The new millennium and modern technology present numerous opportunities for psychotherapists and counselors in private practice.
Following are six tips on how to use modern digital technologies to build and maintain a thriving fee-for-service private practice in the 21st Century:
1. Establish An Online Presence
Most clients find their psychotherapists, counselors, and psychiatrists online. Even if they were referred to you by someone face-to-face, they will look for your website. A basic web presence is a no-brainer in this modern digital era and is easy and cheap to boot. Services such as Weebly offer content management software for free or cheap that makes putting up a website as easy as blogging. If this sounds like gibberish to you, snag your nearest digital native (anyone Generation X or younger) and ask for a translation. The point is, it does not cost thousands of dollars to get a website up. And these days, having one is a must. Putting a website up is easy, cheap and necessary to build a practice in the digital era.
Your site should include a bio, pictures of you, a personal statement, your C.V., and anything else you’d like potential clients to know about you. Starting a blog and linking to other sites (providing resources) are other useful website features. We’ll talk more about blogging later down the list. Takeaway: Transparency is very important in the digital era, so show yourself to be caring and engaged.
2. Market YourWebsite
Websites do not attract visitors by their sheer presence (i.e., simply putting one up). Marketing websites is a business that some professionals are paid $1000-$1500 a month to do. Most of us do not need anything that extravagant. Here are some free or cheap ways to increase traffic to your site:
- Start a blog or discussion group! They serve many useful purposes. It will increase traffic to your site, help establish you as an expert, give you an opportunity to flaunt your keywords (see SEO, next bullet) and provide fresh content to your site on a regular basis, which increases your Google rating. Furthermore, today’s public wants to be engaged – you are giving people an opportunity to dialogue with you, which they will appreciate.
- Perform Search Engine Optimization (SEO). You can hire someone to do this, or learn yourself. This process involves telling search engines which words should send people to your site if searched for (such as “healing trauma” or “therapist New York”).
- Keep content fresh. Google will give you a higher rating if you continue adding new content to your site. As previously noted, maintaining a blog is an easy way to do this.
- Get as many inbound links (other people linking to your site) as possible, which also increases your rating.
Note: Chances are this list seems like a mix of “I’ve heard of that” and “What!?” Do not be alarmed, there are professionals who can advise you and set up anything you need. If you have an assistant who is a digital native, much of this is probably second nature to them. Use your resources.
3. Invest in Social Networking Marketing
IBM, Toyota, and Bank of America understand the importance of social network marketing, and you should, too. Either do it yourself or hire a digital native expert to run your social network marketing. At the bare minimum, set up and maintain a Facebook Page (See our Facebook page). At a more advanced level, you can make and upload videos to YouTube (See our videos). Of course, marketing and interacting online brings a host of new ethical issues, which you can learn to navigate with our New Digital Ethics online course.
4. Have All Clinical Forms In One Place
There are a few basic forms that you must have available and use regularly. Some of them (i.e., Office Policies) are directly related to the use of modern technologies, such as e-mail and texting and the complexities of social networking. You can get these forms personalized and ready to go in a few minutes. Our Essential Forms.
5. Learn To Use What Modern Technologies Have To Offer As Much As Possible
At the least, check your email regularly and carry a cell phone. Even better: Update your blog, and learn to text if you don’t know how to already. Many of you may be well familiar with the tools available to you; that is wonderful. For the rest of us, learning to use available technologies is learning a whole new skill set. This can be intimidating but is well worth it: technology is not going anywhere, and clients expect a basic proficiency.
Telehealth (conducting therapy via technology, such as email or video conferencing) is a growing field. You can learn more about it in our 12-unit course on TeleMental Health.
6. Become HIPAA Compliant
HIPAA has become the standard of care. It is not hard to become compliant: check out our HIPAA online course for 8 CE credits, which comes with all the HIPAA forms you need.