Tips for engagement

  • Individual sessions-
    • Make sure you have multiple contact information for your members including cell phone, home phone, and email  and which they are using or prefer to use.
    • Try to set the same time every week, routine is very valuable for most of our members right now
    • Text them ahead of time so they can get to a place that is quiet and away from others and have any information they may need for logging into video therapy  (This also help you to know right away if they are not in a place to talk and then you can reschedule, it seems many members are more open to text or emails at first)
    • Call them on the same  google number and if they don’t answer, give them a call back a few minutes later, sometimes they just need to get to this safe space
    • (If someone is really avoidant, you may need to create a second google number to try to catch them)
    • Use Zoom or other visual modalities when you can so you can implement more interventions and help them with making connections
    • Ask for feedback at the end of session about what was helpful, what was not, and their feelings about the  telehealth modality
    • Be willing to shift between video and phone calls depending on the members needs each week
    • If they seem to struggle with coming up with things to talk about or if sessions seem redundant around COVID, use this as an opportunity to get to know your client even more- ask about their childhood, their relationships, their sex life, their old jobs, times they spent in school or the military.  Reference their treatment plan.
    • If they are no-showing or canceling,  brainstorm around better times for sessions, what is making engagement hard, and how you may be able to make telehealth more comfortable for  them


  • For people doing group therapy-
    • Check with each member to  if someone uses a smart phone, computer, or track phone.  If you are lucky and everyone has a smart phone or computer, then you can set up a video call.  Folks are more likely to be engaged when they can see one another. (It may be a matter of splitting your groups or member assignments up to having one who uses the conference line and a different one using zoom based on the resources available to those in the group. And yes, they may need to sign back on in the middle of the call if you’re using zoom, but people get the hang of this pretty quickly)
    • If you are going to review something in that group, send them an email or a google text with the worksheet  or information ahead of time. This way they can feel like they are following along on the call.
    • If you are only able to do a conference call, it may be helpful to keep the same order each time for check in and try practicing the sanctuary model. ( Hello my name is, today I am feeling,  My goal for today/this week is, who will help me with this goal is and what I would like to talk about or get from group today is…)  This helps people know what to expect and may reduce the likelihood of people talking over one another.  Then you can accumulate what they  share as well as adding your own agenda so people can anticipate what and when to share in group.
    • It may also be helpful to  have them pick accountability buddies so they can text each other and remind each other about group
    • Make sure you are calling and checking on the members who are not showing to group to ask them what would make them feel better to join calls or video.  If you’re wiling to listen to their suggestions, rather than calling them out for attendance, they may give you some amazing ideas
    • Open up group to have feedback at the end so members can share what helps them stay engaged and what may hinder. Feedback, which is not personal despite how its conveyed by a member, is so important right now and makes us better therapists and counselors.


It’s definitely a few extra steps and a little extra time, but it seems to be working. Hope this helps!


Allison Odle, MSEd, MPC, LPC

Clinical Intern Supervisor