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Building Your Private Practice Therapy Referral Sources

Starting your own private practice may be daunting and come with its own set of challenges. Arguably one of the biggest challenges that newcomers face is figuring out where the next (or first) client is going to come from! However, a basic understanding of marketing and the importance of referral sources may help you to negotiate this hurdle. Read on to learn more about developing referral sources.

Developing the Marketing Mindset

Although marketing may not be the first topic that comes to mind when you start your psychology career, it’s a crucial skill to develop when delving into the opening of your own private practice. Much like any business, marketing determines whether or not you will be able to put your therapeutic skills into action.

Yes, people study marketing for years. However, something relatively simple – like developing a marketing mindset – will help your practice thrive. This means understanding how you can best reach the people who need what you have to offer.

Once you understand how to stand out amongst many other practices you should be able to refocus your marketing efforts and ultimately attract more clients. A large source of this comes from understanding what referral sources are, and how they can help your practice.

Basic Referral Sources

So, ultimately, where do you imagine that your ideal clients will be referred from? Let’s look at some of the more common referral sources.

  • General Practitioners
  • General practitioners (i.e MDs) see many patients, which makes them a good referral source when they feel it is necessary. Ensure that you are clear on exactly how you can help any of their patients by educating them on your specialty or area of expertise. If you make a good impression and ensure that they have an understanding of the relevance of psychotherapy, you’re likely to start receiving a stream of referrals.
  • Psychiatrists
  • This is a great referral source to have, as the clients are more than likely already seeing a psychiatrist for conditions on which you are trained to assist. Psychiatrists also see many clients, meaning they could potentially be a great referral source – especially considering that they operate within the realm of the psyche, and would have a great understanding of what you do and how useful therapy can be.
  • Agency Workers
  • Caseworkers, social workers, and even clergy members usually have a continuous influx of people who need their advice. They may be swamped with workload or may not have the necessary expertise to help each and every single one of their clients. This makes them a great contact to have, as they will be referring people who they know could potentially use your specific expertise.
  • Your Fellow Private Practitioners
  • You may view fellow private practitioners as your competition, but you’re all trying to achieve the same goal. This makes it imperative to establish a good relationship with fellow practitioners, as they may be excellent referral sources when they become too busy; or when they are landed with a case that they do not have the expertise to manage.

Establish Relationships

Referral sources are important. However, to ensure consistency, you need to build and maintain relationships that are beneficial to all involved. These relationships are largely built on trust, and trust is earned. It is important to communicate with your referral sources on a regular basis, as this maintains this trust and reminds them that you are ready whenever they need to refer someone to you. Be sure to provide feedback to referring agents following your assessment and/or treatment!

Referral Sources

In Person Meetings

Although phone calls, emails, and other similar exchanges can help you ask for referrals, an in-person meeting can help establish a level of trust that is far beyond what electronic communication may be able to provide. Face-to-face meetings make a vast difference when both building and nurturing relationships on an ongoing basis.

Provide Them With Value Too

Mutually beneficial relationships have a strong impact on relationship building with your referral sources. Ensuring that you have individuals you would refer your clients to when you cannot accommodate them will show that the relationship works for both sides. These relationships not only help build your own referral network and professional community but also allow you to build up a reputation amongst like-minded people within your area of practice.

Maintain Contact

Building a relationship with potential referral sources is important, but maintaining this relationship is equally as crucial. Maintaining contact equates to consistency in referrals, which will help you during periods in which your practice is quieter.

Show a Little Gratitude

This is basic psychology – who doesn’t like to be appreciated? Gratitude can show that you really appreciate all that your referral sources have contributed to you and your practice and may increase the chances that they will refer clients to you in the future.

Diversify Your Referral Sources

Many people still believe that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Although this isn’t exactly true in the field of psychology (we have years of training to thank for this!), this notion is still relevant to some extent. Knowing a wide range of people within the industry and related industries is extremely beneficial. Ultimately, it’s imperative to ensure that you have a broad range of referral sources, as only having one may cause your referrals to fluctuate as situations change.

Network, Network, Network

There are many ways to network with other people in the industry. Broadening your horizons and networking with a diverse range of health care professionals is vital! This is a great way to make new connections that will possibly help you with future clients and referrals. Networking within your community helps build your reputation as a trustworthy clinician who knows what they’re doing.

Hopefully understanding the world of marketing and referrals is a little less daunting now. It’s all possible, and if you get stuck don’t be scared to ask for help. Remember, many people have done this before you – you can do it too.

Starting a Therapy Practice Do’s and Don’ts

So, you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and open your own practice. Fortunately, there are some guidelines that you can follow in order to avoid repeating the mistakes of those who have come before you. In this article, we guide you through a simple ‘starting a therapy practice do’s and don’ts list’. Read on to learn more.

Starting a Private Practice

As a psychologist or therapist, you’ve engaged in a lot of non-profit training. Most of us found ourselves in this profession due to an interest in helping others – not in becoming filthy rich! What many need to take stock of, however, is the fact that helping people and making money are not mutually exclusive. It’s important that you recognize your own worth as a clinician.

Some Things to Do…

Let’s begin our starting a therapy practice do’s and don’ts list on a positive note: with things you should do.

Do Make a Plan

When it comes to starting a practice, the adage – those who fail to plan, plan to fail – is apt! What do you hope to achieve in opening a practice? And how are you going to achieve your goals? Reflect on your progress by tracking your KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). These are personal and may include things such as how much profit you made at the end of the month, or how many of your ideal clients did you see.

Continue to reflect on the sort of practice that you want to develop. For example, will you focus on induvial therapy, couple’s therapy, group therapy, family therapy or a combination of the above? Build a brand for yourself that reflects your vision in every respect.

Do Your Research

It may be worth your while to hire a private practice consultant (i.e. a business coach) to help get your practice off the ground. If this isn’t an option, make sure to do your research – which you’ve already started, given that you’re reading our starting a therapy practice do’s and don’ts list!

Be sure to find the right geographical location for your practice. Insurance is another topic that will require some research: do you know how to process insurance claims? Dealing with health insurance is an art in its own and you can save hours of your time and countless headaches if you hire someone who specializes in it, or else consult with a colleague who can guide you.

Do Identify Your Niche Market and Ideal Client

Failing to find a niche market may result in you getting lost amongst the broad pool of generalists that already exists. Find out who your ideal client is. In your previous work, who did you feel the most energized to help? What type of client would benefit from your approach to therapy? Having a niche market makes you easily recognizable and easy to refer to. If people know exactly who you are, who you help and how you help them you’ll find your practice filling up with clients who are perfectly suited to you.

Do Network and Continuously Build Your Referral Sources

Mental health is a sensitive and private topic for many and people want to work with people that they trust. Networking allows you to connect with professionals around you. It is important to build relationships with these people so that they can trust you.

Starting a Therapy Practice Do's and Don'ts

Attend professional functions, case presentations, and relevant social gatherings. You never know when someone may be looking for a therapist with your skill set. Be open about the service you provide. Keep your business cards on hand and don’t feel embarrassed to spread these widely amongst colleagues and friends.

Some Things Not to Do

Now you know what to do let’s look at some of the things you should avoid in our starting a therapy practice do’s and don’ts list.

Don’t Avoid the Marketing Mindset

Marketing isn’t just for product peddlers. Marketing is what allows your ideal client to find you easily. Firstly, have an online presence that is true to your brand. Social media is a powerful tool and an opportunity that can’t be missed. Other online tools include directories: get yourself listed to make it easier for clients to find you. Offline marketing is also important, get your business cards and flyers in doctors waiting rooms, or take out an ad in the local paper.

Don’t Forget to Build A Website

Your website should tell people who you are, who you help and how you help them. A great website is easy to scan through with your contact details front and center, not hidden at the bottom of the page in the contact us section. Videos are more interesting to potential clients than long paragraphs. Put yourself in the client’s shoes and ensure that your content answers the important questions that might come up in the mind of a prospective client.

Don’t Forget to Establish Boundaries

Even though you want to help everybody all the time it’s important to set boundaries for your sake and for the sake of your practice. Have clear hours of operation and set up a policy for latecomers or no-shows. These topics should be addressed in the first session with your new client; and some choose to write up a formal contract. As paradoxical as it may seem, this sort of formality can be therapeutic for the client: helping them to understand what is expected of them and what the limits of the therapeutic relationship are.

Don’t Get Too Rigid With Your Business Model

When it comes to building a practice that’s both therapeutic and successful, flexibility is key. If your current business model is not working, it’s important that you’re open to change and adaptation.

Do You Have What It Takes?

Opening a private practice is a large undertaking, but if you have a brand and a plan that you feel is important to share with the world, your dream can certainly be made into a reality. Lean on your network, and be sure to ask for advice when you need it. There is no profitable business that didn’t have a few hiccups along the way. Use our starting a therapy practice do’s and don’ts list as a guideline to shape your new successful practice.