Although the pandemic is far from over, hope is most definitely on the horizon with the vaccination programme well underway. In the UK, Boris Johnson has announced a government roadmap detailing plans to transition us out of lockdown.
The roadmap outlines key dates for social contact to resume again, with all legal social distancing measures to be dropped by 21st June 2021. These dates are data-dependent and are therefore subject to change, however the summer months are certainly looking more hopeful.
That said, it may be some time before we are able to work face-to-face. Even when it is possible to do so, many may choose to continue conducting their appointments virtually.
So, How Do You Make the Most of Your Online Presence When You Can’t Work in Person?
Communication Is Key
In the era of Covid-19, when interaction has largely transitioned from in-person to online exchanges, it can feel overwhelming to maintain the same level and quality of communication with your current and prospective clients.
Consider branching out with new digital content to engage your client-base. For example, creating an online course or hosting a webinar series to discuss an area of your expertise. Not only will this create an opportunity for potential clients to sample your services, but it also offers your existing clients an additional level of interaction with you.
To stay connected with your colleagues, you can make the most of online platforms such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. LinkedIn Groups provide an opportunity to contribute to discussions within your field of interest, connecting with fellow professionals on all topics.
These groups and pages are a good opportunity to stay informed about the latest government advice. You can also gain insight into how other practitioners are managing their practice during this time.
Have a Consistent Online Presence
The difficulty with creating an online presence is that if you lapse and don’t maintain it, your services become invisible. Now, more than ever, it’s important to retain visibility, given that you cannot meet or network in person.
Once you have identified how you will stay connected with clients and colleagues, your online presence needs to be consistent. It’s crucial to stick to a content plan and post regularly to increase engagement.
To make this easier to manage, it’s a good idea to have your content plan scheduled into your diary so that you can stay on top of your online commitments.
For example, if you have a newsletter you will need to send updates to your mailing list regularly (at least once a month). We recommend scheduling time into your calendar for content creation so that the task doesn’t become overwhelming.
Top Tip: Don’t forget to update and add regular articles to your Private Practice Hub listing!
Create a Safe Space Online
When it comes to conducting appointments online, you will need to cultivate a safe environment to reassure your clients and maximise the effectiveness of your treatment. If you have recently adapted from in-person appointments to virtual ones, there may be a transition period in which your clients adapt to the new format.
- You will need to research the best video conferencing software and be aware of any security issues associated with your chosen software. For example, therapists have been advised against using Skype due to issues with security. However, other platforms such as Zoom and FaceTime are considered more secure. It’s important to make your clients aware of any risks to their privacy when conducting appointments online.
- Whilst you will need to take the necessary steps to create a safe space for your appointments, it’s also imperative to ensure that your clients are also meeting with you in a secure environment. Conducting appointments online will mean that your clients are juggling their Homelife with their therapy. They may have their family or housemates in the next room, for example. As successful treatment relies on a bond of trust and confidentiality, it’s a good idea to enquire as to your client’s set-up and be aware of any conflicts to their privacy.
- Ask your clients for feedback on their virtual sessions. This will allow you to make any necessary adjustments to the format of their appointments, and will also reassure your client that you are taking their opinions into account.
Conducting Appointments Online
Here are a few of our tips for meeting with your clients online:
- Opt for video calling rather than a phone call. Being able to see each other adds to a sense of connection and makes it easier to concentrate. Being able to make eye contact makes a big difference to a sense of trust.
- Make sure you keep your video on. Just 7% of communication is expressed verbally with the remaining 93% being expressed nonverbally. For this reason, it’s crucial that you and your client can see each other for the duration of the appointment. If you encounter connectivity issues, turning off the camera can improve the quality of the call; however, this should be a last resort. You should be actively using gestures, ensuring your body language can be captured by your camera.
- Turn off all notifications on your device and ensure you are in a quiet environment where you won’t be disturbed. Notifications are incredibly off putting, but it’s easy to forget to set your notifications to ‘Do Not Disturb’ when you are using your phone to conduct the appointment. Make this part of your preparation routine before the appointment begins.
- Pick your background carefully to ensure your clients are not seeing anything you would rather not share with them. If you are able to work from the same environment as you would usually meet your clients in, this can be helpful in creating a familiar backdrop for the appointment. If you are working in a different space altogether, is there anything familiar you can incorporate into your background? For example, a poster or object from your usual treatment room?