Are you communicating to your clients what you think you’re communicating? If you’re dissatisfied with the amount of clients you have, you probably are not. Therapists can very easily communicate the wrong thing to clients. After so many years of school and having to write our notes in insurance-approved psychobabble, I think it’s easy to forget how to communicate like a normal person! Of course, it’s not just us. Every industry has it’s “jargon” and we can forget that not everyone understands what this stuff means. But if you want to communicate an effective message, you need to quit the psychobabble.
Now some therapists might actually prefer to use jargon and technical terms because they think it makes them sound knowledgeable or smart. It doesn’t. It just frustrates your clients or potential clients at a time when they are the most vulnerable. I had an experience a while back that really helped me to understand what it’s like for our clients when we use jargon. My father died and I had to call the newspaper to submit his obituary. The person on the phone then proceeded to use a bunch of newspaper jargon that left me with not a clue as to how to proceed. I was actually reduced to tears. Just speak clearly. If you’re afraid of “dumbing it down”, remember that the “smart” thing to do is to speak in a way that people can understand you.
In addition to speaking in plain speech, or writing in plain speech, you also need to make sure that your message is something that people actually care about. The client does not care about what school you went to or the latest “thing” in psychology that you are certified in. They want to know that you “get it”, that you can help them with their problem. You want the client to hear you speak or read what you wrote and feel like you read their mind or that you are speaking to them personally, rather than just giving a general message about “wellness” or “recovery”. Recovery from what? What does wellness look like for your client? Speak their language.
Do you know how to describe your therapeutic style to a prospective client? A lot of clients are asking these days. Unfortunately, they know very little about theoretical orientations and other schools of thought in counseling psychology. What a lot of therapists don’t understand is that when a client is asking this, what they are really asking is “Are you the right therapist for me?” or “What makes you better than all the other therapists I’ve called?” To answer this, you naturally need to know what it is exactly the client is asking for. Rather than give a long winded answer about my therapeutic style, I find it better to ask the client “What kind of therapist are you looking for?” And I go from there.
Lastly, keep it simple. When I was in college I learned about Occam’s Razor. This is a principle in science that states that the simplest answer is often the most correct. In other words, if you can’t explain something in science succinctly, you probably don’t know what you are talking about. I always thought that this was a good rule for just communication in general. If you can’t sum something up for your clients in two sentences, you probably don’t have a good enough grasp on what is going on with your client, and your clients know this. The more you talk, the more you are at risk of losing people. Keep it simple.
Mark Twain said that brevity is the definition of wit. Since I just said that if you can’t sum something up in two sentences or less then you probably don’t understand what you’re talking about, let me sum up this post for you:
Speak directly to what your client cares about and make it simple for them to understand you