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A Surprising Way to Start Treating New Clients

by Kimberly on August 10, 2010 · 8 comments

If you “like” me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter, you know that I spent this past weekend traveling. But this wasn’t any traveling–this was traveling to spend a weekend with girlfriends. A special, sacred, everyone-should-have-the-opportunity-to-do-this type of weekend with the girls.

So of course we spent much of our time together dishing about ourselves, our kids, our spouses/significant others, our friends. But we also happen to all be music therapists–and all be music therapists with at least a part-time private practice–so we dish about that as well.

One such friend, Peggy, has a thriving practice in southern California working with children with autism. All private clients. Peggy has incorporated a policy for new clients that I am seriously considering for my own practice.

I like this policy because it sets a tone of professionalism and a clear understanding of expectations from the start. Primarily the expectation that music therapy is a serious, research-based profession that works and that the work extends beyond what happens during the session.

So what is it??? (C’mon…I can’t spill the beans right away!!!)

The client doesn’t come to the first session. That’s right–the client is not present at all at the first session.

The first session is a sit-down between Peggy and the child’s parent(s). Not grandparent, not nanny, not friend’s mom. It’s with one or both parents (or primary caregiver). The child stays at home so Peggy and the parents can have a focused, uninterrupted talk.

The first session (and, yes, it’s a paying session) does involve a little of going over the policy’s of her business (e.g. cancellation, financial, etc.). But it’s more talking about music therapy–what it is, why it works, and how it works.

The idea is that, from the get-go, there is the expectation that this is a “serious” therapy that works. Peggy is not there to babysit the child or to “play music” once a week. If Peggy is going to work with and help this child, the parent needs to be on board and involved in treatment.

It also creates a communication channel from the beginning. Both sides get an opportunity to talk and ask question. Rapport is created and a working relationship has started. The parent leaves with a clear understanding of Peggy’s philosophy, treatment approach, and how this treatment will best help the child.

So…thanks, Peggy! I love learning new ways and strategies for improving how I serve my clients. I’m going to keep this in my back pocket for when I open my doors to private clients again.

Don’t Forget!

The 1st Annual Creative Arts Therapies Teleconference starts in two weeks! There’s still plenty of time to sign-up (a perk of running a teleconference, perhaps?). If you’re interested in signing up, or just want to check it out, click the pretty pink banner right here:


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Antoinette Morrison August 10, 2010 at 11:06 am

Dear Kimberly,
I love that idea! I work part time at a facility as a music therapist and part of the reason it stays that way, I have learned is because I have little opportunity to talk with parents. The parents that I do see have been my best advocates and advertisement. They even have taken it on themselves to go on the radio, create a website ad to raise money for more music therapy hours and have gone to the school districts themselves . However, that is only 2 parents that I get a chance to discuss what is happening with. I am starting to advertise for private work and I think that may be a great policy to begin with. Thankyou so much for all your information, it has been a great help and makes me feel connected with others who do this!
Antoinette Morrison

Natalie August 10, 2010 at 12:38 pm

You know, I thought of that, but I think it may be something I implement later down the road. Right now I have a lot of “talk” with the parents via e-mail. I hesitated to implement that now because of the stress of trying to book my initial clients and didn’t want to potentially turn them away with their first paid session not being a session, so I plan to do that a little bit on the backside.

Maybe when I’m a bigsuccessful private practitioner I can come hang out too 😉

Patti Catalano August 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Yes – this is a great idea. I’ve implemented talking to parents over the phone and doing a phone interview. In our area it might be harder to implement it as a paid visit yet but perhaps we can raise the assessment fee and divide it in parts with part 1 the parent meeting. It makes a huge difference when parents truly understand what you are doing. They become your biggest advocates.

Roia August 12, 2010 at 7:12 am

That sounds like a very interesting way to start a therapy process. I’m having sort of mixed feelings about it though, because a part of me thinks, “yeah! Helping parents understand the services their child will be receiving and having an investment in it makes a lot of sense.” Another part of me is wondering if the child should be included in the conversation along with the parents.

For one thing, even if the child is running around (or doing what kids do when they’re in new situations with new people and have sensory/motor/communication issues), they will have the benefit of hearing what they should expect from the music therapist and hearing that their parents are also committed to helping them through this process. It could also provide the music therapist with an opportunity to assess/get a sense of how people interact with the child (and how the child deals with his/her family), how people in the family sit/stand in relation to each other, etc.

Certainly a thought-provoking idea. Thanks for sharing it, Kimberly!
.-= Roia´s last blog ..Exposed =-.

Kimberly August 12, 2010 at 8:57 am

Hi Roia! You bring up a good, valid point–should the child be included in that initial conversation? On the other hand (and I’m going to put on my “parent hat” here), it’s SO much easier to sit and focus on a conversation if my children aren’t around. So I can also see the benefit of meeting with the parents and being able to talk in a quiet, calm space. ~Kimberly

Kimberly August 12, 2010 at 8:58 am

Hi Patti! I think there are ways to work around the payment part. That said–if it’s part of your policy, then the parent knows going in that it’s a paid session. It’s then the parent’s choice whether to start treatment with you or not. ~Kimberly

Kimberly August 12, 2010 at 8:59 am

Wow–you’re doing something right if parents are doing all that for you. Congratulations! ~Kimberly

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