Learning about marketing your private practice and actually doing it are very different things. I recently interviewed several successful private practice therapists about marketing strategies that have worked for them in the “real world”.
My goal is to inspire you to effectively market your practice. You don’t have to do all of these to build a successful practice. Just start with one that speaks to you and build from there.
1) Public Speaking
Public speaking not only educates your community, but also raises visibility and attracts clients to your private practice. “I did a lot of public speaking in neighborhood institutions – schools, churches, synagogues, hospitals to get my name recognized,” says Dr. Roberta Temes of New York City. Parenting After Loss founder Amy Luster, M.A., LMFT also offers community presentations on on her specialty areas: infertility, high-risk pregnancy, and miscarriage patients as well as to the health-care providers that treat them as part of her marketing strategy. Presentations on hypnotherapy have proven to be an effective marketing tool for Dr. Mary Sidhwani. “The community learns more about the effectiveness of hypnotherapy and also creates exposure for my practice and services,” Sidhwani says.
Emotional family history is the emotional and relational patterns inherited and/or learned from your parents and grandparents, which may have been passed down to you. It includes:
1. nature: predisposition to certain emotional & mental health problems or traits (i.e. depression, anxiety, addictions)
2. nurture: learned patterns of how to manage emotions in relationships (i.e. “It’s not ok to be angry” or “When there is conflict it’s best to leave the situation”).
WHY is emotional family history important?
Just like physical health history, country of birth, or personal history of ancestors, we can learn valuable information about ourselves by looking at the emotional patterns we have inherited or learned from our families. The awareness of positive as well as negative traits and patterns that have been passed down to us allows us to understand ourselves better, to be more aware of our emotional vulnerabilities, and to take responsibility for our emotional lives. Like puzzle pieces, the more pieces you have in place, the more clearly you can see the picture of where you came from emotionally. Frequently, clients will fear that doing emotional family history is somehow “not honoring” their parents and grandparents, but in my own experience I have found that the more emotional puzzle pieces I have about my parents and grandparents, the more I am able to empathize with their struggles and honor their lives.
HOW & WHERE do you find emotional family history information?
F – Feedback from “Outsiders”
“Outsiders” are anyone who did not grow up in your family. Spouse’s, in-laws’, friend’s, neighbor’s observations about the idiosyncrasies of your family are worth considering. As you grow up in your family, it’s easy to think that your family’s way of managing emotions is the norm because it’s all that you know. Some examples of observations are “Why does your family seem to yell at each other over every little thing?” or “Your family seems to handle conflict really well. I really like how everyone can have differing opinions and it’s O.K.” or “Why don’t you or your siblings, tell your dad how you feel about the way he talks to your mom?”
A – Ask Hard Questions
Be willing to ask the hard questions and get more curious about family relationship patterns. “Why did Grandma and Grandpa divorce in their 70’s? ” or “When did Uncle Joe and Aunt Betty stop talking to each other?” “How did Grandpa manage to remain so kind and loving even after he returned from the war?” Notice positive and difficult trends among family members. Are there family members who’ve exhibited incredible capacity for forgiveness, or tolerance of differences, or emotional resilience after traumatic experiences? Are there signs of unresolved trauma, addictions, abuse, divorces, infidelity, suicide or other problems that many families don’t openly talk about?
M – Mental Health Histories
Just as health histories are important source of information for you, mental health history of your family can also empower you to be educated, to know what symptoms to watch for, and to get help if those symptoms arise in your own life, and in the lives of your children. Mental health history allows you to be proactive and take preventative measures. Is there a history of depression, anxiety, personality disorders, substance abuse, physical or sexual abuse? Here’s an example of how mental health history is important. A new mom struggles to understand why she feels hopeless and worthless and has feelings of wanting to abandon her baby. Her mother discloses AFTER her daughter is diagnosed with postpartum depression, that she, too, suffered from postpartum depression after 3 out of her 4 deliveries. Had she shared that information with her daughter prior to her daughter’s diagnosis, they could have been more proactive in education and treatment.
I – Identify Emotional Rules
Each family has a unique way of being, managing emotions, and getting our emotional needs met. While some of these rules are explicit (i.e. “Men are always right”, “We don’t talk about feelings”, “We wear our feelings on our sleeve”, “Never admit that you’re wrong”, “It’s ok to cry when you’re physically hurt, but not emotionally hurt”), many are implicit and we follow the rules without conscious awareness. Ask yourself, “What messages did I receive about happiness, sadness, anger, fear?” and “How did my parents manage each of these emotions in themselves?” “How did my family respond when I have expressed each of these emotions?” If you were raised with parents who were sensitive to your emotions and needs, then you will likely have healthier emotional rules to live by.
L – Life Scripts
Similar to a movie script, we learn who our “character” is (the smart one, or the pretty one, or the lazy one) and how to respond in certain relational situations (i.e. when someone says you did a great job on a project at work, you are supposed to point out all of the flaws in your presentation and discount the compliment). We also live by scripts regarding our physical body, money, intelligence, worth, future, gender role, intimate relationships, sexuality, and family life. Just like emotional rules, many of the scripts you live by are implicit and never stated directly. For example, if your parents never discuss sex with you, you may be living by a script that sex is bad or wrong.
Y – Your Own Experiences
Examine and reflect on your own experiences in your family – the positive and the painful. Take the emotional family history information you receive from others and check it against your own experience in your family. Ask yourself, “Does this fit with my experiences?” The beauty of becoming aware of your emotional history is now you are free to sift through the information, keep the positive emotional patterns, and be proactive in changing the patterns that you don’t want to pass on to your family. Knowledge allows you to take responsibility for your current and future emotional life. Example: if your family has anger management issues and you find yourself screaming at your family, take anger management classes.
In his new book “The Sibling Effect”, Jeffrey Kluger says that whether they want to admit it or not, every parent has a favorite child. I think he’s right. A parent may naturally “click” with one child over another or may find one child easier to understand. What’s important is that parents to do what they can to work against playing favorites by celebrating each child’s strengths, seeking support and feedback from spouse or other adults to manage the internal struggle, and to refrain from comparing your children to each other.
I was recently asked to comment on favoritism in families on KSL TV news. Here’s the interview!
Did your parents have a “favorite” child? Do you secretly enjoy one of your own children over the others? Feel free to comment below or join in the conversation about playing favorites on my Facebook page!
Your most powerful tool to build your private therapy practice in the digital age is an effective practice website.Â The Internet allows us to talk directly to potential clients who are seeking mental health information and services. The majority of Americans, 62 percent, use the Internet to find health care information (Pew Internet and Family Life Study, 2009).
Few therapists have training in website programing and design, but as technology evolves, more options become available to create a cheap or free website that looks professional and accurately represents your practice. My websites are built on WordPress, a fairly easy platform on which to build a website or blog. There are thousands and thousands of free WordPress themes that you can use to customize your practice website. Therapy Sites, another website resource for therapists, allows you to select a template and customize it for your practice based on a monthly fee.
As I’ve consulted with therapists, developed my own websites, and done a lot of internet research, I’ve noticed some common mistakes that therapists frequently make when it comes to building websites.Â These are the top five mistakes I’ve seen and suggestions for how to fix the problem to make your website more effective.
Twitter is a popular social media platform where users can send short updates that are up to 140 characters long. Twitter is basically the equivalent of a Facebook status update newsfeed. If you have no idea what a “newsfeed” or “status update” is, then you may want to stop reading here and start by setting up a Facebook account.
Twitter, like all social media platforms, is a forum for conversation and connecting with other people online. It is also a great way to spread the word about your practice, to educate the public about issues you care about, and to share your areas of expertise. The point of social networking sites like Twitter is…uh…the social networking. If your Twitter followers find value in your tweets they will share them by retweeting your information their Twitter followers. Over time you can grow a network of people who are sharing your tweets which helps you get the word out about your private therapy practice.