Waiting List FAQs

Seeing a counsellor, whether it be for the first time or at a subsequent time in your life, is a commitment. Successfully making this commitment involves planning. As such, it is important to me to be as transparent as possible about my waiting process, in the hopes of assisting you to make an educated decision about whether or not you would like to wait to pursue counselling with me.

Here are some of the most frequent questions I receive about my waiting list. If you have a question that I haven’t addressed here, please let me know!

Why a Waiting List?

As you may have read on the main waiting list page, my vision for Willow Tree Counselling is that it remain an independent, individually-run counselling practice for clients who are interested with me, Megan Sutherland. I am honoured that many people who contact me say they do so because they feel drawn to working with me personally.

As you can imagine, because I do not have staff or associates, I am the only person seeing clients and I have a maximum number of sessions I can provide in a week.

How Long is the Wait for Counselling?

This is the most frequent question I receive and the most difficult to answer because it depends on several factors:

  • The number of clients I currently am working with and their session frequency
  • The number of clients completing their counselling at any one time
  • The number of clients on the waiting list
  • The number of last-minute cancellations that I receive that my current clientele is not available for; if you have last-minute availability this increases the possibility of an earlier appointment
  • The number of people on the waiting list, who, when contacted, do or do not respond to the invitation to start counselling. Because the decision to waitlist is not a guarantee that the person has committed to counselling, the number of people who do not respond to my invitation is generally over 50%.
  • Whether you are available for daytime appointments or are only available for evening sessions, which are limited.
  • Whether I have upcoming vacation time.
  • Whether you are seeking in-person or phone counselling.
  • Whether you are seeking individual or couples counselling. There is a longer wait for couples counselling as it is a smaller portion of my practice.

As of September 2017, the length of my waiting list is approximately 7-8 months for daytime, in-person appointments for individual clients. The estimated current wait time for couples appointments is 8-9 months. I will continue to update this estimate monthly, or contact me to request a current status report. Currently, there is no waiting list for daytime phone sessions.

Could You Fit Me In?

As much as I would love to be able to do that, I am generally booked solid 4-6 weeks in advance with my regular clientele. I am not able to cancel existing appointments to make room for new people.

If you think daytime phone counselling might work for you, I offer up to 5 phone sessions a week, on rotating days. There is currently no waiting list for phone counselling.

My Situation is Serious. Could You See Me Right Away?

I recognize that crises occur and this is often a common time to contact a counsellor. I am happy to refer you to another therapist or to do my best to assist you to find alternative services in your community. Unfortunately, because I am so tightly scheduled, I can rarely offer crisis counselling appointments.

Many people who are already waiting to meet with me are experiencing significant distress but have chose to wait to work with me, despite this. If we have had a 15-minute consultation and I perceive you need immediate counselling, I will refer you elsewhere or help you to develop a plan for interim counselling with another counselling service until such time that we can meet.

If you are interested in phone counselling, I generally have several weekly daytime sessions available. Please note that not all situations are appropriate for phone counselling. If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, psychosis, mania, are actively self-harming or are engaging in other behaviour that compromises your safety, I am not able to provide phone counselling. Please call 911 or visit your local hospital emergency department. If you are a Vancouver resident experiencing an urgent, non-life threatening mental health or addictions issue, contact the Vancouver Access and Assessment Centre (AAC), available 24/7.

Could You See Me for One Consultation Only?

Sometimes. Particularly if you are able to take a cancellation that my regular clients aren’t available for. These cancellations are offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Although I cannot guarantee it, sometimes the timing just works out.

How Do Last-Minute Appointment Notifications Work for Those on the Wait List?

If you have ticked the box asking to be advised of these appointments, you will receive notifications whenever they arise.  These are cancellations that have not been taken by my regular clients. These cancellations are made available on a first-come, first-served basis so if this is an option you’ve selected, please ensure that you have entered an email address that you check with some regularity. If you have secured a cancellation, you then become a current client with the option of booking future appointments, starting with my first available opening, should you so choose. There may be a lag of several weeks depending on how booked my schedule is. You also then have earlier access to future cancellations, reserved first for my regular clientele. You are not returned to the general waiting list after your initial appointment.

How Often Do Last-Minute Cancellations Become Available?

The number of cancellations I receive in a week typically ranges from zero to three.  Some weeks you may not hear from me and other weeks you may be apprised of multiple cancellations. If you feel like you are receiving too many notifications, I am happy to stop sending them to you and change your status to wait list only. Just let me know!

If I Get A Last-Minute Appointment Do I return to the Waiting List For My Next (Follow-Up) Appointment?

No, because you are now considered a current client. I will offer you my next available appointment; if I do not have an appointment available at your preferred time interval, you may choose to go on my cancellation list for current clients or prebook as many future sessions as you wish that are reserved exclusively for you.

Why Do New Clients Who Start With a Cancellation Change to Current Client Status?

It takes courage to come to counselling and to open up. Ethically, I believe that once a client starts to talk about what has brought them to counselling, they must leave with the option of a specific follow-up appointment should she or he choose to continue with the counselling process.

What is Faster: The Waiting list or the Cancellation List?

Being able to take a last-minute cancellation can increase the chances of an earlier appointment. However, what list is most active depends on what is occurring with my current scheduling. During times when I have a number of current clients completing their therapy, I will be systematically going down my waiting list and contacting these clients in chronological order. This is because there is now space for new clients to book a series of appointments, should they wish. During very busy times, I will be mostly contacting clients on my cancellation list as follow-up appointments will need to be made on a standby basis until regular appointments can be booked, which may be a number of weeks away.

What if I Wait on the Waiting List and Then Find Out That You’re Not the Right Counsellor For Me?

Yes, that could be frustrating. I recommend a 15-minute in-person consultation so that you can get a sense of me personally and see how you feel in my office. You may also wish to consult my article, Finding A Therapist.

I Want To Meet You For a 15-Minute Consultation. When Should I Waitlist Myself?

I recommend you waitlist yourself right away and then contact me to set up your consultation. You can always re-contact me and request that I remove your name from the waiting list at any point in the process, no questions asked!

Is Your Counselling Practice Truly Full?

Yes, although it could be described as dynamic and always evolving. As clients complete their therapy, new clients are welcomed into my counselling practice. Ethically, I never recommend that clients continue on in their counselling after they have made and maintained significant progress.

Could You See More Clients In a Week?

More than my limit and I am no longer the best counsellor that I can be. My goal is to be fully present for each and every client I see and overloading my schedule works against my service quality goals. Rest and rejuvenation help tremendously!

I Am Concerned I Might Be ‘Forgotten’ on The Waiting List. Could This Happen?

No. I maintain my waiting list personally. I am also diligent about contacting new clients as soon as a space opens up. Over the past several years, I have consistently filled approximately 98% of all my sessions. Any unused appointments, while rare, usually only occur when someone has cancelled last minute or has not shown up. I never want people to be waiting unnecessarily. If you have any concerns about your placement on the list, please contact me for a status update. The only situation I could foresee where a client could get “lost” is if you have changed your email address and I have not been updated or your email program has sent communication from me to your spam folder. If, when your name has come up on my list, you have asked to have your waiting list status held until a particular time when you’re available again, please get in contact with me when you are ready, or provide updates along the way, so that I know you’re still interested.

You Contacted Me When My Name Came Up and I Didn’t Respond. What Happens Now?

I ask for a response within 24 hours, except in extenuating circumstances where you have been offline for several days.  Your name is removed from my waiting list and I move on to the next person on my list.

When My Name Came Up and You Contacted Me, I Didn’t Reply to You Because I No Longer Needed Counselling. My Circumstances Have Changed. Can I Get an Appointment Now?

Sorry, no. I have to honour the folks that have been waiting. I am more than happy if you wish to re-add your name name to my waiting list. I would also suggest that you go on my cancellation list as well.

I Did Reply When You Offered Me An Appointment But The Timing Wasn’t Right. Can I Book Something With You for the Future, or be Put on “Hold”?

We can book an appointment up to 6 weeks in advance. Otherwise it becomes too complex to remember to follow-up with “held” clients. You are more than welcome to return to my waiting list at any time in the future.

Can You Refer Me to Another Counsellor?

Often, yes. Contact me to briefly describe your situation so that I can best direct you to counsellors who work in that area, if applicable. With any referrals I make, I highly recommend that you contact each counsellor individually and interview them by phone or in-person. Each counselling consumer has unique needs and the right counsellor for one person may not be right for the next person. If you email me your referral request, I can email you back relevant links.

I am a Parent With a Child Who is 18+. Can I Refer Them Myself?

It is fine to contact me with questions – particularly if your child feels too shy to ask me directly. If he or she decides that they would like to pursue counselling with me, I ask that they sign up for my wait list themselves. This can often be an important psychological step in the counselling process.

Can I Waitlist Someone Else?

Please have the person you’re concerned about waitlist themselves, or contact me, directly. Most people are very startled when they are contacted by a counsellor when they have not requested counselling. The counsellor is typically startled too! Typically counselling does not proceed in such situations as people understandably feel that their privacy has been violated. If it is a situation where you have a loved one who won’t get help, I have written an article on this topic.

I Am Being Referred By a Medical Professional Or One Of Your Previous/Current Clients. Can I Get an Earlier Appointment?

Sorry, no. I do, however suggest that you place yourself on my cancellation list for last-minute appointments, if your schedule allows.

Do I Need a Referral To Go On Your Wait List?

Not at all! I believe in the least amount of bureaucracy as possible.

I Am Only Available For Appointments on Evenings or Weekends. Do You Have Appointments Available Then?

I have 5-6 openings one evening a week (rotating). Please contact me separately to let me know that you are only available for evening sessions. Evening sessions are my most popular and are booked extensively ahead of time. There is a longer wait for these appointments. I’m sorry, I no longer offer weekend appointments.

Will My Benefits Cover Me for Willow Tree Counselling?

Possibly. Approximately 50% of employee benefit plans cover social workers (my designation). Check with your HR department or extended health carrier to be sure; it’s also good to know what your yearly maximum is, so that you can plan accordingly. The process around extended health claims is that clients pay me directly and I issue an official receipt that they submit to their insurance, either by mail or online.

Am I Obligated to Follow Through With You for Counselling Once I have Added My Name to Your Waiting List?

Not at all, although it’s useful but not mandatory if you let me know if you would like to be removed from the list. There is never any pressure or expectation that you commit to counselling with me when you sign up for the waiting list.

I Previously Removed Myself From Your Waiting List. Can I Put Myself on Again?

Most certainly. There are no hard feelings and I understand that situations change frequently.

I Waitlisted Myself a While Ago But I Have Not Heard From You. What is Going On?

It is possible that your name has not come up yet. Please contact me to check. The other possibility is that when you signed up, your email address was either entered incorrectly which means I have no way of contacting you. Again, please check in with me if you are concerned. If you have changed email accounts since you registered for my wait list, please contact me to ensure I have your current email address.

Can I Check In With You While I’m on The Wait List?

Of course! I recommend emailing me for a faster reply. I am always happy to give you a status update.