and your approach to therapy before committing to paid sessions, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it for free. While it’s a perfectly valid option, there is always the concern that offering the first consultation for free could hurt the business.The aim of every initial consultation is to offer the patient information on how the sessions work, how long they last, what potential treatments would entail, and if ultimately you can help with their specific problem.There are several ways to offer this information to the patient. However, one of the reasons some therapists do this assessment and offer this first visit for free is because it can suggest that the therapist has confidence in the patient’s ability to continue with treatment if it’s a suitable fit.  Indeed, establishing a good therapeutic relationship is key to success. If the patient doesn’t feel at ease or it’s not a good fit for whatever reason, the therapist might prefer not to charge for that initial session as he or she may consider it unethical if a patient decides not to go forward. 

Why sometimes a first free session might not work for you

On the flip side, since therapy is expensive, some experts believe its cost may motivate some people to take therapy more seriously. A free consultation may devalue your practice in the eye of some patients. It’s also often the case some people just want to get some orientation for free and aren’t truly ready to commit to long-term treatment. In any case, the therapist or psychologist is not required to offer a free session. He or she could take a few moments to answer a few questions from the patient before scheduling a first session or therapy. This could be by email, chat, or a short 15 to 20 minute phone consultation, for example.If you choose not to offer a free consultation, make sure your website has all the information a potential patient may need to make an informed decision on whether you could be the right therapist for them. Be sure to state your areas of expertise and include a list of treatments you can offer, in case it applies to your type of practice.Your website should try to answer the most frequently asked questions during a consult. This way, when a client gets in touch, you will be able to better focus on his or her specific issue and better assess whether you can help and develop a strong therapeutic relationship. At the end of the day it’s entirely up to you. It’s important to make a decision that works for your practice and that makes you feel good. This will enable you to offer the best service possible, therefore improving your patient’s outcomes. 

 

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