As a therapist business coach, therapists often ask me what advice I have on how to build a professional network. I always tell them the same three things:
- First, building a professional therapy network is similar to building a friendship. It is rooted in a genuine interest in another professional’s career goals and passions.
- Second, creative networking means getting out of your comfort zone and building relationships with a variety of professionals (LMFT’s, LCSW’s, LPCC’s, doctors, lawyers, school counselors, coaches, nutritionists etc.)
- Lastly, creative networking involves having clarity around your own goals and passions, learning to articulate them in a way that builds networking bridges, and helps other professionals to feel excitement for their passions.
Here are three of my favorite networking strategies:
1. Coffee, coffee, coffee
One of the easiest ways to connect with other professionals is to ask them to coffee. When I take another professional to coffee, I always focus on them. This is not a time for you to sing your praises. This is the perfect opportunity to learn about other professionals. Learn what makes them passionate about what they do every day. Learn about what types of clients they see and why they love working with these types of clients. Try to really understand what brought this professional to the field and why they do the work they do.
2. Form a heart-centered networking group
After graduate school, five of my colleagues formed a “peer supervision group.” Shortly after we formed the group, we realized that we never actually did “supervision.” Instead, we found ourselves talking about our careers, our lives, work challenges, and brainstorming creative ways we could support one another in our career endeavors. We have been meeting for years now, and it has been one of the most incredible parts of my career journey. Feeling seen, heard, and understood by a group of women in my field has been fundamental to my growth process.
I often suggest that other professionals form a group of just four or five trusted colleagues with whom you can share your career journey. Meet often but make sure to keep the conversation heart-centered. This is a time to connect, encourage each other’s growth, and support each other’s career development. Magic happens when four or five professionals meet regularly to discuss causes, clients, businesses, or ideas they are truly passionate about.
3. Get involved in professional organizations
Another great way to build your network is to join professional organizations. Most professional organizations meet monthly and are a great place to build contacts. I am a member of the Women’s Association of Addiction Treatment, and the sense of community and camaraderie I receive by being a part of this talented group of women is something I so cherish.
One mistake that many therapists make when attending a professional organization meeting is in thinking that the entire value is in the actual meeting. This is false!
The true value in joining an organization is that it allows you to meet a large number of therapists in your field, all at once. However, you have to open the door! Challenge yourself to get very involved in one or two organizations. Volunteer for a leadership position or make sure to attend every meeting. One way I challenge myself is not to leave a meeting until I have two cards of people whom I plan on following up with and asking for coffee. Although professional organizations are great for opening professional doors, nothing will happen if you don’t get out of your comfort zone and take the steps to really get to know others.
4. Take the time to take notes and build networking webs
I am absolutely not a detail-oriented person. However, when it comes to interacting with other professionals, I always take notes. Most people in our field initially started in the mental health world because of deeply rooted passions. As a result, many professionals have created businesses that are extensions of themselves and their personal stories. Take the time to learn and remember what makes the professionals around you tick.
If you take the time to remember the passions of others, you will have opportunities to build networking webs. Here are some real-world examples of creating networking webs:
- You read an article about something a colleague specializes in and send it to them
- You meet another professional who focuses on the same specialty and ask them if they’d be interested in discussing techniques
- You meet two therapists (on separate occasions) who both specialize in working with couples who have recently gone through bankruptcy and you put them in contact
Building networking webs helps us to strengthen not only each other’s businesses but also the mental health field as a whole.
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This article was written by Kelley Stevens, LMFT. Kelley is a private practice business coach for therapists. Kelley specializes in helping therapists launch a cash-pay private practice from the ground up.