By Julia W.
Networking is one of the most discussed topics in the therapist community and for a good reason. While mental health providers may have different opinions on how to do it, when, and where, the consensus remains the same. It is vital.
The majority of therapists’ caseloads is built from referrals. These referrals more often than not are gained from networking with peers and professionals working in related fields.
There are numerous ways of networking. Some counselors swear by attending meetups and networking events, others prefer developing one-on-one relationships. Both methods work great but depend on individual preference.
For extroverts, going to events to socialize and promote their private practice is easy and exciting. For example, Allison Puryear of abanduncepracticebuilding.com networked with 90 people in 90 days straight. That means she met one different person daily for 90 days! She admits, however, that this method may not work for everyone and that it was easy for her because she’s a social person.
If you are an introvert, this method is downright frightening and it turns you off to networking altogether. That’s why various therapists recommend easing yourself into networking by setting aside at least one or two days per week to either meet a prospective referral source for coffee or attend a networking gig. By doing this, you take a lot of pressure off yourself and eventually, if you maintain the routine, you’ll be networking effortlessly, which will be great for your private practice.
Who to network with
While networking with your fellow counselors could score you some referrals, in the long run, these referrals might dry up. The therapists may decide to keep the clients to themselves, especially if they specialize in the same niche as you do. To avoid this, it is beneficial for you to build a relationship with professionals who work in ‘related fields.’ This means that you should strive to talk to doctors, divorce lawyers, nutritionists, HR managers, teachers, etc.
Doctors could refer their patients. Divorce lawyers could refer their clients who need counseling. Nutritionists could refer patients who may have eating disorders, while HR managers could refer employees who may be grieving or just need help focusing at work.
Dos and don’ts
Since you now know the basics, it’s essential to remind you of the dos and don’ts:
Do print attractive business cards. While you may make a good connection with someone, not giving them a business card might be bad for your business as they will not have a way to contact you or to know where you are based.
Don’t overwhelm your potential connection with information about your private practice all at once. Imagine some sales guy walking up to you at the mall and rattling on about his product and what it does, then asking you to buy it. All of this without exchanging any pleasantries or letting you get a word in edgewise. Would you buy what he’s selling?
Do let the conversation stray out of the professional context with a potential connection. Think of this like a first date. Talk about their kids, the weather, their hobbies and interests, their favorite vacation destination, etc. It may seem like small talk, but it goes a long way when they feel you are genuinely interested in getting to know them.
Don’t oversell your practice or what you do. It is understandable that you want them to know that you are really good at what you do and that you are the best resource for their clients. But for some people, it may seem like you’re trying too hard, either because you aren’t that good or you are a tad bit narcissistic.
Do be subtle in your sales pitch. Do this by highlighting what you do, how you can help people with your approach, and how it will be beneficial to them to refer clients to you.
Don’t forget to send a thank you note! If one of your connections send you a referral, make sure to send them a personalized note thanking them for the referral. It is always nice when someone acknowledges you when you do them a favor.
Although it may seem like there are too many “rules,” don’t let that discourage you. Think of networking as making friends. Approach it the same way you would approach someone you want to have a relationship with. Be consistent and patient, and soon enough you will be networking like a pro!