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Time management is one of the most important aspects of being an immigration evaluation therapist. If you know that you’ll be seeing a client, you’ll usually block out a decent chunk of time, anywhere between 1 to 2 hours. However, if the client doesn’t show up to their appointment, it can be a big inconvenience. Your valuable time goes to waste and to make matters worse, the time slot could have gone to another client.
Some clients call, text, or email right before the appointment to cancel. This can be equally as frustrating for a therapist who is trying to manage their schedule. Technically, clients like this are not a no-show because they did make an effort to cancel the appointment beforehand. Nevertheless, it’s still a setback that can affect a therapists’ work schedule.
This article will explore 5 of the best ways to avoid appointment cancellations. Hopefully, you’ll be able to implement these solutions and successfully meet with all your clients, on time and as scheduled.
Have a cancellation and no-show policy.
Make sure you have a clear cancellation and no-show policy that you can discuss with your clients beforehand. It’s fair to request 24 – 48 hours’ notice so that you can fill that valuable time slot with someone else. It’s also important to note that a late cancellation policy is just as crucial as a no-show policy. In both cases, you can charge a small fee.
On the other hand, use your discretion to determine if the cancellation or no-show was truly out of their control. There will be times when clients have legitimate emergencies that prevent them from making their appointments. Have compassion and leniency under those rare circumstances. For example, extreme situations like the passing of a relative should be an exception to your policy.
Send clients their paperwork beforehand.
If possible, send clients all the necessary paperwork ahead of time. Fortunately, most Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems allow for this. This saves time and reminds people that they are committing to a therapeutic relationship. Also, it’s an additional check-in with the new client that serves as another reminder of their appointment. If a client is reminded about their appointment often, they are less likely to forget or cancel.
Allow clients to pay for their evaluations before the first session.
Upfront payment is one of the most effective ways to avoid appointment cancellations. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the full cost, but you can implement a booking fee/ deposit. Understandably, not all clients will be open to this. However, it can help to secure appointments.
Avoid scheduling appointments too far in advance.
The longer a client has to wait to see you, the more likely they are to cancel, forget about the appointment, or find another therapist. Encourage the client to schedule an appointment within 7-10 days of making the booking. That way, they can move on to the next step of the immigration evaluation process as fast as possible.
Have a system for reminding clients of appointments.
Even clients with the best intentions might forget about their appointment. Either you or your assistant can send out reminder texts or emails before the appointment. Better yet, reminder calls are usually the most effective as you can speak to the client directly and make sure they get the message.
You can also develop an automated appointment reminder system. Plenty of practice management systems have this feature available. They can send voice messages, texts, or emails as a reminder.
Remember that for our clients, immigration cases are generally quite stressful. They play a critical role in determining whether someone gets to stay in the country, but if the client has a history of trauma, just setting up the appointment might be triggering for them. In cases like this, they might do anything in their power to avoid the appointment.
It’s a good idea to address anxiety concerning the evaluation during the initial phone call with a client. Try to make them as comfortable as possible, so they are more likely to show up for their appointment. It might help to remind them that other people have been through the process before, and everything went according to plan.
As an immigration evaluation therapist, remember that your time is valuable. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid cancellations as much as possible. Give yourself permission to protect both your time and income.
I’m Cecilia Racine, and I teach therapists how to help immigrants through my online courses. As a bilingual immigrant myself, I know the unique perspective that these clients are experiencing. I’ve conducted over 500 evaluations and work with dozens of lawyers in various states. Immigrants are my passion, I believe they add to the fabric of our country.
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