How to Improve Therapy Session Attendance, Reduce No-Shows & Cancellations

How to Improve Therapy Session Attendance, Reduce No-Shows & Cancellations

No-shows and cancellations for therapy appointments are more than just annoying, they can be detrimental to you, your clients, and your practice. If a client cancels a session at the last minute, or if they simply don’t show up, you’re not able to bill for that session, and you’re stuck with a non billable hour in the middle of your day that could have been filled with another appointment. In addition to being frustrating, studies have shown that high rates of cancellations can lead to diminished clinician confidence and affect one’s ability to provide effective care. Poor session attendance rates also impact clients, as they don’t receive the full benefit of therapy and can go on to struggle with persistent symptoms.

How to Improve Therapy Session Attendance, Reduce No-Shows & Cancellations

For many clients suffering from depression or anxiety, trying to improve their session attendance can be something of a catch-22 situation. Attending sessions can be made more difficult due to symptoms of their anxiety or depression, but in order to see improvement in their symptoms, they need to attend therapy. Clients may miss their first appointment due to a perceived stigma, or because they’re having difficulty taking the first step toward seeking help. Therapy can be a difficult experience, and often clients feel worse before they feel better, which can also lead to cancellations or no-shows if the individual does not experience immediate symptom relief. Alternatively, if they start to feel better, they may quit early and still miss out on the full benefit of in-person counseling. Other issues that can lead to cancellations, no-shows, and low session attendance include logistical concerns such as transportation, disability, or difficulty finding childcare or getting time off from work.

There are many ways you can improve session attendance at your practice, a lot of which aren’t expensive or labor intensive:

  • Give clients as much freedom in scheduling as possible. Giving more options for scheduling can result in fewer cancellations or no-shows.
  • Confirm appointment dates and times immediately after making the appointment with a printed card, so misreading handwriting or making a typo in a phone calendar cannot occur.
  • Give adequate appointment reminders in the patient’s method of choice: phone calls, text messages, emails, or postcards in the mail.
  • Offer rewards for attending sessions by giving discounts on bills, or penalties for no-shows or late cancellations. Create a clear no-show policy and work with clients to troubleshoot when they are struggling with repeatedly no-showing. Consider discharging clients who repeatedly no-show or cancel.
  • If a client no-shows for an appointment, follow up to find out why and reschedule promptly. You may notice patterns that can help you improve attendance in the future.
  • Offer video therapy sessions to your clients. Teletherapy can be a great way to lower the barrier to entry for those seeking help, and has been shown to be just as effective as in-person treatment for a variety of conditions.

Of these, teletherapy may be the most major change to make, but it can also be the most impactful. To learn more about how to bring teletherapy to your practice, and why it’s becoming more and more popular, download our free tip sheet.

Download our free tipsheet