September 12, 2019
Clear Communication Makes for Stronger Working Relationships
Every successful client relationship requires clear communication, especially when the services being provided is for a member of someone’s family. Family members soliciting the services of a professional therapist, provider, or specialist are desperately seeking out ways to improve the quality of life of their loved one. The professionals providing the sought-after service are educated, trained, and passionate about their craft. Therapists, providers and specialists are driven and compassionate in their calling to assist families and individuals in reaching their highest potential. Communication between families and therapists prior to services beginning creates a trusting, secure relationship between the two parties, allowing the duration of the relationship to be focused on the person requiring services.
What Needs to Be Communicated
Services Needed & Retained
Developing an understanding of why the professional’s services are being retained should be clearly communicated by the family or person. What is the expected goal the professional should be working towards with the person in need of their services? Any documentation, evaluations or reports from other professionals should be shared with the therapist being hired.
The professional should review all documents. They should then do an informal assessment of the individual to develop a baseline of where the individual they will be working with is at the start of the service/therapies. The therapists should communicate in writing the results of their informal baseline evaluation and the program they will create to work towards achieving the overall goal. It is recommended small measurable goals are created and shared when achieved, always working towards the overarching goal.
Both parties should agree on the dates/days, start time, duration of sessions, and location of the services that will be provided. There should never be any guess work or concern regarding the schedule. It is advisable that the therapist send a reminder text/email/call 24 hours in advance of the therapy session.
Professionals should establish and make very clear what their policy is regarding a client arriving late for a scheduled appointment. Can the client have the shortened appointment? Will the therapists accept the client when they arrive late and give the client their full session? These are important matters that need to be communicated in advance.
If a therapist is unable to keep their scheduled session, how much notification will they give their client? Will the therapists offer the opportunity to reschedule at the client’s convenience? Just as a therapist’s time is highly valued, so is a clients’ time. If a client cancels an appointment, how much notice does a therapist need? And will the client be charged if they do not call within that time frame?
Clarity around these issues are paramount.
Notes and Reports
Therapists understand the importance of session notes. (It is good practice to keep notes and measurable data after each session with a client.) It is beneficial to share with your client monthly progress, or lack thereof. Reviewing such reports allows for a conversation to be had regarding the importance of following through on practicing new skills at home, new observable skills or behaviors that need to monitored, or a reason to have a medical professional follow up on something new that has developed. It also allows for a conversation around creating a new goal to achieve.
Monthly reports are tangible items that provide insight to clients. It allows them to see what you see as in your sessions with their loved ones. Therapies often do not yield immediate results. Having a monthly report that allows a client to read about their loved one’s progress lends hope.
Fees and payment should be discussed prior to the first session. Therapists should put in writing their hourly or session fee, how long the session is, and when payment is expected. How payment is collected needs to be included as well.
Clear communication of expectations and a plan moving forward allows for both parties to feel secure in the predictability of their working relationship. When families and individuals need therapy so much is unpredictable. Communicating the basic information and expectations ahead of time allow for one piece of the therapeutic services to be very predictable. That small piece of predictability brings about a feeling of security, assurance, and hope.
Please find a checklist of things to communicate with your client prior to the start of service.
Initial Communication Check List For Therapists, Providers, Specialists & Clients
☐ Name of person receiving services
☐ Service/therapy being provided
☐ Review documents/reports from client
☐ Do own initial informal evaluation of where client’s skills/abilities
☐ Share results of your informal evaluation and how they align to any reports or
documents shared with you.
☐ Create schedule: day/dates, time, duration of session, location
☐ Late policy
☐ No Show policy
☐ Cancelation Policy
☐ When you will share monthly notes of client progress (if you do this)
☐ Hourly/session fee
☐ Payment schedule and method