After I was in private practice for a while, I realized that I was feeling isolated from other therapists. I wanted to find a way to connect to have more resources available to me and support. Plus, I knew I needed peer supervision. I didn’t want to keep asking the same couple of therapists. I found a great solution for finding support, networking, peer supervision and referral sources.
Starting a Networking Group
I decided I needed a group of therapists I could reach out to when I needed. But I didn’t want to just start calling people in the phone book. I had to find a way to connect with local therapists. I found the solution to my problem through LinkedIn. I connected with all the therapists in my area that I could find on LinkedIn. Whenever I had a few minutes, I would go on LinkedIn and add any counselors, social workers, school counselors and marriage and family therapists from my area to my network.
After I had a lot of connections, I sent out a mass email. I added all my therapist connections to the email. I told them I was looking to form a group for networking, referrals, support and peer supervision. I was overwhelmed by the response. Many other therapists were looking for the same thing! If you give this a try, be sure you have a full day available to respond to requests to be added to your group.
Online Networking Group
I chose to start with an online group. I think it makes sense to get to know each other a little better before you meet in person. I didn’t want to have a LinkedIn group because it doesn’t afford the privacy that I wanted for my group. I chose to start my group on Facebook.
Facebook has three types of groups you can form: open, closed or secret. An open group will show up in search results and anyone can join. A closed group shows up in search results but people have to be approved before they can join. A secret group does not show up in search results and people have to be invited to join. They also have to be a “friend” of yours (or someone in the group) to join.
I chose to use a secret group so it could be private. When you set up the group settings, you can choose to allow anyone in the group to add new members or you can set it so only you can add members. If you go this route, you will probably have to explain how secret groups work to everyone because most people aren’t familiar with this type of group.
Once you have your group for a while and have gotten to know people in the group, you can set an “event” though the group. This can be a way to move your group from an online networking group to a local networking group.
Local Networking Group
Another choice is to have a local group in which you meet at an agreed location. You will have to arrange a time and place to meet that accommodates everyone’s schedules. You will need to keep a list of each person in the group and how you can contact them for meetings. You can send a paper around at the first meeting to collect contact information and make a copy for each member. This way you can contact each other when you need to.
I think it’s a good idea to set the meetings for the same time and day each month. For example, you might have your meetings on the second Saturday at noon each month. That way you don’t have to contact people each time you meet.
Managing a Networking Group
If you decide to start a networking group, you are responsible for organizing it and making it happen. You will have to put in some time in the beginning to get things organized and manage the group. Where do you want to meet? Is it a local group or an online group? Will you have local meetings? How will you keep in touch with each other?
Once the group is up and running, some of the other members will probably play a bigger role in the group. Now that I have my online group set up with enough members, it pretty much runs itself. I still get the occasional request to add someone but the other groups members have added people too. People will post questions or seek referrals in the group. They have added resources and helped each other. It’s really a great group.