How to Conduct an Intake Assessment that Gets Results

Updated: Dec 29, 2021



Todd: An intake assessment is a 30-60 minute free appointment where you meet and qualify a potential new client who is interested in your holistic offering. We’ll use hypnotherapy as an example. Just about every holistic practitioner offers an intake of some sort, but not all intakes do the job well.

Kyra, what would you say is the difference between a well-conducted intake assessment and a poorly-conducted intake?

A Well-Conducted Intake Assessment

Kyra: A well-conducted intake assessment is going to give you insight as to what the client really needs, not necessarily what they came to you for. A good intake helps you drill down appropriately and begin to shift their mindset, which brings in a level of hope and connection through building rapport with the client so that they start to have a sense of positive expectancy around possibilities. A well-conducted intake assessment is also going to manage expectations so that the potential client knows that hypnotherapy is not a one-and-done quick fix.

You’re going to be myth-busting around what hypnotherapy is and what it’s not. It’s all going to essentially set up a potential sale because that client is going to learn that they probably need more help than they realized before they came in, not because we’re trying to make them unwell—they are already unwell; they just don’t understand the depth of the water they swim in. And so, when we used to work with clients doing hypnotherapy, we would help them get a sense of the water they were swimming in and understand that there is clean, cool, fresh water on the other side of this perceived glass.

A Poorly-Conducted Intake Assessment

Kyra: A poorly-conducted intake assessment would be one where there is no positive expectancy, the potential client does not feel heard or seen, their expectations are not being managed, and they are continuing to believe that they are going to walk into your session and walk out a completely changed person. They will think that it’s one-and-done and there is no deeper root system to the problem they’re experiencing. They may feel a little bit of relief if they think that’s all there is to their problem, so then they really won’t get what they came for.

Symptoms vs. Root Causes

Todd: Is this because the potential client doesn’t understand the scope of the problem they’re having and perhaps believes that experiencing relief of their symptoms equals resolution?

Kyra: That’s right. Sometimes even during the intake assessment itself, the client will start to feel better because they’ve never been seen or heard before and they’ve never been connected with before. When someone is being connected with, and you are being compassionate with them about their problem, and you are totally into helping them solve it, that in itself helps to shift people’s feelings, and it helps them feel better. And sometimes that initial visit (whether it is the intake or the first full session) feels overwhelmingly better, and the client thinks, “Oh! Well, my problem is solved!” And I say, “Nope. Just because you got some symptom relief doesn’t mean the problem is solved. The symptom will come back if it’s not pulled at the roots.

Position Yourself as the Expert

Todd: What are the biggest challenges holistic practitioners face when using an intake assessment to generate a potential sale?

Kyra: I think the first thing is that they don’t ask for the sale. I think they don’t set up the necessity for continuing the work because of their fear around doing it right, doing it good enough, being the best person for the fix or being the perfect helpmate. I have seen a lack of confidence a lot of times with holistic practitioners. Or it may not be a lack of confidence, and they know this is the right thing for their potential client, but they are not positioning themselves as the expert because there are popular spiritual/new age beliefs that say that everyone is spiritual, everyone is an expert, everyone is God, everyone has the answers within them, and that’s true. But, clients still need to partner with experts to help get those answers out.

We don’t naturally ask ourselves these questions and give ourselves honest answers. Instead, we will ask ourselves these questions, give ourselves an answer, and our ego will come in and attack the answer. We need to partner with people who won’t attack our answer and will allow us to grow and change our minds. So if that individual is lacking confidence or has these limiting beliefs that say, “Well, everybody has that ability to help themselves.” That’s true, but we need people to partner with experts in order to make the change. So I’ve seen people falter there.

Have a Plan

Kyra: I see holistic practitioners not asking for the sale, not setting up the sale, not having a plan or program set in place for their clients that they would see themselves adhering to like an accountability system. For example, “I want to see you every week; I want to see you at this time; I want to see you doing this homework.” It’s about having a plan set up for the client. Even if the plan changes, that’s okay. That client needs to know that you have something in mind for them for the future.

Todd: Do you think it’s a matter of holistic practitioners not having their services structured well enough to be effective for clients?

Kyra: Yes. It could be a very simple structure. You could have just a four or six-session package that is laid out for the 10-12 major concerns that potential clients come to hypnotherapists for, and have just a 6-session plan that you do for everyone and that way, you can present it when you offer the sale.

Todd: The mind needs time to recondition itself no matter what kind of therapy you’re offering.

Kyra: True. Your plans need to be longer than the 21-days it takes for habit replacement to occur.

Information Gathering Matters

Todd: What kind of information should a holistic practitioner (or a future hypnotherapist) be obtaining from that potential client that will determine whether or not you should take them on as a client?

Kyra: The first thing that I would ask is, “What medications are you on?” and that will tell us a lot about where they are. I always recommend that holistic practitioners keep a Physician’s Desk Reference handy and a list of different types of medications on their bookshelf because there are a lot of interactions that happen with different types of medications. Some medications may make it more challenging for a client to go into a deeply relaxed state or may make it difficult for a client to follow directions. So the first thing I want to know is, ‘Is there anything that’s going to cause us to not move forward in our session?’ because I’m not going to waste their time, and I’m not going to waste my time.

Todd: Is a potential client on medication a deal-breaker for hypnotherapy?

Kyra: Not at all. It’s just good to have an awareness of it. So the first thing I want to ensure is that there’s nothing that’s going to impede our time together, whether it’s pharmaceuticals, recreational drugs, alcohol, or other things like that. I also want to know what type of therapy they’ve had in the past. Not to compare the holistic approach that we are using in particular, which is hypnotherapy, but to know what that client has been comfortable with. What has worked for them in the past? What hasn’t worked? How accountable have they been to sticking with that therapy? But even if someone has done past therapies very well, you still need to ask the intake questions.

Emotional Engagement Matters

Todd: One of the things I remember doing with the intake assessment that we devised was measuring the level of emotional engagement that a client had during the intake. I remember taking note of whether or not the potential client was completely mentally resistant and emotionally inaccessible, or if they were in so much emotional victimhood that they couldn’t even focus. If the potential client was somewhere in the middle, that was good, in terms of emotional engagement, and are they really looking inside for their answers and activating what they’re feeling, remembering why they wanted to come in to see me as opposed to staying completely mental and just giving those list-based answers that aren’t engaging them.

I know the questions that we used in our intake assessment are designed to help potential clients emotionally engage so that we can get a sense of how accessible they are, and I remember that that was a big factor in determining whether or not I was going to consider working with them. Do you have any thoughts on emotional engagement?

Kyra: Yes, there were certainly clients who were just blank. And there were times when I would just say to them, “Listen, I need the energy to leave you. I need the information to come out of you. I need you to tell me what’s going on.” And sometimes, they were quiet because they were trying not to cry, trying not to feel too much. And so it’s easy for us to look at someone and say that they’re not emotionally engaging. And I know that’s not what you’re saying, Todd. But I know for me, there were times where it seemed that the client wasn’t emotionally engaging, but really, they were trying not to feel. And so then I would say, “What’s really happening? What’s really going on? This won’t work without you being involved in this,” then the client would start to break down. And to me, that meant we were good to go and ready to work. That meant that the client had the ability to access their emotions.

Set Clear Expectations Early

Kyra: Some other clients would just say, “I want you to fix me. Can’t you just lay me down and make me stop doing that thing or start doing this thing?” And I would say, “No, I can’t do it without you. This is your world; I am just living in it. I’m a helpmate. I’m not the boss of you.” and I would often say things like, “You do not want me to make your decisions for you.” and they would say, “Well, what do you mean?” And I would say, “Well, this is how I would fix it. I would stop talking to that person altogether. I would leave that relationship right now. I would stop eating that type of food immediately,” And they would respond, “Oh no, I’m not ready for that. I can’t.” And that was powerful because the client would then understand that I am not the person to be making their decisions for them. They are the right person to make their decisions. And a lot of that happens during the intake assessment where you’re getting to know each other because I am going to be very clear and upfront and very honest about what hypnotherapy will do and what it won’t do. And what the client is responsible for and what I’m responsible for. Nowhere did it say that I would take their choice away. All those expectations are clarified in the intake assessment. When you are totally clear, compassionate and open with the potential client, you might be working with them for 6, 12, 24 sessions or a year-long, so you must be crystal clear. And that sets up so much good energy for the next time you work with them.

Todd: I remember after we perfected our process through trial and error after seeing so many clients, that our intake assessment was such a well-oiled machine: what we said, what we covered, how we managed the potential clients’ expectations before engaging in a professional relationship, and specifically, the important questions that we ask them during the intake assessment and how those questions were formulated to support the client in giving us the answers we needed so that we knew whether or not we could help them.

In a perfect world, if you know what to say during an intake assessment with a potential new client, to properly assess, evaluate and qualify the client and get the information you need because you are asking the right questions, and you are setting the appropriate expectations, then there’s very little likelihood of error in terms of a client relationship going bad later or taking on a client when you shouldn’t be. A good intake assessment addresses all those things and keeps you away from potential pitfalls, and keeps you on the straight and narrow to do what you came there to do and to provide a fantastic service.

When It's Working Well

What else should a well-conducted intake assessment accomplish that we haven’t already covered?

Kyra: You have this natural, easy feeling and an easy rapport. You feel connected to your client without feeling needy with your client. You feel like they’re going to show up. You have no doubt in the client being present, doing the work, allowing themselves to be guided, asking and answering questions. Even if they are scared or nervous or tearful, they know these are good tears. Somewhere inside, they know that it is all good, and it’s all happening for their good. Even if you’re just introducing those kinds of ideas to them, they know at a deep level that even if it feels bad, it doesn’t mean something good isn’t happening.

Todd: So it’s a partnership, a walking together. It’s the client taking responsibility and accountability. You both are feeling good. There is rapport. In my experience, it’s really obvious when that client is right there with you feeling good and on board with what you’re doing, and they are demonstrating their trust in you and in the process as a result of your conducting a good intake assessment and providing a good treatment plan. And the client is showing up having done the homework, they’re receiving the hypnotherapy, and they’re getting good results. That’s what it has looked like for me when an intake assessment has been done correctly. So I totally agree!

Todd: Kyra, thank you so much. This has been fantastic value.

Kyra: You are welcome!

Todd: To wrap it up, I will say that it’s very important to conduct an intake assessment properly. When you start out as a holistic practitioner, you probably don’t know how to do an intake assessment properly. You’ll have your ideas, of course, but it’s always a good idea with any business system to continually test and measure and sharpen things so that it is doing what you need it to do to give you the results you need so that you can provide great service to your clients.

Kyra and I will provide you with our custom-designed intake assessment which has given proven results thousands of times over. This intake system is included in your hypnotherapy certification training at the Schaefer Institute of hypnosis. Enroll today!

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