Colleagues not Competitors: Building Professional Relationships with Your Peers

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Colleagues not Competitors - Building Professional Relationships

When I moved from Atlanta to a rural town, I had the opportunity to join the largest group private practice in my immediate area. Vaguely knowing clinicians outside of this organization, I made efforts to establish professional relationships with those other colleagues.  This involved sending cold emails and messages on LinkedIn to numerous clinicians in the area with the hope of meeting some for lunch, networking, so I could learn more about the area. My plan failed. I received two responses. One person had no interest in meeting, while the other scheduled a phone call and never answered my call nor responded to my subsequent text message. Those experiences discouraged me from reaching out to other therapists in the area for a while.

A year later, a new clinician moved into the office building where I primarily worked. I recalled my feelings when I first relocated to the area and decided to reach out to her. I chose to initiate communication via face-to-face. But as I approached her office, I noticed the closed door and was relegated to leaving a sticky note on the door. Ironically, I saw her in the hallway shortly after I placed the note and was still able to convey my greeting in person. Following this introduction, we have built a good relationship, continue to speak occasionally, and assist each other when needed. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting another clinician who was just moving into the office building. She recently relocated to the area to start her own part-time practice. We had a great conversation and I feel she will be a great asset to our community. She has a niche market completely different from the population that I work with. Because of her unique specialty, I know exactly what clients would be a good fit and can send referrals her way accordingly. Our clinical differences allow us to work together and establish a working relationship so we both can have successful practices.

My meetings with those two counselors reaffirmed the importance of forging professional relationships with colleagues. Some therapists seem to view their peers as competition. They could consider others with the same credentials as deterrents to their business. Professionals with that mindset need to realize that there’s a large population of people suffering from mental health issues, with a vast number of whom are not even receiving services. I believe there are enough people for us to serve that all of our businesses can thrive. We can all be able to provide proper therapy and assist as many clients as possible.  Collaboratively, we could work together to build awareness of the profession and our hope of converting people who are not currently seeking mental health services into clients for our respective practices.

We all have different specialties and ideal clients we want to assist. Mental health issues have always been prevalent and our pledge as clinicians is to our clients. However, we need to remember that we must have a responsibility to our colleagues as well. It’s important for us to promote, support, and empower each other so we can better serve our clients and our profession while  helping to maximize outcomes for all.

The Practice of the Practice Podcast has some good episodes related to networking and establishing professional relationships with others in your field. Two episodes that tie in with the subject of this post are episode 299 and episode 311. Episode 299 focuses on how to optimize the referral process and use that to facilitate growth for your private practice. Episode 311 emphasizes the importance of establishing relationships with those who interact with your ideal clients in order to generate referrals. This episode also mentions how building relationships with other therapists can lead to referrals and further the growth of your practice.

Michael Gilliard II was born and raised in Charleston, SC. He a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Nationally Certified Counselor (NCC) in Georgia. His private practice is named Ujima Counseling, Coaching, and Consulting. It is based on the Kwanzaa principle of Ujima which means “to build and maintain our community together and to make our brother’s and sister’s problems, our problems and to solve them together.” He is also working on experiences which integrate mental health and XR technology. Please contact him to learn more.