At this juncture of your career, you have done hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of classes and hands on training to make yourself a skilled mental health professional. The question then comes, how do you make your skills known to the public? There are many online advertising companies, but one that has made a big splash in the mental health field is psychologytoday.com
Psychologytoday.com is an online platform that connects potential clients with certified mental health professionals by looking at several specialized factors. Psychologytoday.com is a paid platform where you pay a monthly fee to be listed for potential clients to seek you out. Although I have no affiliation with psychologytoday.com, I do believe it can be a valuable tool, particularly for those just starting to create a referral stream. The information you share about yourself and your practice on psychologytoday.com is useful in setting yourself apart from other clinicians on whichever platforms you use to advertise.
As you set up your profile, here are the main sections to consider: specialties, client focus, personal statement, insurance and fees. These categories help potential clients locate a mental health professional that is a good fit. This also empowers clinicians to set up their profile in such a way that their “ideal” clients can find them. This is mutually beneficial to all parties.
Set Yourself Apart from Other Providers
For many first starting out in the field, it can be a common temptation to try to be a one-size-fits-all practitioner. The assumption is that, if we claim to treat a wide range of disorders with a broad range of techniques, we will attract more clients. However, the vast majority of clinicians I have worked with advise against this. Generally, clients want to find a professional who has an active interest and particular knowledge base for the issue(s) they are facing. Based on your past experience and education, you have specialties; do not be afraid to show them off.
One way to show your unique strengths is by listing your treatment specialties. Psychologytoday.com lets you choose three specialties. Take your time deciding what primary issues you choose, as many of the potential clients will be using this tool to find you. You do not need to feel limited by this as there is a subsection where you can choose additional conditions. Simply by listing your top three, you are carving out a niche of what you feel most confident and skilled in treating.
Stating your most frequently used or specialized modalities is another way you set yourself apart. Although many non-professionals may not know the proverbial alphabet soup of therapies, with mental health awareness on the rise, consumers are becoming more savvy about treatment options(1). Whether you provide psychiatry, biofeedback, CBT, DBT or EMDR, make sure that it is clearly listed. It likely took you a lot of training to earn those certifications, so it is important that clients know how to find you!
Age is one major factor to consider when identifying your ideal clients. Do you specialize in work with children, or does the idea of play therapy make your toes curl? Identifying and listing the age range of clients you accept and feel competent treating is a meaningful way to assist them in narrowing their search as well. General age ranges provided as options on psychologytoday.com include toddler, children, pre-teen, teen, adult and geriatric.
If you are a clinician who is allied with or has experience supporting clients in particular groups, it can be useful to indicate this. If someone is a part of a marginalized community and looking for support from a professional, it may feel like a safer option for him/her to find someone who openly reports their acceptance and comfort around working with unique groups. Groups listed include: Gay Allied, Lesbian Allied, Non-Binary Allied, etc.
If you speak a secondary language, this can be a huge selling point. Bilingual mental health workers are often in short supply, so do not be shy to let potential clients know if you provide sessions in another language (2).
Finances are most certainly a factor when determining fit between a mental health professional and their clients. The most frequent preliminary question I get from potential clients is, “Do you take my insurance?” Fortunately, psychologytoday.com allows potential clients who wish to use insurance to specifically search for providers that are in network. Make sure to list all the insurance panels you are on. Of course, if you only accept out of pocket expense, you can list your session rate.
Creating a Compelling Personal Statement
When you are creating your profile, much of the process is checking boxes and one-word answers. When you get to the personal statement section, it is time for your creativity and individual style to shine. In this section, you are able to write several paragraphs about who you are as a practitioner and what clients can expect when meeting with you.
Before you get started, I recommend you look around at others’ profiles. Take a moment to explore what you like and dislike about their style. Perhaps you notice you like those that are personable, have humor or, conversely, are somber and straight forward. Start by noting what resonates with you.
As you begin, I encourage you to imagine that you are writing this as an invitation to your ideal client. How do you want to welcome them to your practice? Is there anything they should know about your style? What makes you unique? And, perhaps most importantly, do you have availability? This can be a living document that changes over time as you identify parts of yourself or your practice that you would like to highlight.
In my experience, having a healthy and viable practice comes down to two things. The first is a reliable inflow of new clientele. The second is attracting the right clientele from the start. When we take time to advertise our services in such a way that draws in clients whom we are qualified and specialized to treat, we create client loyalty. Not only does that translate to clients staying with you, but it also generates word-of-mouth advertising and helps your practice grow.