As potential clients, you seek out services to get help with your issues. So, you look around on the internet, maybe find a few counseling directories and select a therapist that looks like they might meet your needs. You call the therapist up, talke for a bit, and then make the decision to take the plunge into therapy. Or do you? You might find yourself answering questions from the therapist or an intake specialist as they create a profile or basic record of you prior to your appointment, but are you willing to commit to the appointment once it is scheduled? Therapy requires courage on your part, to not only go through the motions of creating the appointment, but following through and actually showing up for the appointment. You can't get better if you don't commit to the process of therapy in the most basic way: actually doing therapy.
Clients tend to work on various levels of commitment, and some counselors may argue or refute that this is the case. Clients would do well to recognize that counselors set aside time in their schedules (sometimes even early in the morning when they would not otherwise be in the office), to meet with a new client. When a new client who makes a claim that they will appear for a session subsequently does not appear for that appointment, the counselor may be left with a situation of wasted time, energy and resources. This is turn can have negative consequences of eventual rate increases to cover lost income over time, or counselors setting limits on when new clients are accepted.
If you are thinking of beginning therapy, congratulations. It is an excellent choice in self-care and will open you to a perspective of yourself that perhaps you had not considered. When you make your appointment, you should be mindful that scheduling to see the counselor means that he or she has set aside that time exclusively for you. It is a welcome courtesy to cancel an appointment at least 24 hours in advance of your appointment if you cannot make it, so that the counselor can use that time in other ways. Being committed to the appointment is a step in being committed to therapy...your personal self-care. This is an opportunity to do something your good, there is no need to be afraid or fearful. Sometimes clients are embarrassed about wanting to cancel and simply don't call to do so. While a counselor might understand you have this feeling, we just ask for a quick connection (even if by Email), to let us know you won't be showing up. Most likely, we will be sorry to miss the chance to meet you, but we will be grateful for your courtesy and respect of our time.
As a counselor, I try to be flexible in scheduling, but I also appreciate the same courtesy from new and existing clients. Scheduling sessions can be challenging in any practice, and there is some investment of time on both sides to engage in the process. We both have something to gain or lose, depending on the success or failure of the scheduled appointment. The hope I have for you, wherever you seek services is that you will find the commitment to therapy and keeping your appointments to be more a mark of a commitment to yourself. While the counselor also benefits, he or she wants the best for you, which can only be achieved by your effort. While sometimes the path of therapy can be challenging, being brave is a mark of strength and in my practice you are always treated with respect and courtesy. As a counselor and as a person, it is the same I ask of you.
Shawn Thomas Berthel M.S., is the owner of Life Path Counseling PLLC, and a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor. He lives in University Place, Washington.