You became a psychotherapist to help people in their time of need, not to spend all of your time on marketing. We understand that, and we hope to make it easier for you be being crystal clear about a number of mistakes we need psychotherapists make in their marketing. Keep in mind we’re breaking you down only to build you back up; as always, your practice’s best days are ahead.
Here are the 6 psychotherapy mistakes to avoid:
You receive new clients here and there, and you’ve become used to the rate of new people asking you about your services. The problem, however, is that (as you likely know) the actual business of psychotherapy is seasonal and it is also subject to changes in the broader culture. 40 years ago, a conversation between two people on an ongoing basis – focused on helping someone understand themselves so much better – was all you needed you needed to build a private practice. Now, people want teletherapy, consulting, coaching, 20-minute sessions, and all of these other things that, frankly, can overwhelm a private practitioner that has become complacent.
So, the first marketing mistake is simply a psychotherapist who has lost her or his awareness of the current state of therapy in the public consciousness. Keep a pulse on that and the rest of your practice marketing will make more sense.
There are many, many different angles you can take to this topic, but the short of it is that though psychotherapy is one of the oldest professions in the world, it still helps to focus on personal branding so potential clients understand you better.
Surveys of psychotherapy clients reveal what you likely already know – clients choose you frequently because they feel some sort of a connection. They liked your picture, a personal detail, the way you worded something on your website that was important to them. This desire for a connection is crucial when clients select psychotherapists. At the same time, obtaining some sort of personal branding, whether from a topic specialty standpoint (e.g. addictions, work stress, teen use of technology), a location standpoint (e.g. the best psychotherapist in your area), or a methodology standpoint (e.g. use of brain scan technology, etc.) will help other clients relate to you more quickly. It will also help others in your professional network refer you out to potential client more easily.
Knowing where you want to go will help you craft the practice you want to have. What should your work/life balance look like? What income do you require to live the life you want? What do you want your client relationships to look like – do you prefer long-term engagements or quick problem-solving sessions? Who is the therapist you want to be 20 years from now?
Answering those questions will inform the decisions you make about how to market yourself, price your services, and even explain yourself to the outside world. Your mission and career is devoted to helping others, and you will find the greatest success when your day-to-day reality corresponds with a long-term version.
You signed up to be a psychotherapist, not an Internet marketing guru. (Fine, then just hire professional psychotherapy marketers to help you out.)
However, as long as you are in private practice, you are part-time professional psychotherapist and part-time business owner. As a small business owner, marketing is absolutely essential to your mission of helping others. The more you focus on the business, the greater the outreach of the practice and the more people you can help. That means monitoring your expenses, investing in your marketing, applying useful technology, and the like wherever it advances the health of the practice.
Remember how the airline tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself before helping others? (I bet you’ve even used that before in a session!) Well, life in business is like being in a constant freefall, with the option to fly safely and travel the world in wonder should you elect to do so. If you put your mask on first, which includes making consistent investments for the health of the business, you’ll make a greater difference in people’s lives than you’ve ever dreamed.
Psychotherapist marketing has dramatically changed over the years, because the service expectations clients have are different. Non-licensed professional relationship coaches are able to make specious claims like “Single-Session Satisfaction Guarantee!” And this is now your competition.
The way to compete is to elevate and diversify your messaging. Make it crystal clear the variety of services you offer in terms of the people you serve, issues you help people manage, and formats you provide (e.g. individual, couples, families, groups, teletherapy, texting, etc.). The truth is you are likely comfortable with a variety of service forms, but you may not have explicitly stated them on your website or relevant business directory. As a result, you may be perceived incorrectly as a generalist inappropriately equipped for someone with highly specific challenges (which, of course, is completely wrong).
By publicly diversifying your services, while still maintaining your ethics, you can connect with more clients. You may still occasionally lose business to the relationship snake-oil salesman, but even those clients who realize they need something deeper and long-lasting may very well find their way to you in the end.
Tired of HMOs? Do you want a cash-only practice? Build the practice of your dreams, why not? Who says the current state of your practice can’t change (and, similarly, who says anything has to change at all?). It’s up to you how you want to conduct your psychotherapist marketing, but make sure whatever you do, it is done with full confidence.
If you’re intending to build your professional referral network, then get to a convention, make some well-placed calls, and keep in touch with people. If you want to charge higher prices, then find out how other people are doing it, and test their approach out to find what works for you.
And by the way – your primary “competition” (I know, it’s a terrible word for this, but it is the business reality) is just as unsure as you are about how to build a highly profitable practice that also enables the life of their dreams. So, whenever you’re making an effort, you’re advancing your own cause.
The more confident and aware you are in your marketing, the health of your business, your overall vision, and the state of psychotherapy in the broader culture, the clearer and more effective your messaging and marketing tactics will be. Your energy will radiate through your psychotherapy marketing efforts, enabling you to help so many people who have really be waiting for someone like you the whole time.
To be clear, the marketing and financial success of your practice and the achievement of your life’s mission may be far more closely intertwined than you suspected when you first got that degree, however long ago it was.