While having a strong online presence allows therapists to get found, the people who find them represent a kind of client different from the ones who used to come through referrals from doctors or trusted friends. This new kind of client can search multiple listing at a time, rapidly book and cancel their appointments on the web, and rate their therapists online with starred reviews. “In general,” says therapist and business coach Lynn Grodzki, “they act less like patients willing to assume the traditional role within the therapeutic model and more like Walmart shoppers scanning the aisles while checking their mobile phones for better deals.”
These clients shop for therapy much as they would for any online product: by comparing, contrasting, and learning as they go. They’re often young, anxious, and used to immediate gratification. And they have no compunction about treating a therapist in the same way they would any other service provider: after all, it’s their time and money. Before booking a session, they negotiate fees or challenge normal established policies they don’t understand, such as weekly sessions and cancellation policies. Plus, they want a timeline for results within the first session and get impatient about a lack of immediate progress. In turn, therapists are waking up to the reality that relating to online shoppers for therapy services requires new skills.
In the past, Lynn tells us in the Networker Webcast series Revitalize Your Practice
, the goodwill and trust inherent in the old referral process used to overcome clients’ need to have a concrete understanding of the therapy process before diving in; today, however, the marketing of therapy relies less on well-placed referrals and more on online presence and visibility, so therapists need to recognize that their website text and design, online photo, and voicemail message educate potential clients, as shoppers, about what to expect. When a therapist is too vague in a website description of services available, or suggests results without explaining all the steps and variables ahead of time, today’s potential clients feel skeptical and won’t hesitate to express their irritation and reservations.
Fortunately, if they’re willing, therapists can easily learn to articulate services more effectively in ordinary language, help potential clients understand services within their preferred framework of purchasing, highlight and concretize the value of therapy, measure and articulate progress within each session, and use strategies to help clients stay long enough for them to see a clear return on their investment.
Revitalize Your Practice
New Opportunities in Today's Mental Health Marketplace
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