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Collaboration Over Competition

Updated: Apr 29

As therapists, we are honoring our desire to help people. Speech-language pathologists are dedicated to helping the most vulnerable populations. Whether you are focused on pediatrics or adult therapy, your skill set can positively change a client's life forever. It is a highly admirable profession to enter.

The Mindset of Scarcity

When you decide to start a private practice, you follow your longing to create a remarkable therapeutic space that fosters development and growth for your clients. You are in charge. You can manifest and mold your vision into something extraordinary.

However, along the way, a mentality of individualism and territorialism might be adopted by established practitioners. A scarcity mindset might persuade you to believe that there are not enough clients to go around, your livelihood is threatened, and competition is something to fear.

It is an easy mindset to slip into and, unfortunately, far too common among private practitioners. This mindset can dissuade SLPs from following their dreams and opening up their own therapeutic space. However, there is a much better mindset that can leave us feeling abundant and provide us with more referral lines than we previously thought or had imagined.

Respectful Reciprocity

Becoming a therapist required education, dedication, and hard work. We acquire skills and knowledge that we eventually get to share with the world, which is extremely valuable. However, what is equally valuable is our tribe of allied professionals.

Everyone brings different perspectives and gifts to the clinic. Some shine in social skills methods and others excel in stuttering, orofacial myofunctional disorders, or dysphagia. The field is broad, and it is crucial to honor the relationships with our colleagues who, at their core, have the same admirable desire to help others as you do. Get to know your colleagues:

  • What is their practice specialty?

  • Where is their private practice located?

  • Is there an opportunity for mentorship and patient collaboration?

You may find that a new private practitioner is not competition at all. You may discover that she is a valuable resource or provides a service you do not.

However, what if your practice specialty is the same? It is common for fear of competition to set in and stay awhile. You want your piece of the pie and make a claim to the treatment territory. But that is not for anyone to claim. What is yours to claim is the ability to provide even more support. When your colleagues practice the same specialty as you do, you understand each other. You can appreciate the challenges and pitfalls of assessment tools and therapeutic materials. You recognize the frustrations and can empathize over the stresses of owning a specific type of business and navigating sensitive topics with families. These are the colleagues who understand you on a level that no one else can.

One significant benefit to having same-specialty colleagues is the possibility to consult with each other regarding clients who present with complicated behaviors and habits. When we are uncertain or need another pair of eyes, we can brainstorm ways to improve our assessments, treatment approaches, and materials. There is always something to learn.

Becoming supportive allies is a conscious choice to make. Families also appreciate when you invite your colleague to a session for a consultation on cases that are complex or when clients are not responding to a treatment approach as expected. This collaboration can create immense gratitude and far-reaching word-of-mouth accolades.

There are a few main scenarios that provide you with an opportunity for a white-glove handoff and referral to a colleague.

  • The distance between the client's home and clinic may pose a challenge for some families with multiple kids.

  • The therapeutic skillset or approach the client needs is exactly what your colleague specializes in.

  • The family's financial obligation may be different between clinics because of insurance carrier contracts regarding in-network or out-of-network payment.

Whether the client decides to switch and follow your suggestion is up to them. Still, you fostered and allowed a critical decision to be made in terms of finances, therapeutic method, and distance required to receive services.

In the end, your referral source remains the same; that referral relationship does not change. However, what will change is the respect between colleagues, and the more you do this, the more you will open up your referral lines ten-fold. Your colleagues will start doing the same for you.

It is respectful reciprocity that fuels abundance. You will create a web of referrals that never existed when you were under a scarcity mindset. You are demonstrating an important rule. It is a rule we should all abide by as therapists: The client's well-being comes first.

Collaboration Creates Abundance

We took an oath not to slander our professional colleagues. Remember, we became therapists because we want to offer our help. We need to elevate each other. Together as allies, we can learn from each other, bring more awareness to our craft, and together we can serve more clients.

Look around your community. All medical practitioners exist within their own competitive microcosm. Dentists, orthodontists, and chiropractors may have a few competitors within a couple of miles of each other. This scenario is considered normal and healthy. The more we can create a collaborative and friendlier environment for ourselves and our colleagues, the more we will thrive as professionals.

Ideas for Creating a Growth Mindset

Create a space for positive learning outcomes and build a better community of knowledgeable colleagues. Positive relationships create positive results. You can start building your community by doing the following:

  • Create a private social media group specific to your area to post questions and get therapy ideas. Invite all the private practice practitioners in your area and start collaborating.

  • Create an SLP happy hour

  • Put together community events and workshops for families and bring awareness to your profession and therapeutic focus.

  • Provide a seminar around specific topics in the industry such as thumb sucking, play skills, social-emotional skills in the classroom, orofacial myofunctional disorders, and rehabilitation after a TBI.

The possibilities are immense. An abundance mindset is based on collaboration, respectful reciprocity, coming together as a unified force, and creating positive relationships to bring more awareness of our profession and the many talents we have as speech-language pathologists. It will also bring more attention to our communities, which will always need our expertise and services.


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