The Art of Referral

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  • Language is key.  Avoid the word “therapist.”  Inherent in that word is the implication that your client has a diagnosable condition.  That is probably not the case.  If you are concerned that your client has a mental illness, you should get a consultation before you refer.  Use “coach” or “human behavior consultant.”  These are more palatable.
  • Avoid saying, “I think you need…”  Inherent in that phrase, again, is the suggestion that something is wrong with your client.  A better phrase would be, “You’re the kind of person (bright, curious, and motivated) who might benefit from a coach or a behavioral consultant.
  • Talk about the potential benefits.  If you are referring an individual for coaching you might reference peak performance or improved leadership skills.  If you are suggesting the involvement in a family or business system you might emphasize increased effectiveness or productivity; or better communication or conflict resolution systems.
  • Talk about building on their already sturdy foundation.  Introduce thinking about the possibility that they could achieve even greater effectiveness; satisfaction; and meaning at work and home.
  • Become comfortable yourself with the awareness that individual or systemic transformation often involves complex psychological issues, issues in which you may not be educated or skilled.

Be prepared to tell a story of someone that you know (they don’t need names) that had the benefit of a coach.  Describe the positive impact on their life.  Express confidence in the process and in the professional referral.