Help! What Do I Say to my GP?
You’ve made an appointment to talk to your local GP, or indeed anyone who might be able to refer work to you. What now? When you’re there, sitting in front of them, what do you say?
No knowing what to say to people is often what holds us back from talking to them. So if you find yourself in this position, here are a few thoughts to help you:
Before you go, do your ground work:
- Have a clear goal for what you want to achieve from the meeting. What message would you like to leave them with? What is it you want from them?
- Have something prepared in advance, so that if the talk is slow to start, you can use your plan to get things warmed up.
- Keep it simple. A couple of examples of how your work has helped others can speak volumes.
- Have theory and research ready to use if it seems to help. Medicine is a science, the progress of which depends on research. Consider handing the citations to the doctor rather than quoting from them at length. “You’re probably already aware of recent research which suggests that…If you’re interested in reading about it, I can leave the details with you (or I can email the details to you later.)
- Use props: It always helps to have something in your hand. Bring your brochures, business cards or flyers, or if you don’t have any, prepare a one page summary of what you’d like them to know, for example, ways in which counselling can support people struggling with depression or anxiety.
- Consider pairing up with a colleague to do GP visits. You’ll feel more confident if there are two of you, and you can provide support to each other.
When you get there:
- Hold the mind set of an equal. You are a professional and so are they. Your attitude should be that of inquiry as to whether you have something to offer each other. If you approach them as having something you want, or insisting that they acknowledge your value, then that energy may well get in the way. Hold your attitude lightly and openly. Hard sell sells nothing. Remember to breathe.
- Be prepared for a wait. Even though you might have an appointment, doctors will probably prioritise their patient work. Bring a newspaper or book to pass the time.
- Thank them for being willing to see you (even if you have had to wait!) Shake hands, smile.
- Take charge. You asked for the meeting, so it’s your responsibility to set the agenda. Don’t expect them to do it for you. You might start with “I provide counselling and psychotherapy services at…. I asked to see you because…”
- I’m setting up locally and I wanted to let you know what services I provide; or
- I work nearby and I thought it would be helpful for us to get to know each other; or
- Although our work is very different, we are working towards the same goal…helping people to feel better.”
- If you have a niche or speciality, let them know. They will be more likely to connect with a specific issue or client group (such as women with post natal depression, or anxiety and panic), than a more general brief. Remember, you are unlikely to be the only counsellor they will know or see, so you need to give them something to remember you by.
- Ask them for their views about counselling / psychotherapy:
- Is this something you think your patients could benefit from?
- Have any of your patients availed of it?
- How did it work out for them?
- Anticipate and tease out their concerns. “What might stop you from recommending counselling to a patient?” Have an answer to the most common concerns: it’s too open ended, costly, lack of clear results etc. Some useful arguments include:
- Doctors are busy people and can’t provide the time to listen to clients in the way they need, neither do they get paid to do so. Our work can complement theirs in this regard.
- Change takes time: sometimes it has taken clients years to get to this place. It take time to turn that around.
- Most people won’t change behaviour or habits (including thought patterns), even if their well-being depends on those changes, without support.
- Paying for the service is a statement about the client’s deservingness or worthiness (often at the basis of emotional problems) and people find the money for other things.
- Make it easy for the doctors to recommend you, and the patients to contact you, by being flexible in what you offer. Consider:
- A free consultation to determine whether the patient thinks it’s for them
- A fixed number of sessions as a block, perhaps at a slightly discounted rate.
- Leave business cards, brochures or flyers. If they are in a box or holder, the doctor is more likely to have them to hand.
- Keep the focus on their needs rather than your qualifications. You can ask a general question at the end, such as, “Do you have any other questions for me? Or “Is there any other information I can give you today?”
- Finish by thanking them again for their time.
After you’ve left, send a short note or email, thanking them again, and sending on any information you promised them during the meeting.
If you struggle with knowing what to say to potential referrers, maybe I can help you. Please contact me here for your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment.