The Art of the Thank You Note

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Traverse City LLPC

I am terrible at writing thank you notes. Some people are amazing at writing them, I don’t understand those people. I have had to work hard at getting better at writing them. Let me tell you about the power of thank you notes.

It was 2001 and I was given a promotion to oversee a therapeutic program for teens that were referred from the Department of Human Services (foster care, child protective services, etc.) and from Community Mental Health. I inherited the program from a lady that would give cigarettes to and smoke with the teens she was “helping.” As a result, no one wanted to refer to the program.

My first task was to understand what services were not offered in the community and try and kick-start those programs. We focused on less one-on-one mentoring (which was the former cigarette program) and more on group programming. Our goal was to help workers feel comfortable with the program and the staff and that we would no longer give cigarettes to kids.

I knew we had to build trust.

Whenever I got a new referral, I knew that the person referring had to put their neck on the line. They had to go to their supervisor and say, “I know these people gave cigarettes to kids, but they’ve changed, they really have.” They had to go to bat for me, a guy that most of them had never met in person.

So I wrote them a thank you note. But it was not just any thank you note; I made it look fancy. Sometimes I drew crazy pictures on the front. Sometimes I made the first letter of their name look like calligraphy. I figured that state workers get a lot of boring mail and I didn’t want mine to go in the “open later” pile.

Also, I always put my business card in the thank you note.

What happened next

Within 6 months of the “Thank You Note Marketing” we were back to full capacity. I had some ideas and pitched them to the most loyal DHS and CMH workers. They had no idea how to code the idea, but said, “It sounds amazing, we’ll find the funding somewhere.”

Again, they went to bat for me.

Since then, I have launched therapeutic sailing programs, counseling programs that involve camping and canoeing, and several other “out of the box” approaches to helping teens. But it all started with a thank you note.

Thank you notes in private practice

I moved Mental Wellness Counseling ( my private practice, to Traverse City in 2009. Again, I had to find a few core referral sources. Especially when you are new, it is so important to recognize the clients and referral sources that stick their necks out for you for your counseling private practice.

I still write a thank you note almost every time I get a referral for counseling. There are times I forget or do it 6 months later, but I usually get to it. It does not come naturally, but I underestimated the power of the thank you note until today.

How today re-awoke the thank you note inside me

I got this email today from Megan Raphael. She is Director of the National Writers Series, Author, Life and Leadership Coach (, and SCORE Mentor (  She said I could share it:

Hello Joe,

I am a SCORE mentor and your name was given to me by one of my fellow SCORE mentors, Herb.  I’m in charge of the UpNorth SCORE newsletter and typically I feature a brief testimonial from one of our clients.  I saw the thoughtful thank you note to Herb and am wondering if I could have your permission to use your quote, ‘Thank you so much for taking time to meet with me.  I really appreciate your insights and history in business.  Also, I changed the wording on my website {my words: “…based on your sound advice”} – thanks for the tip.’…The newsletter goes to approximately 850 people who could learn more about Mental Wellness Counseling…


So my thank you note somehow ending up in Megan’s hands. This in itself is amazing because it means that someone shared my thank you note. Herb (who I wrote it to) is a great leader in our community that is very respected. As well, my quote is now going to go out to 850 supporters of small business mentoring. So again, respected leaders in the community connecting me with what they are doing.

All for free.

The thing is, when I write a thank you note, it is never for promotion. It is to recognize that the other person has somehow really helped me. Herb gave me great business advice. There is no way to express to someone how much it means to help me out in my growing business.

This is also true true if someone refers someone for counseling. Those people trust me with their friend, family member, parishioner, or their own client. It is a monumental task to live up to their expectations. Somehow, I was the guy they thought of when they saw that hurting person. It means so much.

I have found that when you are genuine to someone else, people are drawn to that. It is not purely “marketing” instead it is creating a genuine reflection of who you are…through a thank you note.

Mr. Joseph Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC, Counselor in Traverse City

Joseph R. Sanok, MA, LLP, LPC, NCC is a therapist, counselor, psychologist, and owner of Mental Wellness Counseling in Traverse City, MI. He helps angry kids, frustrated parents, and distant couples…and just about everyone else. He is a frequent speaker in the Traverse City area, Michigan, and nationally. He helps counselors in private practice through his blog and through individual consulting.