This Therapist Spotlight is a part of our interview series with experienced Mental Health Practitioners, where therapists share their experiences in Private Practice Therapy.
I am a therapist who does not work with insurance companies, so I don’t have the built-in mechanism for clients look at a list of preferred providers and find my name. Therefore, I have to do my own marketing, which, in therapy, requires a good bit of creativity, self-promotion, and self-confidence. I don’t know that this is a problem that I’ve solved, but I’ve certainly had to do a lot of learning in order to tackle it in an ongoing way.
1. Network, network, network. There are opportunities all the time to promote your practice, even just in every day conversation. There’s a finesse about it, though; people will want to come to you not because you’re selling yourself, but because they perceive you as a warm, genuine, caring person. You just have to close the loop and be sure to let people know that you are available to help if they want or need to find you.
2. Have an “elevator speech.” Be able to speak quickly and concisely about your specialty areas. Make sure you HAVE specialty areas, because you won’t catch someone’s attention if you just say, “I provide all kinds of therapy.” People want to know that you have expertise in the area where they need it.
3. Don’t give up, either when things are going well or when they aren’t. It’s easy to get demoralized if you aren’t getting the referral volume you want. Similarly, though, don’t forget that just because you’ve had a few good weeks, that you can sit back and expect the referrals to keep rolling in. Marketing has to happen all the time.
I’m in Williamsville, NY, a northern suburb of Buffalo. I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, and got my Master’s degree in Human Development and Family Relations with a specialty in marriage and family therapy, and my Ph.D. in Family Studies with a specialty in marriage and family therapy, both from the University of Connecticut. Those were degree programs accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education, which really takes you a long way toward making sure you meet the educational standards for licensure.
As an MFT, I specialize in relationships, but I’ve been doing a lot of work with couples where there has been infidelity, with high-conflict divorce families, and I work with parents on the gamut of child and adolescent behavior problems (and ways in which the family makes those both better and worse). I’ve been in practice for almost 20 years, and worked for more than 10 of those in a hospital-based, outpatient child and adolescent psychiatry clinic. I learned a lot there about medication and how they’re used for kids, and in exchange, I teach the child psychiatry fellows how to broaden their perspective to include the whole system when they’re thinking about prescribing medication to kids.
I use an outcome-oriented approach that allows me to assess at the beginning of each session whether or not the therapy we’re doing is effective. I also assess at the end of the session what clients felt worked and what didn’t, and we talk about it before they leave. It keeps length of stay shorter (4-6 sessions, which people like when they’re paying out of pocket), it addresses the research on therapy that shows that therapists are actually very bad at knowing when their clients are getting better, and also bad at knowing when they’ve had good sessions, and it creates a relationship with the client that is crucial in creating successful therapy.
In addition, I have a very direct style, which took some years to develop. I find that clients appreciate it a great deal, particularly because it’s balanced with such close attention to my relationship with them (the relationship has to be solid so clients won’t be put off by direct feedback). I ask for the same candor when they give me feedback.