I had a friend ask me for a therapist recommendation the other day and the conversation took a turn I didn't expect. After I gave her a couple of names I followed it up by saying, "I'm not sure if they have openings, so you might want to call a few others in your network just in case." There was silence on the other end of the line and then she said, "And say what?"
So then there was silence on my end of the line because I couldn't quite figure out what she meant. She followed up with, "I mean, what should I actually say when I'm calling some random therapist looking for an appointment? It seems like a lot of them just never call back. Is there something I should be saying? Plus, I always seem to get tongue tied!"
Just to be clear - I would hope any therapist would call you back. Life does get in the way sometimes, but most of the therapists I know are pretty prompt and attentive. It also shouldn't matter what kind of message you leave. People should just call you back. Period.
Common courtesy aside, however, this conversation got me thinking about two questions. What information is helpful for therapists? And what's a good script to relieve people's anxiety about calling therapists? Here's what I came up with.
An ideal message would go something like this. "Hi, my name is Mary Jane and my phone number is (555) 555-5555. I'm looking for a therapist to help me deal with my anxiety about my recent divorce. I was wondering if you're taking new clients and if you take my insurance, which is Blue Cross Blue Shield. Also, I'd need an appointment time sometime in the evening or early morning. If you could call me back to let me know if I fit with your insurance and schedule that would be great. I can be reached at this number between 4-6 pm and it's okay to leave a message on this voicemail. Thank you."
Why is this an ideal sort of message? Because it covers the following bases:
Even if you know the details you should include, it can still be nerve wracking to call and ask for something if you've never done it before. It's sort of like calling your insurance company the first time you get into a fender bender. If you haven't done it before, how would you know what information you need? So here's a script! Just fill in your own blanks and call away. If this helps you make a call you've been putting off making, I'm glad.
"Hi, my name is _________ and my phone number is _________. I'm looking for a therapist to help me deal with ______________. I was wondering if you're taking new clients and if you take my insurance, which is ___________. Also, I'd need an appointment time sometime in the __________. If you could call me back to let me know if I fit with your insurance and schedule that would be great. I can be reached at this number between _____ and _____ and it's okay to leave a message on this voicemail. Thank you."
Good luck. Therapy is worth the effort. And if you call me, I promise I'll call you back no matter what!