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Barbara Jordan
Dec 20, 2010

Client Retention, Part Two

Last week, I wrote a blog containing several suggestions to improve client retention. This week, I thought I'd put the horse after the cart by talking about why we should be concerned about retention in the first place. First of all, improving retention decreases paperwork. And, we all love to reduce the paperwork in our jobs, right? Secondly, enhanced retention decreases the need for finding new clients. If you're anything like me, you 're not good at marketing and sales, or perhaps, you're too shy, embarassed, or humble to do much of it. Third, higher client retention increases job satisfaction, income (if you're in private practice), and job security. Research suggests that the longer clients stay in treatment, the more likely they are to be successful. Therefore, client retention helps clients recover. Finally, improved retention of clients increases confidence the public has in treatment.

Now, I know I shared quite a few suggestions for improving client retention last week. But, again, I'd like to share more insights that my students and clinical supervisors and managers at my training programs often appreciate. Use whatever suggestions you can and watch your paperwork decrease, neccesity for marketing/sales decrease, and job satisfaction and security increase. You may also find improvement in client success as well as increased public confidence in treatment.

•Orient your clients to your program; welcome clients, describe the treatment process via your informed consent, and make positive statements about the benefits of treatment and clients' likelihood of success.
•Involve the client in decisions regarding intensity and level of care while demonstrating flexibility and good client-treatment matching. Although treatment intensity should lessen over time, clients should also have the option of returning to a more intense level of care if necessary.
•If you are a program manager/supervisor, ensure that your staff are consistent and dependable; keep staff turnover low.
•Reward clients' positive behaviors via food/transportation vouchers, movie tickets, or money.
•Rather than being punitive, show tolerance when facing client regression/relapse/back-sliding or inconsistent attendance; this approach improves treatment outcomes and retention whereas harsh confrontation increases client resistance.
•Schedule appointments at the same time each week and remind clients of their appointments.
•Provide wrap-around (ancillary) services such as vocational, educational, housing, and medical services either at your agency or through seamless referral; help clients access resources that make them successful.
•Expect clients to be successful and show confidence, optimism, and hope in the treatment you provide.
•Program Managers/Clinical Supervisors, if your supervisees don't already possess these traits, create an individual development plan and help them develop:
1) positive mental health
2) a clear view of their own mental health needs
3) easy access to employee assistance programs
4) a strong commitment to their own personal/professional growth
5) moderate to high self-esteem and a positive attitude toward clients
6) a strong, appropriate sense of humor
7) appropriate self-disclosure helpful to clients when they are struggling to make decisions
8) motivational interviewing techniques such as emphasizing "change talk" and reinforcing clients' positive self-talk

Finally, providing your clients with beverages can be a very simple way to improve client retention.

Barbara Jordan is a counselor, counselor educator, author, trainer, and leadership coach. For more information go to

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