Attracting new clients is a top priority for any therapist with a private practice. Although the digital age has given rise to many unique and effective ways for therapists to reach potential clients, referrals from current or former clients and other counselors continue to play a significant role in the growth of a therapist’s practice.
Not sure how to get more referrals? These tips can help:
Network both online and off-line
Networking may allow you to develop relationships with peers who could potentially refer new clients to you in the future. Some forms of networking may also help you reach new potential clients directly.
To take full advantage of networking opportunities, network in the real world and online. For example, a quick search could help you find in-person therapist networking groups in your area. Participate in these, but don’t limit yourself merely to in-person networking. It’s also wise to join and actively participate in networking groups on social media.
Make a point of staying in contact with the people you meet via networking groups. If you only meet someone once, it will be difficult to make a strong enough impression on them to earn a referral. You will both benefit more if you stay in touch.
Additionally, you don’t merely need to network with other therapists. Doing so could limit your chances of consistently getting referrals.
It’s also wise to network with doctors, nurse practitioners, and other medical professionals whose patients may be looking for counselors.
Consider your areas of expertise when determining who to network with as well. For example, if you tend to work with clients who are struggling with grief, you might naturally choose to network with funeral directors. Or, if you often work with children, you can network with schools to get more referrals.
Join a provider panel
Deciding whether to accept insurance or not is one of several important choices the therapist in private practice has to make. If you have chosen to accept insurance, look into joining an insurer’s provider panel.
Share your expertise
Potential clients want to know that you are a qualified professional who has the experience and training necessary to help them with their struggles. Those who may refer you to potential clients also want to know that when doing so, they are referring someone to a counselor who may genuinely be able to serve their needs.
Thus, you can gain referrals and establish your credibility as a therapist by identifying various ways to share your expertise. Examples include (but are not necessarily limited to):
- Giving lectures on relevant subjects at local libraries, colleges, etc.
- Contributing articles to publications
- Blogging and vlogging
- Hosting your own podcast and/or appearing on others’ podcasts
Show your appreciation
This tip can be very powerful after a colleague or client has already referred someone to you. Upon getting a referral, reach out to the person who referred you to a new client to let them know how grateful you are. This will give them reason to refer clients to you again in the future.
Pay it back
This piece of advice is similar to the one above. When a peer or colleague refers a new client to you, consider referring new clients to them as well.
Of course, you should not refer a new client to them if they are not genuinely equipped to serve that client. You should, however, keep them in mind when opportunities to refer new clients arise. Paying someone back for a referral in this capacity will help you strengthen your relationship with them.
Don’t overlook the obvious. While all of the above tips can certainly help you get more referrals, simply asking your clients and colleagues for referrals is still a valid tactic.
However, this strategy is more likely to yield results if you ask in the right way. For example, at the end of your final session with a client, you might provide them with business cards, brochures, and other materials they can potentially distribute to friends and family who might benefit from working with you. Let the client know what these materials are for and make it clear you only expect them to distribute these materials if they had a positive experience with you and they feel comfortable doing so.
All that said, remember that generating referrals takes time. You can’t necessarily expect these tips to trigger a wave of referrals if you only apply them once. However, if you’re willing to be patient, over time, you will learn that consistently following the suggestions here can help you grow your therapy practice through referrals.