How to Start a Conversation with Clients about Mental Health

min read

Unlike physical health challenges – like injuries, allergies, or infections,  mental illness often remains unseen. And because we can’t always see mental health challenges, we are less adept at addressing them. It is important that we feel comfortable having conversations about them. 


Talking about mental health can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. 

For clients who are experiencing the change of a new diagnosis, a pregnancy, a divorce, a big move, simply asking them how they are handling that change can open up a deeper conversation.  

“You have a lot going on right now. How are you handling all this change?”

“How are you feeling about your test results?”

“Tell me a little bit about your symptoms. On a good day, what are they like? What about a bad day?”

Many practices use a mental health screening to start the conversation. (If you need a screener, we can help you.) 


After a mental health screening you can ask follow up questions: 

“Help me understand why you chose the answers you did.”

“You indicated that you are having trouble sleeping, can you tell me more about this? For many of my clients it is often stress related.” 

“Tell me a little about your family history with mental illness.” I.E. who had diagnosis, symptoms, hospitalization, suicide, etc).


No matter what question you decide to ask, it’s important to listen.

Let the person take their time, avoid any urge to interrupt them. And listen attentively  Once a client has opened up and discussed the challenges they are facing with their mental health, it’s important to know what actions need to be taken next. 


What does a good referral look like?

Step 1: What to do: Be specific. Tell the client about your partnership with SonderMind. Explain that addressing mental or behavioral health issues can be an important step in restoring a person’s physical health and helping that person realize his or her full potential. 

What to say: “You are not on your own. There are resources and people who can help you work through some of these issues” 


Step 2: What to do: Give the client the SonderMind take home brochure or handout. This explains SonderMind so that your client can easily access this information later on. 

What to say: “This is not new. It may feel new to you but so many of my clients are experiencing similar things. That’s why we partner with SonderMind so that you can easily connect with a therapist who can help.”

“This is a stressful time for everyone. Excessive stress can impact your health. If you connect with a therapist and talk through some of the issues you are struggling with, it may help with some of the health issues you are experiencing.”


Step 3: What to do: Provide some insight on what the interaction may look like and what your client can expect from SonderMind. Talk to your client about when and for what reasons they should consider contacting this service for further support.

What to say: “SonderMind will ask you a few questions about what you are looking for. This enables them to match you with a licensed therapist who has the right experiences, takes your insurance and is available to see you in person or online.

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