It’s natural for people to feel nervous and overwhelmed when they begin therapy. As a clinician, you’ve likely seen this first-hand during your consultation calls and initial sessions with new clients.
Many individuals struggle to find a therapist, and speak with a few prospective therapists before they land on the best fit. After they find the right match, they may still face logistical hurdles, like understanding their insurance benefits, budgeting for therapy, coordinating across schedules, and knowing how to prepare. These details can be challenging, especially for those whose mental health is impacting their motivation and executive functioning skills.
As a clinician, there are many steps you can take – within and outside of the session – to alleviate your client’s therapy-related anxiety. It can be helpful to share resources that demystify the mental health care system, answer frequently asked questions, and help clients set intentions for treatment.
At Zencare, we’ve written countless articles that help clients feel less overwhelmed by the therapy process. We’ve compiled several of them here, for you to share with clients. By providing your new clients with helpful resources about starting therapy, you can help them feel more comfortable, and settle into a rhythm of sessions with you.
Finding the right therapist
From time to time, you may have consultation calls with prospective clients who haven’t yet decided on the therapist they’d like to work with. The therapeutic alliance is important. For clients, finding the right therapist for their personality and needs can help them successfully meet their mental health goals.
For this reason, many therapists will offer free phone consultations to prospective clients. The goal of the phone call is to help the client feel heard and understood, answer their questions, and set expectations for therapy.
If a client is brand-new to therapy, they might not know what to expect on an initial phone call with a therapist, and they may not know what type of therapist is right for them. Here are a few resources that you can send to clients before your first phone call, to help them prepare:
- What to expect on your initial phone consult with a therapist
- Starting Therapy 101: What kind of therapist is right for you?
- How to Find the Right Therapist for You
It can be helpful to set expectations for treatment during the phone consultation. Clients who have never been to therapy before may be anxious about their first session, not knowing what’s to come. Most therapists will explain the process and share more about their therapeutic approach before the client books the appointment.
Here are a few pieces that can help set expectations for clients that are brand-new to therapy:
It can also be helpful to understand your client’s goals for treatment. Before booking the appointment, you can encourage your new clients to reflect on their ideal focus for therapy. They might not be able to put it into words just yet, but opening up that conversation can establish a shared foundation for your work together.
Here are a few pieces that can guide them through that reflection:
- Starting Therapy 101: What do you hope to get out of therapy?
- The Best Things We've Learned In Therapy
Budgeting for therapy
Most clients will need to set a budget for therapy. For some, this process can be daunting. Clients will likely have questions about your fees, billing structure, and insurance status. Some clients may be confused by their mental health benefits, and may not understand the difference between in-network and out-of-network providers. Give them enough information so they feel informed – but not so much that they feel overwhelmed! This can help them build confidence in starting their mental health journey.
Here are two comprehensive resources to help new clients understand their options when paying for therapy:
Financial aid and insurance explained
Many clients opt to access therapy through healthcare insurance. Many healthcare insurance plans cover mental health services, though this coverage can differ depending on your client’s plan. You may need to help them understand in-network or out-of-network benefits, depending on the structure of your practice.
You might also need a refresher on insurance terminology yourself. If that’s the case, we don’t blame you! It’s a complicated topic, yet one that has a huge impact on the accessibility of mental health services. To help you and your new clients get a better grasp on all things insurance, here are a few articles with clear definitions and examples:
- What is a POS plan?
- What is an EPO plan?
- What is Coinsurance?
- What is a FSA?
- What is an EAP?
- What is an HSA?
- What is a HMO Plan?
- What is a PPO Plan?
- What is a Sliding Scale?
Worksheets, Tools, and FAQs
Lastly, Zencare has many excellent resources related to therapy, including worksheets, toolkits, and FAQs. We’re huge advocates of therapy, and we support clients who want to work on their mental health outside of sessions. To give clients structured resources written by actual therapists, start with the resources in the Therapy Tools section of our blog. These include:
- 20 Therapy Tools to Manage Anxiety & Distress
- Stages of Change
- The Wise Mind
- Cognitive Reframing: Overcoming Cognitive Distortions
The Zencare network includes thousands of therapists, and we love to share their expertise. If you’re looking for any other resources to share with new or prospective clients, be sure to check out our blog called The Couch, where they can find blogs about relationships, work, therapy 101, and more.