Networking is essential to your professional success as a counsellor. When you are starting out, making connections with other mental health practitioners will help you gain professional contacts that will help you in your practice. Even once you have worked as a counsellor for years, you still need to revise and update your network occasionally.
Many counsellors find networking and the idea of “selling themselves” challenging and are unsure what is the best way to do it. Instead of thinking that you are selling yourself, think of yourself as an advocate for your business. This distinction can make a difference when it comes to communicating with others about what you do.
Having colleagues to turn to for advice and be a sounding board is very valuable and can help you improve your business by finding new opinions and solutions. But the key benefit of networking is that it helps you find new clients. If you have professional relationships with other mental health workers, they can refer clients to you when someone comes to them that needs counselling or is looking for help with an issue that you specialise in, and vice versa. If you have a professional relationship and they know you offer a great service, people will recommend you to others.
Make sure you connect with complementary professionals as it will not serve you well to only know other counsellors, especially those working in the same niche as you. It’s not likely you will get many referrals as most of your colleagues will tend to keep most of the clients they receive. Diversify who you form connections with so the people in your network will want to give you a referral. Think about the types of workers and places that offer services to people who would benefit from your counselling. For example, if you are a child counsellor, you are likely to get referrals from connections who works in child care.
Finding opportunities to meet people
At CPCA, we aim to provide members of with networking opportunities, and there are other ways to develop your network. If you are uncertain of where to start, you can try:
- Attending events in your area designed for professionals in your field and/or related fields, such as health care providers, law officials, or educators. You can often find events listed on social media.
- Attending a mental health conference once or twice a year as they can offer multiple networking opportunities.
- Using Google or another search engine to locate mental health clinics or private practices in your area. You can even reach out to those who offer services you don’t offer, to ask if they have interest in swapping business cards for you to recommend them clients who aren’t the right fit for your practice. For example, if you work with children, you might reach out to a provider who works only with adults.
- Social media or professional networking websites such as LinkedIn can also help you find other professionals.