There are times that you will not be able to help your clients and when this occurs it is important that you refer them to appropriate services who will help them. Six things need to be considered when making referrals.
1. Client Needs - In order to accurately prepare an appropriate referral, you will need to do an assessment. Gather information about the client and ask him/her what they feel would be helpful. Your expertise is important as clients often do not know what they need or think that you are the "answer" to their problems. there are also times when you will need to be wise in deciding which problems need to be dealt with first in order to relieve stress for the client.
2. Service Options - Understanding the types of services that are available will help you to explain them to the client. Knowing the mandate, strengths and weaknesses of the organization or professional will help the client make a good choice I find that my clients greatly appreciate my knowledge and honesty when it comes to helping them find a specialist or program.
3. Consent - Before you make any contact with the office or organization where you are referring the client, ensure that you have full informed consent from the client. This is best done in written format.
4. Transition - I usually talk with the client about how I will complete the referral and explain how much information will be sent in the referral letter. I also ensure that they know the address, contact information, and approximate timeframe in which they will be seen by the other professional. Asking the client to contact me if they have not heard regarding an appointment time, shows them that I am concerned that they do receive the appropriate services in a timely manner.
5. Follow up - When I see the client for their next appointment, I read the referral letter to them so they know what was said about them. I also gather information from them about the experience they had in booking an appointment. If they have already had their appointment, I ask them to tell me about it and whether they felt it was helpful for them. If I have received any reports from the professional, I review them with the client and we discuss how the recommendations made might be implemented into our treatment plan.
6. Building the Referral Network - When clients have been pleased with the referred services, I continue to work with that office. Exchanging business cards, brochures or other information will not only help the clients but also strengthen the relationship and ultimately result in further referrals back and forth between you and the other agency. Sometimes it takes time for referrals to come your way. Do not panic. This might be because there is another therapist who has been working with that office for some time. If you are wondering how you can improve the relationship remember, most people love to be taken out for lunch! Ask good questions about how you can enhance your relationship and ultimately receive referrals from that person.
We are not all things to all people and therefore need to ensure that we can make appropriate referrals so their needs will be met. This is all part of making business a wonderful daily adventure..