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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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.