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Where Have All the “Patients” Gone? Facing the Realities of Practice Today

Where Have the Patients Gone? By Rich Simon A thousand years ago, during the palmy days of generous insurance reimbursement, therapists could maintain the illusion that, since therapy was paid for by an unseen hidden hand, clinical practice was somehow untouched by the tacky subject of money. Even the style of therapy reflected this disjunction: The person seeking treatment was a “patient,” who patiently accepted that authority and patiently came in session after session—even when the therapist divulged little about what was or should be happening, or how long it might take to happen (generally, years).

Flash forward 40 years: Everything has changed and, for the many therapists struggling to maintain their incomes and caseloads, not in such a good way. But, the biggest change—one many therapists still haven’t acknowledged—is in the nature of the people seeking our services. No longer compliant “patients,” or even “clients,” they have become mental health “consumers”; educated consumers, who have a pretty good idea—from the internet, from television, from magazines—of what they want from a therapist. And what they want is a straightforward service—a definable “product,” even—that solves a particular problem (marital difficulty, anxiety attacks, depression, substance abuse, etc.) directly and expeditiously, with no lengthy side trips into their deep unconscious. They aren’t into ambiguity, mystification, authority figures, clinical neutrality, and long silences.

Today, therapy consumers shop for therapists much the way they shop for cars, lawn mowers, or Caribbean cruises—perusing different brands for the one that seems to best fit their needs, usually doing so by visiting that great digital marketplace, Google. Once stumbling upon a therapist’s website, given people’s notoriously shortened attention spans, they want to know within 30 seconds whether this or that therapist seems to fit the bill.

Long story short? As Darwin winningly put it about evolution: Adapt or die. Therapists must drop their long-standing allergy to the idea of themselves as businesspeople and get into the game. Not only must they become business people, they must become adept at advertising, marketing, self-branding, finding specific niches, devising new “value-added” products—like extended workshops and recordings—and at least keeping up with, if not surpassing, the competition.

How can the therapist who hates the very words “marketing” and “business” learn the fine art of personal salesmanship without losing all sense of personal integrity? In our new webcast series, Expand Your Practice: New Opportunities in Today’s Mental Health Marketplace, we bring you the country’s leading experts on how to retool yourself for success, discover and seize surprising new opportunities for private practices, and learn what you need to know to continue doing work that you love—and make a real living doing it.

Expand Your Practice
New Opportunities In Today’s Mental Health Marketplace
Sessions Begin June 4th
Click here for full course details.

Save $25 When You Register
Before Midnight, Monday, May 13th
Use Code: PRACTICE25

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