For therapists, traditional ways of getting the word out—a discrete ad here, a few hints to colleagues there, even a fancy website—just won’t cut it anymore. In a sound-bite-saturated world of information overload, having a brand that stands out is the only way to attract potential clients.
I started my own private practice in a burst of optimism, but at an unpropitious time. It was 1992, and managed care had begun looming, King-Kong like, over the land of psychotherapy. At that point, although I was filled with enthusiasm for being a therapist, the idea of running my practice like a business seemed completely foreign, if not distasteful. After all, I told myself, if I’d wanted to be an entrepreneur and sell stuff, I wouldn’t have spent all those years getting a PhD in psychology. This, then, is the story of how an entrepreneurially clueless therapist came to accept the facts of financial life and, in his own bumbling way, sought an answer to the question all therapists face today: how can I ensure that my family and I remain solid members of the middle class—without selling my soul, or selling out my clients? At the heart of the tale is how he accidentally created a brand for himself and his therapy, and then learned how to promote it, consciously and consistently, through 21 tumultuous years of change in the psychotherapy field.
Some therapists might recoil in horror (or assume a fetal position under the bed) at the thought of “branding”…