Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Who are you? Q & A

Marketing yourself. We've been discussing how it build confidence, why you want to do it, and how to put it into practice. But some questions can't be addressed on a general basis. That's why I asked you to share with me your biggest questions on marketing as a newbie counselor. 

Q: Do you have any suggestions on how to present or market oneself as an intern counselor to a potential supervisor? Specifically, in a cover letter/resume format and in the case of someone waiting on their license to come through. 

  • My first suggestion with any kind of marketing is "don't start with you." The cover letter or resume that states your objective, in my opinion, misses the mark. Even the kindest person sifting through a bunch of resumes doesn't care about your needs at that exact moment - they are looking to fill their sometimes desperate need. Start instead with a question or a statement about their needs and then tie your skills and desires into it. 
  • If you have something that is lacking, approach it a different way. In this person's scenario, you might say: "Although I won't take my NCE until _____, I am actively seeking a supervisor and further client experience starting immediately." There are some legal restrictions you will have to overcome to work with clients after graduation, but before an official start to your internship. If these exist in your state, you might propose a compromise that is legal, for some people, volunteering hours and/or getting temporary liability insurance that covers you under another umbrella.
  • Follow up. Most people don't. Snail mail is very inconvenient to respond to. The person receiving the message may mean to respond, but put it in their "to-do" pile indefinitely. You can follow up with a simple phrase like, "I wanted to see if you received my cover letter and resume." [If yes] "Do you think that my skills might be a good match for your needs?"
  • Research them. If you can say why you like their organization, it will go a lot farther for you. Make sure your counseling theories match, and that the job isn't "too good to be true." Sadly, an internship that promises major $$$ may be a scam because that kind of money just isn't there at the intern level. 

Q: Why don't you take Medicaid...(or another specific insurance panel they want covered)? 

My answer to this question when I first started was stupid. "Because I have to be licensed such-and-such amount of time to get on this panel...because there are too many people on-panel in this area..." I would end up redirecting the clients to other providers rather than offering them a solution that would work for them.

When a client says, "Why don't you take..." they aren't really asking why. They're communicating that they have some level of interest in your services and are frustrated that you don't offer their insurance panel. But they're still talking to you, which means they're not convinced they want to go with someone else. So here's what you can do instead. 

Affirm that you support whatever they choose to do next, but you have options for people who have insurance you don't take. That might be sliding scale, out-of-network benefits, group therapy, coming less often, etc. Ask them to try it out and see if they like it. If it doesn't suit them, they don't have to keep coming, but it might be the right fit for them. Remind them that there are privacy compromises and limitations on service with insurance providers, and as an out-of-network provider they have more choices with you. 

If they don't want to go off-panel, they won't. They'll call around till they find another provider. But if they want to talk to you enough to ask you "why?"...then they're still invested in the option of working with you. Trust in the VALUE you have to offer and give them another option to consider. 

Q: How do you make sure people are getting what you're sharing with them...and not just nodding their heads?

Ah...I see.

But do they really? Sometimes it's hard to know if you're really getting through to people. But anyone can learn to read the signals of comprehension in order to better communicate their message.

With a referral source, client or coworker, you know you're likely communicating effectively when you see a few positive body language signals, like the ones below:

  • Repeating back to you a version of what you've been saying.
  • Focused gaze on you or off to the side, as if they're thinking. 
  • Taking notes.
  • Getting closer or leaning into your space. 
  • Mirroring movements. 
  • Feet crossed at the ankles while sitting. 
Some signals that might indicate distrust, disinterest, or impatience are:
  • Looking away at other things, shifting eyes.
  • Shifting feet, tapping feet.
  • Crossed arms.
  • Hands on hips.
  • Looking down. (Though in some people this can be thoughtfulness.)
  • Squinting eyes with lowered eyebrows. 

Of course, you want to have more of the former than the latter. So if you are experiencing some negative signals from another person, you might be able to turn it around with one of these tricks:
  • Asking about comprehension. "You know, I'm feeling like I might be being confusing. Am I making sense?"
  • Asking for their opinion. "What do you think about what I've been saying?"
  • Keeping it short. Leaving out extra topics and going over what has already been discussed once again.
  • Trying an analogy or metaphor. "I like to think about it as a ship in a storm..."
  • Trying a visual aid. Prepare one or two that you can keep on you or bring to meetings! 

As you try some of these strategies, watch for the other person to suddenly snap back into the present. That will tell you what to continue speaking about, and what to abandon.

That's enough questions for today, but I'm always here! If you could have any question about counseling answered, what would it be? Did the answers today help you resolve anything you were struggling with?