How to get referrals from doctors

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I have received so many questions from counselors in private practice about how to market to doctors. I decided that rather than email each person back, I would write a post about it.

First, let’s think about what marketing doctors already receive. Doctors have numerous pharmaceutical companies stopping by their office each day. They offer all sorts of swag:  pens, paper, the gadget of the week, and often free meals. How is a counselor to compete?

You shouldn’t.

Drug companies focus on swag, whereas counselors should focus on relationship. It’s what we do! We know people, so use that to your advantage. Don’t even try and play the same game, instead, make up your own rule…and game.

Here are a few things I have learned:

My strategy

  • I primarily give it to my own doctors. They know me and know what I am about. In my own patient sessions when they ask, “How’s it going?” I talk usually talk about my practice and exciting developments. Within that, they always have been the ones to initiate getting more information!
  • I give it to my client’s doctors. When I coordinate with a pediatrician, I try to get 20 copies to them while I am fresh in their heads.
  • It is more important to focus on the relationship with the person, than on your materials. For them to trust you with their patient, student, son/daughter, parishioner, or friend, they need to know that they are in good hands. The sheet of paper matters a lot less than the sense of connection that you develop.

I have 5 solid referral sources, I bet that 95% (I have not kept exact track) of my clients have come from those 5. So I try to focus most of my energy on keeping them connected to Mental Wellness Counseling.

Here is the sheet I use for my practice in Traverse City, Mental Wellness Counseling.

counseling private practice


What you will notice is that I try to integrate my handout with my website My tagline is “We help angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else.” I have intentionally made my website less stiff than my competitors in my area. I have had a tremendous reaction (positively) toward it. I used to have a very standard website and then switched in Feb., within one week, my hits doubled. I try to have that consistency in marketing with this.

Lastly, think about where doctors hang out. Stop focusing on their office. What fundraisers are they at? Who do they socialize with? Where do they relax? Do your best to meet them in casual environments, rather than their office.As you know by now, I am not an insurance guy. I don’t focus on insurance panels, instead, I seek to find clients that will pay for the services they receive. This has reduced my billing, time fighting to get paid, and has increased my focus on my clients to offer better service. As you do the same, you will see that all referrals follow this model, not just doctors.

Good luck!


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Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a licensed professional counseling in Traverse City, MI. He owns Mental Wellness Counseling and also runs the therapeutic sailing program SAIL Champion. He loves what he does!


Sometimes I can’t find photos on Creative Commons, so I use my own. This is an example that is not related. I hope it made you smile.