Rehearse answers to common questions

Clients are likely to have questions about our services. Some may be asked, others may remain unspoken unless raised by the therapist.

No information sheet can answer every question our clients may have. Even if one did, some wouldn’t read it and others might be unable to either read or comprehend the text. You should therefore be ready to answer, and in some cases, pre-empt clients’ questions.

As a supervisor, I have asked my trainees to explain the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist before ever meeting a client. Most have managed a reasonable explanation. The learning point was not the quality of the explanation but the confidence with which it was delivered: everyone was caught off guard by the question and so came across as unsure, defensive, even shifty.

Rehearsing answers to common questions allows us to sound more confident—and therefore more reassuring—when delivering these answers. The aim would be not to sound glib, but to impress upon the client that this is a common concern to which you have already given some thought.

If your service provides an information sheet or booklet, ensure that your answers to the common questions are in line with the service’s (a common oversight when rotating through a number of placements or working as a locum).

Note also that having a prepared answer to a client’s question doesn’t tell you why they needed to ask that question, but provides a basis for your next question: “why was that important to you?”

Questions you should be able to answer:

  • Do I have to see you? (ie: can I opt out?)
  • What is a (whatever therapist you are)?
  • What is the difference between (eg: psychologist and psychiatrist, psychologist and counsellor, etc)

If I see you…

  • Will I have to go into hospital?
  • Will I have to join a group?
  • Will I always see the same person?
  • Can I see a man or a woman?
  • What if I don’t feel at ease with you?
  • Will I have to come off my medication?

When I see you…

  • What will I have to do?
  • What if I don’t like your advice?
  • Will you respect my beliefs?
  • Will I be hypnotised?
  • Will you be able to read my mind? (more common than you might think)
  • Will I have to tell you everything?

Once I have seen you…

  • Who will be told what I’ve said?
  • Will you work with the people I’m already seeing?
  • How long will treatment last?
  • What if I don’t get better?

And finally…

  • Does this mean I’m going mad? (common in psychological therapies)
  • Surely there must be people who need help more than me?