The first step in making an effective referral is believing that referral is an appropriate and professional service which is in the client’s best interest. If we believe that the client is being short changed by our referring them, we will often not be effective in making referrals.
The second step in making referrals is to know the professionals and other resources available in our community. It is important to get to know professional Christian counselors, hospital personnel, and a variety of physician specialties such as family physicians, pediatricians, obstetricians and gynecologists, and psychiatrists. As we get to know these professionals and how they work, we can feel more confident that those we refer will be in good hands.
A third step in making effective referrals is to be able to convince clients that the referral is necessary. It is important that we be honest with our clients and that we let them know when there is a more professionally skilled person who is best to treat them, or that we may have conflicts in dealing with a particular client or their problems. It is also important that we have enough self confidence and integrity to be able to be honest about the limits of our professional competence. We each have an area of specialty. No professional can be all things to all people.
A fourth step in making effective referrals is to be able to educate the client about what the professional we are referring them to will be able to do for them that we are not able to do. It is also helpful if we can assist the client in becoming more comfortable with the person we are referring to by informing them that we know the person personally, and that in our experience with them they can be trusted and are helpful.
A fifth step in making effective referrals is the ability to allow clients to express themselves and their feelings about referral. Some clients may be angry, some clients may feel depressed or betrayed, and other clients may be afraid. It is important to allow the client to discuss these feelings. It may be necessary for us to offer reassurance and clarification of any misunderstandings. It is also important that we allow clients to know that we do care for them and that we intend no malice or harm by making the referral. Redefining what your relationship will be like after the referral is completed is strongly recommended.
The sixth step is getting the client to make a commitment to follow through with a referral. If we simply say to a client, “I suggest you call a counselor,” and we are not specific about who we are referring to, the chance of follow through is extremely small. If we ask the client if they will commit to making the phone call, and when they will make the phone call to make to appointment, then there is a significantly increased chance of follow through.
Sometimes it is a good idea to allow the client to make the phone call from your office. Particularly, when the client has made a commitment to follow through with a referral, but we sense that if the client hesitates the resolve will weaken, it is a good idea to have the client make the phone call from our office. Sometimes it is effective to ask the client if you can make the phone call for them. Making the initial phone call sometimes makes it easier for the client to follow through.
Most professional offices will ultimately require that the client make a call themselves directly before appointments will be established. If a client is unwilling to talk with a counselor or with an intake counselor over the phone they are often likely to cancel or not show up for their first appointment. Also, many professionals give instructions to help prepare the client for their first appointment and obtain information that will reduce some of the initial paperwork.
A seventh step in making effective referrals is agreeing on what information will be shared with a new professional. If we have previously provided counseling, testing, or any other service, it is important to discuss with the client whether they wish those results be forwarded to the professional we are referring to.
Professionals require a signed release in order to disclose information. Counselors are bound by a code of ethics and laws that require guarding client information and client confidentiality. In the case of pastors and physicians making referrals to professional counselors, it will be necessary to sign a two way release of information in order for information to legally be exchanged as we serve as teammates in helping our clients. It is important that we explain to our clients that working together is in their best interest. As we are able to communicate we are able to work as a team which often speeds the process and increases the chance of successful outcome.
The final step in making effective referrals is follow up. It is important for us to check with clients to make sure that they made the telephone call and established an appointment. It is also important for us to follow up with our clients following their first appointment with their counselor. When people come for counseling they are often confused, anxious, and sometimes disoriented. Sometimes clients will come away from sessions with mistaken impressions or misunderstandings of something that was said in the counseling process. Counseling is a painful process and sometimes raises resistance.
The Problem Of Mis-information. Sometimes clients keep important information from their counselor and expect their counselor to have the ability to read minds or have magical insight so as to know facts without their telling us. As the referring professional, if we communicate with the counselor, we can often help work through whatever resistance or anxiety the client may have continuing the counseling process.
It may also be necessary for the referring professional to give feedback to the counselor on how the client perceived the counseling process. It is helpful to encourage counselees to discuss their anxieties and concerns directly with the counselor. Many clients fear conflict and may not be assertive enough to tell their counselor when the counselor is off the subject or has misinterpreted some of the facts. Also it is important for counselees to be able in the counseling relationship to tell the counselor when they disagree with what is being said. These skills make for the most effective counseling outcomes. Sometimes those refereed need a little encouragement in order to be able to make the counseling relationship effective.
Nearly every professional counselor has had clients who have misquoted, quoted out of context, or selectively misrepresented what was said during counseling sessions. Manipulation is a frequently used coping strategy in clients with emotional problems. Unfortunately, these clients also manipulate the various care-givers providing them with services, and can threaten to sabotage the counseling process. The best solution to this problem is for care-givers to communicate directly with one another. In this way the various helpers can cooperatively develop a treatment plan and coordinate the services they provide. Any attempts to manipulate will be discovered.
How to Contact Us:
You may contact us by telephone or e-mail. Our office hours are from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. Evening counseling appointments are available on a limited basis by request.
Autumn Oaks Building – 71st and Canton/ 6846 South Canton, Suite 501/ Tulsa,Oklahoma 74136