Marketing: The String Connecting - Client Pain to Your Therapy Solutions

August 01, 2011 12:39 PM | Anonymous
by Elizabeth Doherty Thomas

The gap between your love of this field and your ability to swallow the concepts of marketing may be remarkably vast. They seem to conflict: helping others versus helping yourself. Therapy is a private, confidential relationship behind closed doors and marketing is getting out there in a big way, drawing attention to yourself. If you get a little sick to your stomach, you're normal! Let's attempt, however, to reframe marketing in a way that feels authentic and maybe even inspiring. To be completely blunt, too many people are desperate for what you can offer and the only way to help them is to market yourself.

The Social Justice Approach to Understanding Marketing

How many dollars and how many people were involved in forming you from childhood through graduate school and into your license? Even private schools get tax breaks because we believe, as a nation, that education is improving your life, which improves society. Maybe your spouse worked two jobs while you went to school, or your kids didn't get as much parental attention as you had to hit the books. Now imagine all that work for naught. The very people you so desperately know you can help aren't finding you. All the time, supervision, authors who wrote those textbooks, family that sacrificed, everyone put so much energy into helping you advance, and now you're going to hide behind your couch claiming it's selfish or wrong to market?

Systems Theory Requires Being in The "System!"

People often mistake advertising with marketing. Advertising is the passive bus stop bench, the printed ad, appearing randomly in front of a variety of people who aren't asking for your services. Marketing, however, is being, quite literally, in the marketplace, or in the "systems" your ideal client hangs out in. If you work with children, the systems you market to are schools, daycares, parent groups, maybe hospitals. Maybe you serve artists, in which case you figure out all the places they natural congregate. I like to think of your ideal client as a bee that likes to buzz around fellow bees. Where are they doing this? That is the system you need to buzz around as a professional able to help with their pains and problems. They aren't wandering office park hallways, learning what the letters LMFT mean, opening doors to see if you're sitting in a chair waiting for them.

Helping Those Who Can't Pay

We care deeply about helping people but we also have student loan debt, mortgages, and with a masters or Ph.D., deserve to afford the occasional overpriced coffee, right? A cool feature of marketing is you actually offer high quality, high value information, for FREE. You focus on getting the wisdom in your head out to people who want to hear it. The more people know, like, and trust you in your community (by way of low-cost barriers like free e-books, or talks to groups of people you serve, etc) word spreads that you are a nice, likeable, trustworthy source of help and healing. Then money leaves their wallet, you fill your practice, and all the while you don't have to feel like a greasy salesperson hawking Ginsu knives for $19.95.

There are many moving parts and pieces to marketing but the great news is therapy, by it's very nature, has an inherent draw to people. Anytime you get frustrated or question the challenges of marketing, be humbled by people who are trying to make a living selling one dollar items, requiring thousands of customers, huge inventory, lots of customer service, and convincing people of the need for the tiny widget.

Elizabeth Doherty Thomas is starting graduate school in the fall to be an MFT. Since 2005 she has been helping connect therapists with clients seeking their help online via two therapy directories and her consulting work. Visit her website for free marketing help and inspiration,


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