How To Respond To Client Free Messages

Responding to free messages from clients can be a challenge for someone new to this type of online engagement. People tend to disclose more personal information in writing online than they do verbally in a first face-to-face meeting. For this reason, you may get very personal and elaborate explanations of a client’s problems upfront without any specific question attached. This - among other types of client messages - is something you need to prepare responses for in advance so you can approach it in a timely matter.

A challenge that’s important to master is to be careful not to initiate a therapist-client relationship during these free messages or first consultation. Many clients will be inclined to share a lot of personal details before they decide to commit to paid sessions, so your role will be to guide the conversation in a gentle but assertive way towards an agreement between the two of you. You are probably experienced with this in real life, but online communication can demand a slightly different style of response.

General dos and don’ts

Finding out what age the client is

Before you start having sessions with someone, you should make sure the client you are communicating with is 18 or over as it is prohibited to have sessions with under-18s on PlusGuidance. We have this policy because online therapists are generally advised (due to safeguarding issues) to not work with people under 18 online. Only if you work in an organisation that, for example, has a safeguarding officer at hand at all times can you work with under-18s online.

A person is vague about what they struggle with or what they want

A person who got in touch with you is in a crisis/is suicidal

PlusGuidance is not a suitable platform for dealing with acute or life-threatening situations. If you are used to dealing with acute queries from clients, you may already know how to handle such contacts, but if you’re not, we’ve made a guide for what to do with suicidal and crisis-struck individuals who contact you. We strongly advise all therapists to read through this so you are absolutely prepared for these situations.

A person who can’t afford therapy is asking for help

We sometimes hear from therapists that they get messages from people who need help but can’t afford it. This is a tricky situation as for many people, money is a barrier to getting treatment. Unless you can personally offer discounted rates one way or another, we have some suggestions for how to handle this:

Inappropriate or illegitimate clients

The more clients you have approaching you, the more spammy, inappropriate or illegitimate messages you'll get into the mix of legitimate queries. Unfortunately, we can't filter out many these non-serious requests, because we can't see the content of messages between you and clients. We only know about these when the "client" contacts the PlusGuidance team directly and that happens rarely. It's a sad fact of the internet that there's a high proportion of this type of messaging, and a large proportion of this is aimed at women. You can be anonymous on the internet, and many people try to get away with a lot of things because of this.

The only person who can manage such contacts is you. That's why we have a "Report" button on your "My clients" page so you can report it directly to us. Please only respond to messages from clients you believe are legitimate clients. We won't factor in your response time to clients you don't respond to at all and that you report straight away, so you can feel reassured that reporting someone won't penalise you. The more efficiently you report non-serious queries, the less time this client will have to contact other therapists on PlusGuidance with the same kind of message, so please actively use the report button so we can suspend or deal with this client before it affects other therapists too.

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