I’ve been getting a lot of questions about this so I figured that I should probably just do a blog post about it so that if anyone is wondering they can just easily find the answer online. The question I’ve been getting is “I’m a therapist and am wondering what should my voicemail message be?” This is actually a really good question and I’ll tell you why:
A while back I was asked by a client if I could help her find a therapist for her husband. “Easy” I thought. I went to the insurance’s website and got a long list of potential therapists. I went through the list and started calling them one by one. A lot of the numbers were disconnected. For those that weren’t, I received voicemail messages that were so unprofessional I didn’t want to even leave a message because I was uncertain I was even calling a therapist! For all I knew, the insurance hadn’t updated their phone numbers (as evidenced by all the disconnected numbers) and it seemed too risky to leave a message. Some examples of the types of voicemail messages I was getting were ones where a robot voice just repeats the phone number you just called back to you, “It’s Bob, leave a message”, “You’ve reached the Williams residence”, and ones where someone had their young child record the message. If I didn’t feel comfortable leaving a message, you better believe that prospective clients don’t feel comfortable either.
We have to remember, we’re professionals and many of us are business owners. At the very least you should have something say “You’ve reached the office of Marina Williams”. I would actually go farther than that and include “You’ve reached the office of Marina Williams, licensed therapist”. This makes it clear to people that they ARE calling a THERAPIST and that it’s safe to leave a message with you. When people are calling a therapist for the first time, they often call a bunch of therapists at once, so they may not associate your name with anything, or didn’t hear it when you said your name, so it’s a good idea to tag on there that you are a therapist and yes they are calling the right place.
Next, I like to add “Please leave your name, number, even if you think I already have it, and a brief message.” Prior to adding that little sentence I used to get a bunch of calls like “Hi, it’s me, please call me back” and not have a clue who was calling me. A lot of times clients assume we will be able to recognize their voice over the phone or that of course we have their phone number saved in our phone. A lot of times clients change their number and forget to tell us. Why not just rely on called ID for the call-back number? Because the client may be calling from a different phone but want you to call back on their cell phone. Don’t rely on caller ID. This is why it’s good to insist that the client leave their name and number in the voicemail.
And lastly, a lot of the insurances also require that we have some information on what to do in an emergency. This is actually required by law in some jurisdictions and just a good idea to have anyways. The message I use is “If you are currently experiencing an emergency, crisis, or require immediate assistance, hang up and call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.” If you have a crisis or after hours emergency number, you can leave that number instead, although I think 911 is better because it’s easier for a client to remember in an emergency.
Some therapists also like to add other little tidbits like “I will call you back within 24 hours”, “Please note that I do not accept MassHealth insurance or see clients on the weekends”, or “I am currently on vacation and will not be checking for messages.” This is often an opportunity to add another sentence that either answers a commonly asked question or in some other way cuts down on the amount of unwanted phone calls you receive, such as “Please note that I am not accepting any new clients at this time.” So, it’s just an opportunity for you to make things easier on yourself or the people who are calling you.
Okay, so what’s an example of a voicemail message you could use?
Hello, you have reached the voicemail of Marina Williams, licensed therapist. Please leave your name, number, even if you think I already have it, and I’ll get back to you just as soon as I can. If you are calling because you are experiencing an emergency, crisis, or need immediate assistance, please hang up and call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room.