How can therapists and coaches who work in private practice gauge how well they are impacting clients? Defining client success is a difficult undertaking given the subjective nature of each interaction and acknowledging the unique need of every person who seeks therapy or coaching services. Therefore, I use the word impact as the qualifier to determine the level or breadth of service offered.
The purpose of the article is to explore the benefits of performing a therapist-client or coach-coachee survey. Next, I look at why defining private practice goals allows a pathway to measure assessment feedback against. I look at a potential set of criteria to define the client assessment. Finally, the article investigates what available applications exist in the market today to solicit, gather and make sense of the data. We have a lot to unpack; let’s get started.
At this moment, I see an absence of therapists and coaches requesting performance assessments from their clients — unless the practitioner takes matters into their own hands. Let’s examine the challenge through a personal example.
All students who study Gestalt Psychotherapy must accumulate 50 hours of therapy with a more experienced Gestalt practitioner before the end of Year 3. Through this process, the therapist-in-training gains client hours towards becoming certified while I, the client, can witness firsthand the use of Gestalt in action. The therapist-in-training must write detailed notes regarding their client experience and submit the forms to the Gestalt faculty for review through their mentorship program. All of this sounds great. Except I see one fundamental flaw.
Where is the voice of the client providing feedback on their experience with the therapist? How will the therapist know if they are truly supporting the needs of their clients?
The current method allows the Gestalt therapist to provide their inherent bias on the quality of the interaction with the client rather than allowing a holistic client-therapist-program feedback loop. When writing this article, I am engaging with Gestalt faculty on this critical question and will update the notes section once I have answers.
Define Your Goals For Private Practice
I believe in the importance of goal setting, even when establishing a psychotherapy or coaching practice. Knowing your goals will allow you to measure against them and to adjust and pivot based on client feedback. Examples of goals statements may include:
- I desire to work with people who possess a burning passion for change.
- My client base will remain small and focused, allowing for five people at a given time.
- I will strive to be present and available at all times during client conversations.
While the above statements are not concrete, the qualitative nature will allow me to measure whether change over some time will occur for clients, what it is like to have a small base of people to work with, and whether others perceive my ability to be present. For those of you who are already seeing clients, do you have goals? Are your original goals the same as they are today?
Criteria To Assess Client Impact
Like so many before me, in the Fall of 2021, I will find myself a part of the Gestalt student clinic and work with clients in the earlier stages of their psychotherapy learning career. The difference is — I’m from the corporate world and understand the value of data and analytics; in particular, my fascination lies in how data tells a story. Based on my personal experience, the following questions emerge:
- How can I utilize qualitative data from my clients to gauge overall performance?
- How can I engage with clients in a friendly, engaging way to solicit feedback while avoiding a cold, factual approach?
- How often should I extend outreach to clients? What is the healthy balance to obtain just enough feedback promptly?
- Based on the data, where are opportunities to pivot?
- How can I evolve my practice to ensure I am at my best in every interaction?
Through this lens, the following sample assessment criteria are under consideration and applied to therapists and coaches.
- In what ways can the therapist-client relationship be strengthened?
- Trust is the foundation upon which the therapist and client perform the work. Are there ways to further develop and strengthen trust in our sessions?
- Do you have an interest in exploring other ways to collaborate during therapy sessions? And if so, what activities do you gravitate towards?
- In our initial sessions, we established a Design Alliance. Are there areas we need to refine to improve our mutual approach?
- How likely are you to recommend psychotherapy services to a friend or family member?
Once the assessment criteria are more formalized and data gathered, my objective is to ensure the results are transparent on my website. Honesty and integrity are building blocks of private practice, and I believe this behavior has a powerful appeal for others seeking therapeutic or coaching services.
Applications To Obtain Client Feedback
Online surveys and options to request client feedback are plentiful. The following list is courtesy of Zapier and amended for this article:
- SurveyPlanet for beginners.
- Typeform creates visually appealing surveys.
- SurveyMonkey for creating surveys on a phone or tablet.
- LimeSurvey for self-hosted surveys.
- QuickTapSurvey for offline surveys.
- YesInsights for one-click surveys.
- Surveybot for chatbot surveys on Facebook.
- SmartSurvey for collaborating on survey questions.
- SurveyGizmo for optimizing your surveys.
- Constant Contact includes helpful survey builders.
The article explores the importance of possessing clear goals to operate a therapy or coaching practice. Over time, collecting qualitative data from clients will demonstrate the quality of therapeutic sessions and showcase areas where I excel and others where I need to pivot and improve. If any readers have direct experience gathering client data in your therapy or coaching practice, please reach out; I will love to learn best practices as I get closer to opening a private clinic.