How to Get Referrals (Part 3: My clients)

Around 20% of my referrals come from current or previous clients. I’m really trying to increase this percentage and here’s why: Clients can go into details about what it was like being in therapy and what they got out of it. Their friends will ask them

very specific questions about the experience and the potential value of taking that risk and calling you. There’s no better person to speak to that experience and value than someone who actually benefited from you.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. Here’s a scenario where someone asks their pastor for a referral:

  • Man: Pastor, I don’t know what to do. My wife found out I have a sex addiction and she’s on the verge of divorcing me. I can’t lose her, I can’t lose my kids! What should I do?
  • Pastor: Brother, so sorry to hear this, this is a real crisis. I hear Roy Kim is a sex addiction therapist, I recommend you give him a call.
  • Man: Does he do good work? How will he help me? Will he be able to fix me? Is he expensive?
  • Pastor: I know he went through a lot of training to become a sex addiction therapist, and we met several times, he seems like a great guy 😉

As you can see, the man in crisis will have intense and important questions that the pastor can guess at, but doesn’t know how to answer fully. Contrast this with a conversation with the same man and a friend who was/is my client:

  • Man: Bro, I don’t know what to do. My wife found out I have a sex addiction and she’s on the verge of divorcing me. I can’t lose her, I can’t lose my kids! What should I do?
  • My Client: Oh man, this is crazy, I was in the same situation. You gotta call Roy Kim, he’s the sex addiction therapist I go to.
  • Man: What? Seriously? Does he do good work? How will he help me? Will he be able to fix me? Is he expensive?
  • My Client: I think I’d be divorced right now if not for him. He assessed my addiction level, he taught me the tasks of recovery, he got me into a group, those group members are like my blood brothers now by the way, he completely coaches you to restructure your life. My wife had to see this full commitment or else she’d never be able to trust me again. I can’t guarantee it’ll save your marriage, that’s up to your wife, but if you stick with the program and do the tasks, you’re gonna see some massive changes. And dude I can’t believe you’re asking if he’s expensive, freaking sell your M5, eat Cup O Noodles, you’ll find a way to pay for it if your family and your legacy means something to you.

Do you see the difference between the 2 conversations? Your clients’ real stories of experiencing you are the difference maker. I’ll share what I’ve done so far to try to increase the percentage of referrals coming from my clients.

Business Cards

When a client achieves their therapy goals and I “graduate” a client, I give them one of my business cards and give them a specific call to action. I tell them, “My practice lives and dies on referrals. If there’s someone you know who could use my services, would you give them my business card?” I don’t say this to everyone. I say this only to the ones who have unmistakably benefitted from therapy. These people are the ones who reply, “Of course, can I take a few more cards? I already know who to give these to!” 


Sometimes, I ask a client to write an anonymous testimonial. I’ve asked this in particular to my sex addiction clients because of the shame attached to sex addiction. It is very difficult for someone to cross the threshold and seek treatment for sex addiction. But when a potential referral reads a testimonial from someone who has crossed that shame threshold, and actually gotten the results that they desperately want, it gives that extra boost in motivation to call me. Once I receive the testimonial, I put it on my website and on my Psychology Today profile and anywhere else where there is eye traffic.

Holiday Emails

One other thing I’ll share is based on the basic fact that it’s easier to get business from repeat customers than from new customers. Even when I have graduated a client who needed help with a particular issue, their needs may change in the future. I try to keep our relationship and my services fresh in their mind by sending them an email each Christmas and/or New Year. Here are some extra details:

  • I limit my words to holiday greetings and well wishes. I don’t mention anything about coming back to me for services.
  • I try to mention something personal that only we know from our conversations.
  • I send it only to the ones I had a particularly good therapeutic relationship with.
  • I briefly debated sending an actual card in the mail to give it a more personal touch, but I realized that would increase the risk of breaching confidentiality if the card were to get lost in the mail. (It would also take me forever to write those by hand!) I know that email is not entirely secure either, but it was my primary way of correspondence with them over our therapy time anyway, so I figured just to continue that method. 

Let’s Brainstorm Together!

I’d really like to hear some new ideas on increasing referrals from your own clients’ word of mouth. Please share them in the comments below! And if you know someone who’d like to ride along with this private practice blog journey, please encourage them to subscribe, thanks!

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