Making the Most of Your First Message

Friday, September 22 2023

First impressions matter — especially when it comes to creating a safe, welcoming environment for someone vulnerable and courageous enough to seek out mental health care.

A quick, thoughtful reply to a prospective client signals that you will be responsive to their needs in the future. This builds their trust in you from your first contact, laying the groundwork for a strong therapeutic alliance

Data shows that our clients are most likely to accept the help of the therapist who responds to their match the soonest. In fact, we’ve found that clients are most likely to engage in therapy when a therapist replies to their initial request within four hours. Clients also have the highest likelihood of scheduling an appointment when a therapist responds to them within that first hour after their request.

So yes, response time is essential. But what you say and how you connect with a client is just as meaningful. We understand that figuring out what to say to prospective clients may feel intimidating at first. That’s why we’re here to help you make the most of that first message with these tips below. 

How it works

We’re redesigning mental health care — and a big part of that mission means providing access to therapy without a waitlist. Once you accept a match, we ask that you reach out to your prospective client within 24 hours and no later than 48 hours. If you cannot connect with a match within those first 48 hours, your provider coach will reach out to assist. 

We match clients with several therapists so that they have a choice in who they would like to see. This also helps ensure that clients receive the quickest access to care. In fact, we’ve seen that clients are more likely to attend their first therapy session if multiple providers actively reach out. So even if you’re not the therapist a potential client decides to move forward with, know that your outreach impacts their overall likelihood to engage in therapy at all. 

Coming soon, we’re offering a new feature that lets you communicate directly with potential matches right from your portal. This will help keep track of all your matches in one HIPAA compliant place. 

Introducing yourself

The first messages with your potential client are your chance to connect, learn about who they are and what they hope to gain from therapy, and ultimately decide if you would be a good fit for each other. Our best advice? Be yourself and let the conversation flow naturally. 

Start by asking for their preferred method of communication. Some matches may prefer an introduction over the phone versus messaging back and forth. 

From there, we recommend offering the match a timeframe to connect as soon as possible. This is your greatest opportunity to help your match become a client. If nothing else, offer a quick message letting them know you’ll reconnect with them soon. (Think of this as a read receipt.) 

We don’t recommend sending a canned reply or a copy-and-paste of your bio — your introduction should be unique to you and each match. These messages can also be short; there is no need to overwhelm the match with resources or get into the details of their treatment plan right away. 

Remember that fit goes both ways. Take this time to thoughtfully consider if this potential client is a good match for you, too. After you’ve said hello, we recommend discussing: 

  • The client’s current condition and treatment history 
  • Your background and relevant experience
  • Your availability to work with their schedule
  • Their preferred insurance and/or payment method

Scheduling the first session

If you think it’s a good fit and your match has confirmed that they’d like to move forward with you, it’s time to schedule your first appointment. 

Together, choose a date and time for the first session. If you have limited availability, keep in mind your match may decide to rematch with a provider who has more options that work for them.

If you see a red alert on the match request, your match still needs to complete their portal before they can schedule their first session. If a client decides not to set up a portal, their account will expire after eight days, even if they’ve matched with you. If you see the red alert, encourage your match to complete their portal and set a timeframe in which you’ll follow up with them if their portal is still pending. 

If you’ve enabled direct scheduling, they may schedule directly onto your calendar. We still suggest setting a timeframe with the match in which they’ll schedule their first appointment — that way you can follow up if needed. 

Once your new client has successfully scheduled their first appointment with you, be sure to send your informed consent and any baseline measurement clinical questionnaires for your new client to complete before the session. 

Billing or insurance questions

If your client is using an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to pay for sessions, instruct them to obtain their authorization number, as well as the number of sessions allotted before your first appointment. You’ll need this information when submitting your claim.

If your client has other questions about billing or insurance coverage, direct them to SonderMind support for assistance — we’ll handle all those details for you. Addressing these matters upfront can ensure a better match and make a smoother relationship downstream. 

Not responsive or not the right fit

If you and the prospective client decide you are not the right fit, rematch the client so that they can connect with a different therapist. If the client chooses to schedule and move forward with another provider, they’ll expire from your accepted match list. 

Naturally, not every match is going to respond to your outreach. And, it could take a few attempts to get in contact with a client. If a client isn’t getting back to you, it’s important to rematch them so that our Care Coordination team can step in to assist. Here are some general guidelines for doing your best to get in touch and when it’s time to rematch. 

Before rematching a client, we recommend that you send a message or leave a voicemail with the following information:

  • You hope to connect within the next three days
  • The times you are available to take their call
  • That you’ll call again in three days if you do not hear from them first

If you’ve still yet to connect on the third day, leave another voicemail letting them know that if you do not hear back within the next two days, you will rematch them so that they can connect with a different therapist. If your outreach is still unanswered by the fifth day, it’s time to rematch.

What next?

If you have more questions about building your new client relationships, we recommend checking out this article: Professional Client Relationships & Setting Boundaries.

Whether you’re a new therapist or just new to private practice, we are here to support you every step of the way. Bookmark this page for best practices, business suggestions, and making the most of your SonderMind partnership.

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