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Therapists have notoriously avoided marketing due to the perceived conflict between the role of healer and salesperson.

Although therapists long for a fulfilling private practice, they often feel that marketing is meant for other professions. If you are stuck in this mindset, there is a high cost. Most likely it will take between 5-7 years to establish a consistent and full practice that is built solely upon word-of-mouth referrals.

What is it about marketing that therapists have been so opposed to?

It’s quite simple. Years ago marketing principles were about exposing people to repeated subliminal messages over and over until they had a desired response. Marketing was a very precise research driven industry that played on our vulnerabilities as consumers. The marketing messages were often manipulative and driven by fear. Although it helped many companies get ahead, it left sensitive people such as therapists feeling distrust with an industry that was driven by money and corporate greed.

So, how does a therapist live out their mission without having to wait years to achieve financial
success?

The answer is authentic modern marketing. Actually, you’re quite fortunate. Mainstream marketing methods have undergone a radical transformation in the last decade. Transparency and honesty now prevail over deception and manipulation.

Social media has created a new landscape in the way we interact as a society on a daily basis.

We are all exposed to very personal messages, stories, images and videos online on a moment-to-moment basis. You’ve likely grown accustomed to an online culture of openness. Many small business entrepreneurs have joined this culture, by marketing themselves in a personal, honest and transparent way. A marketing revolution based on the currency of transparency now dominates the online landscape. The more open you are, the more attention you receive.

How does this apply to you marketing your private practice?

More and more small business owners like you are committed to using marketing to better the world. Through the use of social media, having a great website and utilizing paid advertising, entrepreneurs are reaching thousands of people in extremely short periods of time.

As a therapist, you can reach hundreds of prospective clients each day, and the best part is you can do it in integrity by sharing personal stories, discussing your passion about therapy, and expressing an openness that is highly valued among anyone reading.

Prospective clients want to establish trust with you before engaging in a relationship.

Many clients will follow you from a distance before reaching out to you. By understanding the principles of modern marketing you can completely be yourself and engage with these clients to establish rapport. The new paradigm of honest marketing is a match made in heaven for therapists. You no longer need to present yourself in an inauthentic way in order to “market” yourself. In fact, clients will respond better to your honesty, because of the familiarity of this type of connection online.

The real edge for you is to learn how to reveal information about yourself, while still upholding your professional boundary as a therapist.

This balance is a very personal choice. You may be a more private person and choose to share less information. That’s ok. There are always stories that you can share that are less personal, but are still deep and relatable to future clients. The key to building a successful practice in today’s world, so you’re not sitting in an empty office for five years, is to find your honest marketing expression and to learn how to use the best tools to get your work out in the world. I am proposing a major psychological reframe for all therapists: marketing is a powerful vehicle for transformation and when you view it like this, you too can learn to love marketing.

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Keith Kurlander

Keith Kurlander is the founder of Higher Practice, a company dedicated to helping therapists achieve their highest potential in private practice. He has two decades of combined experience in business administration, group facilitation, teaching at the undergraduate and graduate level, yoga instruction and as a licensed professional counselor in private practice.

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