Best Practices for Responding to Therapy Referrals
Therapy referrals are an essential part of the success of many behavioral health organizations and practices. Through your referral sources, you can grow your reputation and keep a steady flow of clients coming into your practice. You can generate referrals through networking with other mental health and medical providers, building relationships in the community with professionals like religious leaders, school counselors, and nutritionists who might send clients your way, providing excellent care so your clients want to share you with their friends, and using marketing tools like registry listings.
Getting new practice referrals is great, but what do you do with them when they come in? What is the best way to handle your referrals so that the people who reach out become new clients?
Responding to Therapy Referrals
Do not leave a potential client waiting. If someone has referred an individual to you for mental health services, a quick response is one of the best ways to bring them in. Prompt replies show potential therapy clients that you are ready and able to help them. When you let too much time pass between the therapy referral and your response, you send a negative message to the client. You are telling them that you are too busy for them. When it comes to mental health services, clients need to know that you are available and care about helping them now rather than later.
Create a Positive First Experience
Your first interaction with a potential client sets the tone for the therapeutic relationship. Whether you or a staff member are responding to a referral, make sure to offer a personable, efficient, caring experience. If you open the door with the royal treatment, they are more likely to feel positive about you and the work you can do together.
Have a Plan
It is wise to have a plan in place for what to discuss on this first contact. A solid plan will help communicate that you are organized and ready to support new clients. Below are four topics to consider bringing up at the first point of contact.
It is helpful to set expectations about what the first session will look like for your client. If you offer a free or priced initial consultation, that is important to note as part of your introduction.
Talking about your availability will help a potential client figure out whether they can make therapy with you work.
3. Cost and Insurance
Do you accept insurance? If you are a mental health provider who accepts insurance, make sure you ask the patient if they have coverage that you accept. A lot of people are specifically looking for an in-network therapist, so 1) if you do take insurance, be sure to list that information publicly, like on your registry profiles and website and 2) if you don’t take insurance, but can offer a superbill so clients can file for out-of-network reimbursements, be ready to explain that process. Be prepared to talk about out-of-pocket costs for self-pay sessions.
How do you accept payment? Make sure to let the client know when and how you collect fees. For example, do you collect at the time of the visit? Do you send them a bill once a month? Do you accept credit card payments online or in-person?
Take Care of Your Referral Sources
Refer Clients Outward
You have to give to receive. If you get a potential client whose needs your practice is ill-suited to address, refer them to someone who does offer what they need. The time and thoughtfulness you spend referring clients out will help build relationships with other providers and increase the therapy referrals you receive from these referral sources.
If you receive a therapy referral that leads to a consultation or new client, make sure you express your gratitude to the referral source, especially if they’re a professional too. Sending a note of appreciation to the people who are helping new clients find your practice goes a long way. In some cases, it may be appropriate to loop them in on new things you’re learning or new research that is pertinent to the populations they work with. Some practices do this by sending an infrequent (quarterly or annual, for example) newsletter to their referral sources. But showing individual appreciation is really impactful when another professional sends a new client your way—that personal touch demonstrates the kind of care you give to the clients you see, which makes them more likely to send more referrals to your practice.
Registries like GoodTherapy position you to be found by people seeking therapy on their own. To learn more about what a GoodTherapy membership can offer you, click here.
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