Building Referral Relationships - Service Orientation

by

Melhim Restum, PhD

Isolation is common among therapists and can prove “deadly to your practice." Why? The private, confidential nature of the therapeutic relationship – the very foundation of psychotherapy appears to be a key reason. Yet, you need referrals to sustain and grow a successful business. However, few clinicians understand how to cultivate viable referral relationships. A secret?

There are many people who have a vested interest in your success as a practitioner and they would be happy to refer you clients or patients right now. That is because by accepting their referrals you will be offering a service to them, as well. And offering service to referral sources is as important to your business success as offering effective and helpful clinical services to your patients.

This represents a two tiered approach and relationship building: your own clientele and the professional community; and a good, inexpensive place to start when developing a marketing plan. Reaching out to others is easier than you think and there are a number of compelling reasons for doing so. Here are a few.

Diversification of referral sources protects you when one “sector” slows down or stops altogether; the need for service is greater than you realize (how many people are there out there who could use treatment but aren’t getting it?); the number of qualified practitioners is fewer than you think (we’ve all heard stories about practitioners who are inadequate at best or who have caused harm to patients, at worst); letting the community know about a valuable service is not only important but arguably an ethical responsibility, as well; the “billiard ball effect” which describes the typically unpredictable ways in which one contact can lead to other unexpected ones which can grow into a referral sources that account for a significant percentage of your business for many years.

Another concept; every person who comes to see you has referral sources attached to them; a doctor, a teacher, a parent, a spouse, an EAP. And every referral source has interests and needs they are searching to have addressed. A “win, win, win” proposition for patients/clients, referral sources and you.