We spoke with Tony Ho, a Registered Social Worker and therapist based in Vancouver, BC, Canada, who specializes in helping adults and teenagers address sleep issues, particularly insomnia. He believes that improving sleep quality and reducing worry through evidence-based strategies, can help people get back to feeling, thinking, and performing their best.
Let’s jump in and chat with Tony about sleep and how it affects our daily life.
— A Conversation with Tony —
Why are you passionate about supporting your clients in getting optimal sleep?
Sleep therapy, or cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia, is a specialized form of psychotherapy that addresses unhelpful thoughts and behaviors that can interfere with sleep. I also work with clients to address depression and anxiety, which have a complicated relationship with sleep and affect each other.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends therapy for sleep as the most effective treatment for insomnia over the long-term use of sleep medications, which can come with severe side effects and often lose their effectiveness over time.
I have worked with young children to older adults because all age groups are mentally and physically affected when sleep is poor. Everything feels more challenging when we do not sleep well, especially over a long period.
It’s amazing to witness how my clients shift from feeling powerless over their sleep problems to empowered by unlocking knowledge about their own unique sleep needs and rhythms. It is incredibly rewarding to help people get back the sleep they need to have energy and greater focus to get the most out of their day.
You’ve built a thriving counseling practice by emphasizing a high-level client experience. Why is the client experience important to you?
I think of the systems that I use to manage my sleep therapy practice as an extension of my relationship with my clients – it needs to be accessible, flexible, and responsive to their needs. The tools I use also need to align with how I want to be as a health practitioner: trust-worthy, reliable, and confident in my ability to help my clients resolve their sleep problems.
What advice would you give to other practitioners who want to create an excellent experience for their clients?
Leverage your excellent communication skills as a healthcare professional and apply the same core values to everything you will use to manage your practice. Clients are at the heart of what we do and why we do it. And an extraordinary experience is central to helping clients get the results that are looking for.
Here are two tips for creating a great experience:
Visualize and physically map out a client’s journey through your practice from the initial contact to the very last session. How do you want them to feel? What elements build trust and good communication? How might you stay connected?
Once you’ve identified the tools you want to use to support your practice, think about the client-side experience. Are the tools and documents that you use to facilitate your work accessible, flexible, and responsive to each client’s needs?
Ask a bunch of colleagues, friends, and family to test and critique the flow of what a client would experience in your practice.
Which Practice Better features have helped you to create a streamlined and elevated client experience?
The feature I love and use the most is creating comprehensive forms and assessments that I can easily send to clients, which is also easy to fill out. Being a result and evidence-based practitioner, I lean on tools that help me, and my clients make decisions with greater confidence, and organized electronic forms save me a lot of time.
The feedback I get most often from my clients is that they like the “one-stop-shop” approach of being able to do everything from billing, forms, or connecting with me via text and video conferencing all from one functional app.
In your experience, is finding the right fit between the practitioner and client more important than the particular model of care?
Research shows that a positive outcome from counseling and therapy relies on a good relationship between the client and their therapist. A positive connection matters just as much as the type of therapy or approaches a counselor uses. It’s the relationship that helps the client connect with, stay in, and stay motivated to get the most out of therapy.
I have found this to be true throughout my career as a therapist, but especially in my private practice work. Not everyone will find a good connection with me or are ready to do the work needed to get the results they want. It is still my responsibility to assess fit at the very beginning of our relationship and be transparent when I think we’re not a good fit (and refer out to my network), or if I might not be a good time to start therapy.
How important has word of mouth been in marketing your practice?
Word of mouth has been essential for helping me scale up my practice and build up my reputation as a specialist in therapy for sleep. Don’t underestimate the power of good reviews on Google Business!
How can other practitioners start building their own referral network and encouraging word of mouth among their clients?
Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals. If a client had a great experience working with you, they would seldom hesitate to tell their colleagues and people in their community about your services. I think of my referral network as an extension of the trust clients put in me. There are many fantastic and supportive professional groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, but it’s important to vet who you choose to refer clients to carefully.
Do you have anything coming up that you’d like to share with the PB community? Where can our community go to learn more about you?
Sign up for my free upcoming Better Sleep 101 course and get yourself (and your clients) on the right path for a better night’s sleep. You will also get the latest research-backed strategies and ideas to help improve your mental well-being.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Tony!
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