Enhance your presence as a therapist or coach in your local community by offering pro bono services.
One way offer Pro Bono or low-fee services in your community is to utilize a Gatekeeper Referral System. In this case, “gatekeeper” means a 3rd party person or organization who is the original “keeper” of your potential client. This means your client has seen someone in-person and has been referred to you, based on the criteria you have specified. This type of system is quite effective, particularly if you have concerns about “knowing” your client face-to-face but you may not have the opportunity to meet with the client before commencing online services. Example: For instance, a therapist might opt to offer online therapy services to home-bound clients who are referred by a visiting nurse association.
- A local college alumni association refers a career coaching client to you based on the relationship you have built with the alumni association.
- A local clinic that treats a rare physical disorder in which people travel from a long distance for treatment at the clinic. Perhaps clients need additional support to manage the depression that is accompanying their illness. Once they return home no local resources are available. The clinic may make a referral to you for online therapy.
- A local community agency serving foster children offers referrals to you that are specific to your niche- survivors of sexual abuse. You agree to see 2 pro bono clients online at any given time and you work an 8 week psycho-educational program with each client.
- You are a wellness coach and you have connections in the community with nutritionists, alternative healers and medical doctors. You make yourself available to clients specifically referred by the practitioner to you.
- You are a spiritual coach and you have established connections with spiritual leaders within the faith community. You offer your services through direct referral from a spiritual leader.
By using a Gatekeeper Referral System you are not working alone on behalf of the client. You have extended support from the community and the original reason for the referral is always documented. Ideally, you will establish a referral form that meets your criteria and gathers initial information about the client. A sample form is included in the appendix.
Additionally, by relying on 3rd party referrals, or gatekeepers as we like to refer, you are not placed in the position of being judge and jury with regard to their declared need for sliding scale or fee-free services. Another agency, entity, organization, company or individual has determined that need. Private practice coaches and therapists often find it awkward to ask questions about income or other qualifying questions that establish need.
Pro Bono as a Marketing Strategy
From a marketing perspective, when you reach out to the organizations, agencies and individuals in your community, you are reaching out to let them know that you offer pro-bono and/or sliding scale or discount services. You may limit your number of pro bono or sliding scale clients (we recommend you do) but this also informs these organizations, agencies and individuals about your services across the board. So even if you have no additional pro bono slots available, you may also receive referrals for services at your full fee.