You are a therapist who views your service as a vocation – yet you still need to find clients to survive as a business.
It can seem distasteful to ‘win’ clients, as therapeutic relationships are trust-based and so incompatible with ‘selling’ your service to potentially vulnerable individuals.
So how do you maintain your values and also run a sustainable practice?
1. Plan Your Business Goals
Working towards pre-defined goals is a powerful way to grow your business on your terms. Lynn Grodzki http://www.psychotherapy.net/interview/building-therapy-private-practice notes that as therapists often have not trained in developing business plans, so make do with whatever comes their way.
However, if you have calculated the number of client sessions needed per month to cover outgoings, and the number of enquiries needed to convert to client sessions, you can work out what activities are needed to generate this work pipeline and be pro-active.
2. Define Your Niche
Being pro-active also has the great advantage that you can define a specific niche you are passionate about working in, and work to attract these types of clients to you.
There is information overload everywhere, so it is crucial you are known for something specific, for example, PTSD in children, OCD in professional women, post-natal depression, pain management in retirement, anxiety in male teenagers.
This is both for your ideal clients to find you and for your referral network to introduce you with confidence as the expert.
3. Value Yourself
Mark Redwood https://www.thecounsellorscafe.co.uk/single-post/2016/12/31/6-things-I-learnt-starting-a-private-counselling-practice reflects that understanding what kind of person you are is vital, as this underlying philosophy powers everything else you do in the business, including your mission statement and marketing activities.
Once you value what and how you individually offer support, confidence you can make a significant improvement to clients’ lives follows.
4. Charge the Right Fees
Many Counsellors under-charge. Lynn Grodzki explains ” it’s very common for therapists to have negative belief systems about money. Profit means financial gain, and service means being of assistance. When you are in private practice, you’re doing both. You have to have a way to reconcile this inside yourself and in your practice.”
”Learn to be comfortable charging a fee that reflects your worth and your area’s market”, practitioner Randy J. Paterson, author of the 2011 book “Private Practice Made Simple” advises http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/private-practice.aspx.
”Remember your hourly rate encompasses business costs including your phone, computer, materials, utilities, rent, professional costs and time spent outside therapy working on a client’s case”.
”Charging a healthy rate for your services can actually promote good therapy as it encourages both therapist and client to focus and work harder”, Dave Verhaagen, managing partner at Southeast Psych, adds.
The Zur Institute advocates liberating yourself from the notion that profit and care are incompatible http://www.zurinstitute.com/privatepractice_clinicalupdate.html.
Another idea is to offer a set number of ‘pro-bono’ sessions per month to satisfy your social values – offsetting usual fees against those for economically-challenged clients.
5. Market Yourself
“You need to get over the idea that your clinical competence alone will sell your practice,” says Paterson. “Ultimately it will, but not at the start”. Think about marketing as necessary to ensure your business stays around to continue assisting people with your skills.
Once you have identified your ideal client, work out where to interact with them – such as giving talks to dedicated support groups, joining relevant online forums to contribute your expertise, and writing regular blogs to demonstrate your niche expertise and credibility (and improve your SEO).
These activities – along with a social media presence – make potential clients aware of you and provide a chance to assess if they could work with you.
A photo is crucial, as is at least a basic website, giving details of your qualifications and experience. A variety of professional directory listings (especially Google My Business) with a stand-out tag line will also help people find you online.
6. Build An Introducer Network
Meet and build relationships with people who could refer clients to you, such as physicians, allied health professionals, educators, community organisers.
Counselling is about trust. If clients trust the introducer, and the introducer trusts you, this helps build trust in the counselling relationship.
Zur Institute recommends approaching potential referrers as a professional-helper who has valuable information and services to offer, such as:
- assisting with burnout among police staff
- supporting teachers in coping with disruptive children
- relieving overwhelmed doctors in taking chronically depressed people out of their waiting rooms
- helping local newspaper editors fill their newspaper with intelligent commentary on local/world events
- the creative opportunities are endless once you are confident of your value and your chosen niche.
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