When is the right time for a referral?
Generally, we as clinicians are cautioned to refer clients for issues that we are not competent to address, but making a referral too quickly can be detrimental. What are some of the dangers of making the referral too quickly and how do you know when the time is right?
Ideally, we should be able to access a situation and determine if it is within our scope or competence at the close of the initial session. Obviously situations arise though the process of counseling and can be “unpredictable…” (Corey, Schneider-Corey, & Callanan, 2007, p. 329) we may find ourselves in a situation where we have a substantial professional relationship with an individual, but still need to refer them out for a specific issue. One possible solution is to refer them out for the issue that is outside of your scope, while continuing to treat them for the initial presenting issue. I liked the example of the counselor “warm transferring” a client so they don’t have to start over. If we refer too quickly, before we can ascertain what the real issues are, we run the risk of abandoning a client despite our ability to resolve the issue and ultimately help. Two huge issues or needs are at the forefront for me… first, I need to begin developing a network within which to refer people for specific issues that I cannot handle. Secondly, I need to make myself available for counselors that need a referral source. Referrals are a two way street, so, give some, get some.
How do you handle referrals? Have you ever been referred to a different profession? How do you feel it went? I’d love to hear from therapists and clients alike!
Corey, G., Schneider-Corey, M., & Callanan, P. (2007). Issues and ethics in the helping professions (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.