A Better Way to Make Community Referrals ft. Anna O’Brien

As therapists, we want to help all the people we can to get the support they need. But sometimes you or your practice may not be in a position to provide that support.
Community referrals can be a great solution.
Join me as I chat with community referral expert, Anna O'Brien.

In This Episode, You'll Learn:

  • How to create a list of referrals that you really believe in
  • A great resource for finding these ideal referrals

Resources Mentioned In This Episode:

The Consult List
Therapy Intake Pro

⬇️ Click for full episode transcript ⬇️

Uriah
Hi, Anna! Welcome to the podcast!

Anna
Hi, Uriah. Thank you. Thanks so much for having me.

Uriah
Absolutely. It's such a pleasure to meet you today and get to talk about fun things that we both are interested in.

Anna
Absolutely, yes.

Uriah
I have to say, I always love hearing about other therapists that are doing unique creative things. And when that collides with software tools that make life and business easier, I'm just like, count me in.

Anna
Yeah, it's nice. And we can find a way to use them for good, because technology can be a double edged sword sometimes, but certainly there are lots of ways that it can improve our lives and our processes and help clients.

Uriah
So true. I feel like I've been on a mission for a long time to try to figure out how to make it easier for people who need counseling to find the right counselor quicker. Seriously. That's part of the reason why I started a group practice. It's part of the reason why I've done a bunch of networking over the years, and I've done so much blogging and outreach and all kinds of things because it's still so hard. And I think you would agree, but you can tell me your perspective still so hard. For somebody who realizes that they have a serious need, counseling is part of the answer. And how do I find the right providers? I'm sure you've noticed that.

Anna
Oh, yeah. I mean, that's kind of what made me jump into this. The feeling of guilt when your phone rings. Like, first of all, when you start private practice, you can't wait to get full and you're so excited. And then when you are full, especially with all the stress of the pandemic and it was a lot of weight to carry, I think, for all of us in our personal lives. And then having a full case load, you start to understand why you hear people say, gosh, I've called several therapists and no one has called me back. At first, I kind of couldn't believe that that was becoming standard in our field, but then I started to understand why people are therapists are so overwhelmed right now. But it's also just really deflating. I think we've all been there or had someone close to us go through that where we're looking for help and we don't get called back. So that was something where I just there's got to be a better way. And luckily, I have a great business partner who is kind of the other side of the brain for me. I'm a creative person and art therapist, and I'm really great at coming up with ideas, but the implementation of them is always challenging unless I have a kind of someone who's a little more logically minded.

Anna
And so it really has worked out well, and I'm excited to hopefully help some folks, clients and therapists alike, through this.

Uriah
That's fantastic. Yeah, I encountered that same problem. We're talking about not too long ago when I was actually looking for a therapist for my family. And I mean, the first problem was, of course, I know too many people. Yes, there's that, but also there's a lot of therapists. I'm in Northern California, and I know in different parts of the country there's not as many therapists, but on the coast there seems to be, and in closer to big cities, we're pretty close to San Francisco. Tons and tons of options. How do you find the best one? Tons of research.

Anna
Right.

Uriah
It took me a lot of time. And asking people, asking friends, asking colleagues, doing all of that and looking at directories as well, those types of things.

Anna
And Facebook groups. Right. I think that's where a lot of.

Uriah
Facebook groups yeah, definitely. But the thing is, you don't want to just be given a list of people. You want to be given a list of people that could most likely help you with your particular challenges. Right. So I don't want to know about all the team therapists in Sonoma County. I want to know about the best ones for these particular challenges. Right. So I don't know what you call it. I guess in business they call it a qualified referral. Right?

Anna
Right.

Uriah
This is the ideal person for this provider, and that's what we want is for the client that has a specific need to connect with the right provider. And the console list is a solution for that.

Anna
Yes, yes. That's the whole goal, is that clients are happier when they get the right therapist, and therapists are happier when they get the right clients for their niche. We've been working with school counselors in the district near me and noticing that you don't just slap their child therapist label on it and then all of a sudden it works for everyone. There are therapists that are children therapists that are really great with selective mutism, while someone else may be really excellent at working with self harming teens. So a good fit benefits everyone. And also the way I see it is it also helps us address this mental health crisis, because how many times have you heard someone say the therapist was really nice that they used to see, but I just didn't notice much progress. And I'm sure that therapist was great for maybe some other niche, but maybe it just wasn't a good fit. And so if we can get people immediately or quickly into the right hands, they're likely to do better and heal faster, and therefore it allows us to help more people. And that just would be like a dream, right.

Anna
To be able to really, as a field, address this problem by keeping it in private practice and preventing people from going to kind of maybe subscription services or something that is may be questionable in terms of outcomes or ethics.

Uriah
That makes sense. And I was just thinking about the feeling that you get as the therapist making the referral that you know is the best one for them. And that feels good. And I don't think there's any therapists out there that want to just scatter shot, make referrals. Well, here's three child therapists that might work for you. Nobody wants to do that. You want to go like Jim across town. He works great with eight year old boys who are on the autism spectrum. He's your guy, or whoever that is. Right. And so that's, I think, partially what the console list wants to make more possible and easier. Right. So for people who haven't heard about the console list and have never been to the website yet, the consolelist.com, can you just give a description of what it is and how it helps?

Anna
Sure. So it's a clinical referral tool. And what we mean by that is that it helps the clients in the end by giving them a list of qualified therapists that have indicated they have space available. The people who are members of the consultants are clinicians or Allied Health members or school counselors. So it helps therapists who are fall find therapists and grow their referral network with therapists who have availability. And it gives them a lot of control over that because they can choose who they refer to. So you can have different lists. You can have your EMDR therapist list of people who you know and trust, and you can also get on there and kind of see, like, who do I trust? Who do they refer to? So maybe that helps me learn a little more, grow my network. And so it allows us to kind of send referrals and choose where they go. And then also if we don't get enough offers, and when we say a consultation offer, we basically just means the person has agreed they have space available, and they're open to the phone call and to talk to the person to see if it's a good fit.

Anna
So we're really hoping that we're going to be able to help people find people within their preferred network. And if there aren't people available in their preferred network, they can expand it to area therapists, and they get to choose, like if they want the names to automatically go on the list or if they want to be able to see who's offered a consultation and then hand select which ones actually go to the client. We're working with therapists and then also Allied Health. So we're beginning to talk to Health Systems Hospital, Er discharge nurses, social workers, rehabs that maybe need outpatient therapy for their clients as they're leaving rehab. School counselors, as I mentioned, to help families find therapists for their kids. And those the Allied Health and School counselors, they just refer. They're not accepting clients. So there's that capability as well.

Uriah
I love that, actually, because one of my therapists and I were on a school campus last week at a wellness fair and I would love to share this resource with the school counselors there because part of their job is finding resources for families and kids in need. So that's brilliant. I love it.

Anna
Thanks.

Uriah
Wonderful. So I just signed up today. You know this?

Anna
Yes.

Uriah
And I was excited to check it.

Anna
Out because I see your name come through.

Uriah
Awesome. That's great. And the listeners know this, or most of them do, but I am a group practice owner and I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist, but I no longer see clients. That was one of the first things that came to my mind that we chatted about briefly before hitting record on this is I don't want anybody referring to me. So what I would love if it's okay, this is kind of a selfish request, but hopefully the benefits, the listeners as well as you can kind of tell me and share with me how can I best use the console list for my group practice and then also for my community? Because I can think of a ton of people that I want to be on here and refer to. In fact, of course we have a list that my intake coordinator shares with clients that we can't serve. So tell me, how can I get the most out of this?

Anna
Sure. So one thing that I wanted to clear up is you don't have to be accepting clients to join the console list. You can join and there's like a snooze feature that allows you even if you are sometimes accepting but not you can snooze for a certain amount of time and then it'll kind of check back in with you to say, hey, do you have any openings now? And after 45 days or so, whatever time you choose. Or you can elect to click not accepting and you're showing that you're not accepting any referrals and you're just referring out. So as far as how it can help with a group practice, we are working on functionality now. Right now what we have is, as I had mentioned, the list, but we're working on functionality and a solution for intake managers of a group practice to help them route the referral that comes into the group practice to different members and get those members of the group practice on the associates on in kind of a circle is what we call it. And then also what your intake manager could do is enter instead of getting a sheet of paper or emailing a PDF of people who you refer to, enter those contacts onto the consult list and they get an invitation to join and it's free.

Anna
But all essential features are free. They can then join. And so when you have a request, you can use drop down buttons only to kind of describe a little bit about what's going on with the person, what they're looking for, what kind of insurance they have, what availability they have. And you can send those to your preferred preferred clinicians. They can then indicate if they have space by clicking a button to raise their hands, or they can turn the offer down or just not respond and it doesn't go on the list for the prospective clients.

Uriah
I love this new feature because that's one of the challenges with making referrals, whether it's to a support group or an individual clinician, you just don't know if your favorite referral sources are busy or not. And if they're your favorite, they're probably busy.

Anna
Yeah, I know it's nice to give referrals, but sometimes I'm like, I'm getting your three names and I think that they're full. And then you're going to go down this rabbit hole of dead end referrals because they're going to give you three names of people who are full.

Uriah
Yes. One of my favorite therapists to refer to in my area is consistently full, and so I love making the recommendation and the referral for somebody to see her. But it's like if you can get in, so it feels good to give that referral, but not completely because I don't know if they can get in.

Anna
Right, right. Like worrying about getting their hopes up and then being like, yeah, there's eight year wait list.

Uriah
Yeah, right, exactly. So you're saying that with the new functionality coming out in the near future, then I can add all the clinicians in my group practice and so we can essentially refer internally to our group. I like that.

Anna
Totally. Yeah. Currently you can do that with a list, but with a list, there's one owner, so that person can then refer out that the new functionality will allow each person to refer. So if I was an associate at your practice and I got a call and I can't take it, I can then send it back to the circle of the group practice and see if anyone else and I kind of keep it in the group as possible.

Uriah
And how would that work for us? We have an intake coordinator that's one of the productive therapists, virtual assistants, actually. And none of the clinicians get calls or messages about new clients, so they all get funneled through the intake coordinator, which I think is how a lot of group practices, not all do it. So how would Tiffany, my intake coordinator, potentially use the console list?

Anna
Right. So typically it's for therapists who are licensed, but with this functionality, it will allow a licensed therapist who's the owner of the practice to indicate or allow intake coordinator on. So that might be an office person. What's really nice about this is it kind of gives them I wouldn't say a script, but it lets them know what to ask. Right. So they're going through the case details and they're saying, okay, so can you tell me a little bit about where you're located? Are you open to telehealth or in person so they can just kind of go through the check boxes and they can get all the information they need and make sure without the clinical training, they still know how to get the information that a therapist would need. And the great thing about it, too, is it really preserves the patient's privacy. We go out of our way and we've worked with lawyers, eric Strong, who is awesome too, out of Portland, who is a psychologist and a lawyer and ethics expert about how to do this in the best way. And we think we've hit the sweet spot, but we're always looking to grow.

Anna
And we have a referral ethics committee that will meet quarterly to kind of review all the information so that we know when we're making a decision, it's not just about business, but it's about doing right by our clients and having best practices and referrals.

Uriah
That's great. That's not an easy process. I know a little bit about that and quite a lot of hurdles and things to jump through hoops that's good. But for everybody listening, if you want to join the consult list, just know that that process has been gone through and continually gone through, I imagine, to make sure that the potential clients are protected, data privacy is all squared away and all that good stuff.

Anna
Yes.

Uriah
Don't sell data, right? Yes.

Anna
Which I feel like it's so strange that that's become a common practice that I have to be like, yeah, I'm not horrible, have you on the back.

Uriah
That used to be common sense, but exactly. So just this question popped into my head. No part of this, and I know it doesn't, but just for clarification, no part of this involves anybody getting paid to give a referral share, et cetera.

Anna
Not at all.

Uriah
Obviously that's not happening. Yeah.

Anna
You can join at the essentials feature or essentials membership for free, and it will always be free. It allows you to accept as many or offer as many consultations as you want, enter as many cases as you want when you get to the paid membership, which is higher, it just offers more time saving features. So there are some features where we can offer a link to the prospective client so that they can just keep checking back at their list over the coming days to see who's responded. So that really is like a one and dine. You're picking up the phone call or you're answering an email, you're getting the information and you're done. Instead of the current system, which seems to be a lot of phone tag of like, okay, let me ask a couple of people and call you back, or whatever it is. So there's a lot of more time saving features there's. Also, if you're a new clinician or new to private practice and you really are focused on getting clients, you can have different we're working on functionality, but you can have different profiles that are publicly like for the clients that will show up.

Anna
So let's say you work with teens, but you also work with college students that are transitioning to college. You may have a different bio that copy that says something like, first year college is so hard versus like, yeah, being a teenager in high school is so difficult. You can kind of choose so that when the prospective client is reading, they feel like your copy is really speaking to them.

Uriah
That's very unique. I like that.

Anna
Thanks. Yeah. Trying to think of creative solutions here.

Uriah
That's pretty clever. I like that one a lot, actually, because somebody lands on a bio on Psychology Today or somewhere else, and it's like all about new moms. And you're like, well, okay, not me, I'm out.

Anna
Right. Yeah.

Uriah
I don't want that. Because a lot of people have more than one ideal client. For sure.

Anna
Exactly.

Uriah
Yeah, for sure. So this might be I don't know if this is a nonsensical question, but it crossed my mind. How is the consult list different than a therapy directory.

Anna
While we have an inner clinician directory that is not public facing? So if you have a client and they go to the consultus.com, they're just going to see that you have to have a license to sign up and that it's for therapists. So this is really more of a networking tool. At some point, someone is going to have to stop me from making this joke because I just love it. But instead of LinkedIn, we kind of joke that it's like shrinks in.

Uriah
That's terrible, but I think you should be terrible.

Anna
Thank you. I'm a mom now, right? I got mom humor.

Uriah
Yes.

Anna
So anyways, we have this ability to see, again, like, who you are referring in your second degree connections. And in that directory, the interconnection directory, you can see a clinical bio for the clinicians. So it's not just public phasing that you get to see something that no clients will see, which is like what their training is about and how they back up saying that they have a specialty in some area, but that's really it. That's a piece of it. But we're not a directory. We're like a kind of a referral, like a systematic way to handle referrals and make sure that things don't fall through the cracks and feel like you did right by everyone and support your fellow clinicians and support the community around you and just generally feel better about that part of your practice.

Uriah
I like that it's a different value proposition. But it's really important because I think correct me if I'm wrong, but I think a lot of therapists and I've done this before when you don't know somebody when you don't know the right people to refer to you sometimes go to a directory like Good Therapy or Psychology Today and you do a search and you try to find the best person you can even though you don't know them. So the console this seems like a more ideal way to refer versus just a huge directory for clients who are looking. Exactly. That's.

Anna
Great.

Uriah
Just so you know, I did a quick search and Shrinkin.com is available.

Anna
We thought about it, I'm not going to lie, but I'm pretty sure if we officially went after that, they may not like it.

Uriah
Yeah, I recently was educating myself on trademarks and copyright law. So you don't want to mess around with that.

Anna
Especially when you're self funded. Sure, let's stay in my corner.

Uriah
So one other question as I'm thinking about using this and how to utilize it is how do I get my 20 favorite local providers on the consult list so that I can have them on my list and in my circle or whatever the language is? All of the above.

Anna
Yeah. So what you would do is there's an area on the site where you can invite colleagues to join. So you would go in and you would type in their name and their email address and they will get an invitation to join. But even before they join, that then goes into your preferred referral list and within your preferred referral list you can then take that list and that becomes kind of your compostory or your list of therapists that you can choose from when you're creating your customized list. So I may have, as I mentioned, like EMDR therapist, marriage and Family therapist. I may have like something as specific as works like boys, like elementary Age boys, hyperactive Boy list. You really could kind of choose whatever you name things and then you can go through your list of the therapists that you have and see who fits because you may have someone who fits in a couple of different customized lists. Like someone may do EMDR and also do DDT and so they could go on both lists and then also that's where that piece of that interclinition directory comes up. If you notice that one of your list is kind of thin or that most of the people seem to be full on your list, you can then go into the interclinician directory and filter through to see, like who?

Anna
Takes a nd and does EMDR. And then see in your area, read a little more about their clinical bio, see if anyone you know refers to them, and just learn more that way.

Uriah
I like it. So now I'm starting to get a visual on the lists and I'm a person that loves organizing information more than anything, I think. So I like that. And some of these things as we're talking about and people are listening, it is hard to visualize what that actually looks like. What I'm hearing you saying. What I'm imagining is that there is the capability to have multiple different lists that you can then share and refer people to that are more that are targeted and specific, which I like very much.

Anna
Right, well, and the cool thing is too, I will say, like, you're not sharing the list with a prospective client because, for example, I'm at a place where people are like, hey, can I refer someone to you? I'm like, Please don't have them call. Well, actually now that I've done a consultation, I'm like, yes, please, because I have the system. But before this I was like, oh my goodness. So you can send a referral request to the list, but their name only shows up to the client if they indicate that they actually have space available or are open to the consultation. So that really does cut down on the amount of phone calls that we have to sift through when we're full and overwhelmed as it is.

Uriah
So here's a scenario. So we were just in a staff meeting with my group just a few minutes ago, and we were talking about the referrals that we're getting that are not ideal. For example, people looking for custody evaluations or coparenting counseling or something like that, right? So if she was on the phone with somebody and she finds out that they're looking for a service that we don't provide, but we do have a list on the consult list, what would her next step be?

Anna
Let me ask a clarifying question. Do you have a list of therapists that you already know that do customer to the evaluations on the consultants in this scenario? Is that what you mean?

Uriah
Yes.

Anna
Okay, because I was going to say you could also filter through the people in your area that do custody evaluations if you need it, more people. But if that was the case, what you would do is you would collect some information about them. And there's something that talks about I'm trying to think of the language exactly on the website, but let me go to it.

Uriah
So the intent coordinator could use the drop down system to ask the questions, get the information and input that into the console list.

Anna
Right, right. So it's the type of therapy and then a little bit about requested therapist qualifications. So areas of the problem, areas like whether it's anger management or codependency or if there's a custody evaluation, they could input that. And then when it says send to, you can select the list that you want to send. So you might say like, custody evaluation list. And then you can also choose like, hey, do I want to go through this list and choose who goes on it? Or do I want to just automatically send it to the client and they can get a text message or your prospective client can get a text message with a link or an email with a link, or you can opt to just kind of get back in touch with them, like cut and paste it and do some sort of document however you prefer.

Uriah
I like that very much. That's so cool. One of the things we have a program here called Therapy Intake Pro, which is a training and support program for other people's intake coordinators. So like if a group practice hires somebody and they need training on how to do that job, we train them. And we're constantly talking to the intake coordinators about customer service and how beneficial it is to help somebody find the right provider, even if that provider is not at that practice and how that's good on so many levels, just from a human perspective. And then also it's good word of mouth marketing, essentially, because if somebody's been helped and supported by that practice, they're going to tell their friends, hey, I actually didn't go to this practice, but they were so helpful, they guided me over here. So I think what you have created is really lines up with that philosophy, if you will, very, very well. Just like helping the person that's looking for services in any way possible. And if that's not us, not just closing the door but saying, we've actually have something very curated for you that's going to help guide your search process and they're going to be so happy.

Uriah
I'm imagining that.

Anna
Yeah, that's the dream. It is one of the things I think we talk a lot about this, the scarcity mindset. Sometimes it's hard to get away from. And of course, I don't have a crystal ball, but with the way that the world has been going, I don't foresee the demand for therapists lessening anytime soon. So we really all benefit when we help each other out. We become better therapists when we get in focus on our niche. We have more energy at the end of the day for our families and hopefully we can keep them out of therapy because we're not the stress. So it's one of those things where I think it's just win win. As my business partner Jim says. He uses a sports analogy of baseball. It's not a lot of home runs to take care of this. It's a lot of just like hits every time we can do do one thing at a time. And this is a part of hopefully the solution can all come together.

Uriah
Yeah, definitely. And believe it or not, there's lots of therapists out there that are quite good at what they do. And maybe for various reasons, maybe they're not excellent at marketing or networking or whatever the thing is, and they've got openings and they could help people who are looking for what they do.

Anna
Oh my gosh. That's one of the things that really I was surprised by. We were worried that we would have all these people entering cases and no one to take them. But yeah, we found that about 70% of the people who signed up have space available and the reason they're serving and the reason that they're on the console list is to get new cases. So it's been pretty shocking, actually.

Uriah
That's interesting. I love it so much. Thank. You for doing what you're doing. I appreciate the fact that you're trying to solve this problem in a very creative way. It's really neat.

Anna
Thank you. Yeah, I mean, thank you for what you're doing too. I think, again, it's a really lovely community of therapists that we have, and it takes a village, I guess.

Uriah
Can you agree more? So everybody listening to this? Don't even think about it. Just go to the console list.com, sign up. It's free. You can pay for extra things that will make your life even easier. And I would probably recommend that I'm going to explore it because I'm all about saving time and automating processes and all of that. Of course. And then you have an ambassador program that I'm going to check out as well, so I can recommend this to some more colleagues.

Anna
Thanks. Yeah. And that's one of the things. If you're in an area, there are some states right now where we really have, like, two therapists on the consult list. It's not very active. This is definitely very grassroots. So if you are interested in this and would like to help us kind of raise awareness in your community, please reach out. We're happy to support you along the way and offer you some benefits of free membership at the higher tier as well for your efforts.

Uriah
That's great. My other passion, aside from organizing information is finding resources, so this is perfect. I'm going to tell everybody.

Anna
Thank you.

Uriah
Starting with this podcast. Well, thanks for your time, and are there any other links you want to share besides TheConsoleList.com? Anything else?

Anna
No, I think that's it. Yes.

Uriah
Come sign up. Don't even think twice!

Anna
Right!

Uriah
Thanks for your time. Nice to meet you.

Anna
Nice to meet you. Thanks, Uriah.


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