I have been hearing a question lately from therapists new to private practice: “Who are my ideal referral partners?” I’m a big advocate of having at least 30 professionals who you trade referrals with regularly. I have found that when you have at least 30 professionals referring to you, have a good chance of building a full practice.
Why you should build your relationships with other newer therapists:
Some therapists who are new to private practice ask me if they should bother putting energy into relationships with colleagues who are also new to private practice. “None of us have enough clients, so we really can’t help each other.” I disagree. I want you to look at your practice building from a long point of view. When you’re thinking about another new therapist, ask yourself if you respect this person’s work and could imagine referring a client to this person. If the answer is yes, invest in that relationship. It is priceless to have long-term colleagues who you trust and who you’ve known throughout your career. Also, even the newest therapist will have people to refer out from time to time. Conflict of interest issues come up at every stage of private practice and no one can work with every person who calls.
Why you should ALSO build relationships with seasoned therapists:
Just as often, newer therapists ask me if they should bother putting energy into relationships with their former supervisors, former teachers, or other highly experienced clinicians. “They already have full practices, and they don’t want to refer to a new therapist.” The truth is that seasoned therapists want to know colleagues from all stages of development. We want to know some therapists who are closer to the beginning because it keeps us fresh and engaged. Newer therapists often have a passion and excitement for the work that seasoned therapists like to be around. That’s part of the reason so many of us supervise interns. Also, don’t assume that seasoned therapists all have full practices. Many of my coaching clients have over 20 years experience and have never learned to market themselves.
When newer therapists worry about who they should build relationships with, I notice an underlying fear: scarcity. When you believe that there aren’t enough clients out there for you, you’ll find yourself believing that networking with other therapists will be fruitless. If you don’t have a full practice, that scarcity narrative can be so convincing! Shift your mindset and see your colleagues as your collaborators. Work to have a group of referral partners who you like and respect. Over time, nurture relationships with colleagues who are diverse in experience level as well as in area of specialty.
Take the long view, and you’ll have a group of referral partners to share your success and struggles with throughout your career.