When you feel a patient would benefit from a referral for counseling, the way you introduce the idea can lead to better outcomes. The following three tips can help:
1. Take time to prepare the patient. In many communities, counseling continues to have a stigma. Some patients may think that counseling is only for “mental cases,” so it is vital that you use appropriate language, such as “I would like for you to see the counselor for support in dealing with the stress in your life.” You may also want to suggest, “Try it one time, and see if it works for you.” It may take several months to persuade some patients to seek counseling.
2. Assure the patient that you are going to continue caring for him or her. Seek to show compassion, and explain to the patient that you want him or her to see a counselor because you want the patient to receive the best overall care.
3. Establish a relationship with a counselor in your community. It is difficult to be genuinely positive about sending someone to see a counselor if you do not have some familiarity with the counselor. Identify one or two good counselors in your community and get to know them.
Read the full FPM article: “Bridging the Physician-Counselor Divide.”
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