Why is collaboration important in a counseling practice?

How many therapists do you know who actually call one another about cases? Or regularly spend time teaming up to help clients? Most of us view other therapists as competition. In private practice, in our little single-suite islands, we’re guilty of taking cases we’re not quite prepared for – and equally guilty of failing to reach out for help. We’ve all done it.

Optimal client care can ONLY happen in a team environment.  Here’s why it’s important to be different.

This is a story about collaboration.

When I was six years old, I spent a few weeks in the hospital for kidney surgery. It was a pretty big deal.  This was after struggling literally my entire life with health issues no one quite understood or knew how to manage.

Those years as a patient gave me my laser-point-focus on client care, by the way. The waiting room thing (#10), the introduce yourself on the phone thing (#6)… Most of the posts in this series reflect things I’ve learned as a patient, not as a clinician.

So. Back to the hospital. I was a skinny kid. Puny. Pale.  Hospital food and green jello weren’t helping. I wasn’t rebounding after surgery like a hardier kid would have.

My parents were worried. My doctor was worried.

One day my mom told me my doctor was going to do a consultation.

This sounded like a BIG DEAL.

“What’s that?”

“He’s going to meet with some other doctors and talk to them about how you’re doing. He’s going to ask if they have any good ideas that will help you get better.”


I still remember that moment, all these years later. I felt so important. And right then, right there, I felt hopeful! All these doctors were going to take their TIME and get together to talk about helping me?? This could only be good news!! Things were looking up!!

As it turned out, that collaborative effort on the part of my surgeon – waaaaaay out-of-the-box thinking in Amarillo, Texas, back in 1972 – did indeed help me get on my feet, out of the hospital, and back to Mrs. Carter’s second grade class where I belonged.  I went back to school on my 7th birthday.

Hence Lifeologie’s relentless commitment to collaboration.

Your clients deserve a team effort.

Is there a psychiatrist on the case? An attorney? An internist? An ob-gyn? A nutritionist? A yoga therapist?  Should there be? Do you know a therapist who specializes in some aspect of the case you’re struggling with? Have you called them? Have you taken them out for coffee recently? Have you reached out?

Collaboration – creating a system of care for every single case– is fundamentally necessary but almost NEVER happens in our field. It’s a tragedy. It shortchanges everyone.

But it’s a solvable problem.

Ask for help. If a surgeon can do it, you certainly can.

Get the necessary releases. Assemble a team for your client. Communicate with the team often.

Consult with your colleagues regularly.  Sharpen your mind.  Fill your toolbox.  Cultivate  relationships with people you respect. People who are smarter than you are.  People who know things you don’t know.

And if you do this, if you reach out and team up, you will most certainly learn something important. Every. Single. Time. And your clients will be all the better for it.

Take it from me.  I’m living  proof.

Core value: comfortable client care

by Melanie Wells, LPC, LMFT