Building a Therapy Practice: Finding Referral Sources

A couple of weeks ago, I was on a panel to discuss creating a therapy practice. Graduate programs do not really cover how to market yourself as a therapist or how to set up your own practice, which is incredibly annoying when you consider how much we paid to be there.

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on

Since I had to figure a lot of this out, I thought I would share how I built my practice in the hopes that this information helps someone else out. As always, your mileage may vary.

Of course, there are directories you can sign up for, things you can do on social media, et cetera, that can get you referrals, but I have heard from so many therapists that they pay all the fees, get their profiles set up, and get maybe three phone calls. Not to mention issues with scammers using these directories to target therapists.

When I moved to the area, no one had any idea who I was. Why would they call me?

I knew there were people out there who could benefit from my help, so I asked myself where they would go to seek support. In my case, I wanted to work with children, which means my referrals would be parents. Where do parents go first when their child is having trouble?

Answer: their pediatrician.

I made a list of local pediatricians and reached out to each one with a blurb about who I was, services I offered, and payments I accepted. Then I followed up a few days later to thank them for meeting with me.

I also requested that my contact information be added to a local crisis hotline and resource directory (in South Dakota, people can get referrals for all kinds of support by calling the Helpline at 211).

I went from brand new to full in less than six weeks, though this was due in part to the fact that South Dakota has a serious shortage of psychologists. (Side note – recent changes to the law here make it much easier to get reciprocity and offer telehealth if you’re licensed in another state!)

I hope this is helpful for anyone working to build their own practice. What questions do you have about marketing your practice? Contact me and I will answer them if I can. Also check out Therapy Marketer by Michael Fulwiler for marketing information!

Published by Dr Marschall

Dr. Amy Marschall received her Psy.D. from the University of Hartford in September 2015. She completed her internship at the National Psychology Training Consortium with specializations in assessment and rural mental health. Currently, she specializes in trauma-informed and neurodiversity-affirming care, and she is certified in telemental health. Dr. Marschall runs a private practice, RMH Therapy, where she provides individual and family therapy as well as psychological assessments across the lifespan. Dr. Amy Marschall is an author and professional speaker.

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