In today’s technology-driven era, the Yellow Pages hardcopy ads of yesteryear are woefully insufficient. For a thriving psychotherapy or counseling practice, the vast majority of us need a proper website, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), local listings and social media.
Regardless of how they were referred to us or if they found us on the Web, modern day consumers of mental health (aka, patients or clients) carefully review our web presence, and expect to see, besides our degrees, licenses, and office location, a picture and professional bio with personal flavor.
This is intimidating for many in the field, especially for older practitioners or those who fall into the category of “reluctant digital immigrants.” We became psychotherapists to help people along in their journeys, not to spend time Tweeting, building websites, or SEO. Digital immigrants can be slower to see the value or possibilities of online marketing. This clinical update will help you get started – or polish up on – your online marketing campaign
21st Century Online Marketing Includes:
- Proper Website. Simple, easy to navigate, with free content, and enough writing to give people a sense of your way of being in the world and your philosophy or approach to healing. A photo is also expected and video is even better (the video does not need to be overly polished or stiff – people like a personal touch). Clear instructions for contacting you are essential. Our advice for digital immigrants is to have a digital native (or two) look over your site. There are aspects of a website that may be invisible to baby boomers, but could turn off potential native (i.e., young) clients. This pitfall is easily avoided by entreating some natives to have a look.
- SEO. Professional Search Engine Optimization experts do this full time – but there is plenty that even a novice can do to help a website come up more easily on search engine result lists.
- Keep content fresh – update your website periodically. An active blog is an easy way to ensure that new content consistently appears.
- Determine your keywords – the words or phrases that define what you do. Use these words throughout your site.
- Make the title and first paragraph of any page count. Search engines often view first paragraphs as the summary of the page – so use language that accurately describes what you do.
- Register for Local Listings. If you live in a large city, your community probably has a listing of local therapists. If not, feel free to start one. Many people prefer to go to therapist referral sites, rather than a simple Google search, because a local listing lends some legitimacy to your practice.
- Social Media. This area is especially tricky and intimidating for seasoned therapists. In addition to the emotional resistance to the pace of social media, many therapists have appropriate misgivings about the ethics of marketing via Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. We recommend education in the areas of confidentiality online and other relevant issues. Done well, it is ethical – and effective (and gradually becoming essential) – for therapists to market themselves online. Get help where you need it.
- Monitor Your Online Presence
- Track Your Website Visitors. Install software, such as the free Google Analytics, to track how people come to your website. This will help you gauge the success of various campaigns, and help you see where to focus your attention. For instance, if you have a Facebook page that is generating next to no traffic to your website, clearly that campaign needs a second look. Or, it may surprise you to learn that many people are searching for a “dream therapist” and finding you. Perhaps this will inform your marketing image.
- Know What People Are Saying About You. Any place you or your business is listed, check regularly for new reviews. If someone is posting negative reviews about you (at worst, multiple negative reviews under fake profiles) then you’ll want to find out early and do what you can to combat the negative publicity.
For those of you ready for assistance, at levels ranging from free resources to paid services, we recommend our colleague Joe Bavonese. A psychotherapist himself, Joe is a true pioneer in Internet Marketing. (As a pioneer myself, I know a pioneer when I see one.) He has been helping psychotherapists and counselors market themselves online for ten years.
His services include resources for therapists at all levels of technological savvy; from do-it-yourself assistance to full-service for therapists who wish to outsource this work.
Here at the Zur Institute, you can click to enjoy our free articles on practicing therapy in the 21st Century.
See also our related online courses for Continuing Education Credit:
- Digital and Social Media Ethics for Therapists (8 CE Credit Hours) Fulfills CA Law and Ethics Requirement
- TeleMental Health: The New Standard (12 CE Credit Hours) Fulfills CA Law and Ethics Requirement
- You can order TeleMental Health courses as a 28-unit certificate for the discounted price of $168.
With all the information available regarding ethics and protocol for online communication and marketing, there is no reason to “fly blind.” We look forward to seeing you online, and don’t forget to find us on Twitter and Facebook for therapeutic resources, tips, news and conversation.