Resources for Healthcare Providers
Making Referrals That Patients Will Follow Through On

Obviously, telling your patient "It's all in your head, you need to see a shrink" or telling them "You're crazy, I'm sending you to a psychiatrist" isn't a very effective way to persuade them to follow through on the referral.

Usually, the most effective way to get a person to get a person to follow through on a recommendation is to help them see how they will benefit from following through on the recommendation. This might mean saying something such as "Some of my patients with this problem have found a consultation with Dr. Jones quite helpful" or "There are some stress-management techniques which you might find useful, what would you think of seeing someone who specializes in stress?"

If the patient seem reluctant to accept the referral, it can be very useful to find out what their reservations are and to clear up any misconceptions or misunderstandings that contribute to their reluctance. If the patient has questions about the proposed treatment which you cannot answer, it may be useful to have the patient talk with the specialist you are referring them to over the phone.

When referring a patient who has a problem which they see as biomedical to a behavioral health specialist, it can be important to make it clear that you are taking their problem seriously and are not saying that the problem is "all in their head." Many patients do not know that psychological interventions can be useful with biomedical problems such as coping with chronic pain, managing chronic illnesses, lowering blood pressure, minimizing the physical impact of stress, and making lifestyle changes.

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