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When & How To Refer Clients Out

As a complementary therapist, you can probably recognise that you have a unique set of skills and a specialised area of expertise.  And while you may want to help all of your clients with all of their issues, sometimes it’s best to refer your client to a professional who has expertise in a specific area. Alternatively, there may be times when you encounter a client who is just simply not a good fit for your particular style of practice or even your personality. In all of these situations, it’s important to have a plan in place for referring your client to another professional who may be better suited to their needs.

One reason to refer a client out is when their issue is outside of your scope of practice. For example, if a client is experiencing severe depression or anxiety, it may be best to refer them to a licensed therapist or mental health professional. Similarly, if a client is experiencing chronic pain that you are either not qualified to work with or are not getting results, then referring them to a chiropractor or physical therapist, for example, might be the best course of action.

Another reason to refer a client out is if you believe that they would benefit from a complementary therapy that you do not offer. For example, if you are a massage therapist and a client is experiencing chronic headaches, referring them to an acupuncturist may be helpful.  Or maybe you believe they could maintain results longer by attending yoga classes. 

With that said, creating relationships with other professionals to refer to is a crucial aspect of your practice. It not only allows you to provide your clients with the best possible care, but it also helps you to build a network of trusted colleagues who can help you in return. Below are ideas for how to connect with professionals in complementary fields to introduce yourself and build relationships:

  1. Join professional organisations: Any of you that know my background of working within professional organisations will not be surprised to see this one on the top of my list!! Many complementary therapy modalities have their own professional organisations where therapists can meet and connect with other professionals in their field.  Even better if you can find a reputable multi-disciplinary organisation that feels like the right fit for you.
  2. Attend conferences and workshops: Conferences and workshops are great opportunities to meet other complementary therapists and professionals in related fields. This way you will connect with therapists who do work similar to yours, but maybe have a different style or personality.  This is particularly useful if you find you are unable to build a rapport with a particular client and want to refer them to someone who might be more suited in their style or personality. 
  3. Participate in online groups and forums: There are endless online Facebook and LinkedIn groups and forums where therapists can connect with other professionals and ask for recommendations for clients who need a different approach. If you can find someone local, then maybe you can swap treatments a few times to get an idea of their style. I have connected with some seriously amazing therapists on Facebook that I have stayed connected with for over 10 years – I have even met a few!
  4. Rent a space in a health and wellness clinic: Renting a space in a health and wellness clinic is a great way to meet other professionals in the field and work alongside them.  This can allow you to create fully-rounded services to your clients, and can generally give you a sense of professional support that just can’t be found working by your lonesome in this industry. 
  5. Attend trade shows: Trade shows related to complementary therapies can be a great way to meet other professionals and learn about new products and services and build connections in a fun and laid-back atmosphere.

When you refer a client to another professional, it’s important to do so in a way that is professional and compassionate. Explain to your client why you believe another or additional professional may be a better fit for their needs and provide them with a list of referrals to choose from. It’s important to ensure that the referrals you provide vary in style and skill set so that your client can choose the one that feels most comfortable for them.

It’s also important for you to communicate clearly with the other professional that you will refer the client. Let them know why you are referring the client, what the client’s goals are, and any relevant medical history. You may also want to follow up with the other professional to ensure that the client is receiving the care they need.

Remember, referring a client to another professional is not a sign of failure, but rather a recognition that your client’s needs may be better met by someone else. By building relationships with other professionals and having a plan in place for referrals, you can ensure that your clients always receive the best possible care, even if it’s not from you directly. And most importantly, your clients will feel supported and not abandoned in their journey towards wellness.

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