A year ago, in my Build Your Full Practice workshop, I met an energetic, young therapist named Marla. She was fidgeting in her chair as we started the introductions. When it was her turn, she told us that she'd opened her private practice the year before and still had very few clients. "I've tried doing what my mentors have told me to make it grow, but it doesn't seem to be working. I wrote a couple of articles and put some ads in the local paper. I've dropped off my practice brochures at my doctor's office. I attend my local therapists' networking meeting each month. But my phone still isn't ringing! So I'm here to learn how to get more clients."
Almost every head in the room nodded. This isn't an uncommon situation. As a practice-building coach for the last seven years, I've met a lot of therapists who are working hard to implement marketing strategies that just don't work in today's therapy environment, although they worked well in the past. So what's changed?
One word: the Internet.
From grade-school students to my 80-year-old dad, everyone is searching the web these days. It's estimated that there are 500 million Google searches every day. More and more consumers are using the Internet to find products, services, and service providers. They're searching the web for counselors too. Yahoo gets about 150,000 search requests each month for marriage counseling. Judy Gifford, CEO of Find-a-Therapist.com, an online therapist locator helping the public find counselors in their area, reports that her website had 4.5 million hits last year. I predict that, in the coming decade, online searches will be the primary way therapists attract clients.
When I explained this to Marla, she said "Technology! I don't know anything about computers and the Internet! My kids do, but I don't."
This is a common reaction. As therapists, we're comfortable in face-to-face interactions, and we've spent a lot of time mastering therapeutic theories and techniques. But our anxiety rises—if we don't go into full-blown panic mode—when we think of plunging into the world of electronic interactions. The idea is especially daunting for seasoned therapists, who've never had to market their practice before. I explained to Marla that she didn't have to learn everything in a day, and that some of it might be easier—and maybe even more fun—than she thought possible.