The Ultimate Guide to Marketing for Counselors and Therapists

As a mental health practitioner, you focus on providing compassionate care, not navigating the intricacies of advertising, social media algorithms, or branding. You might not even know where to begin.

After investing tens of thousands of dollars in higher education, and decades of your professional career improving your clinical skills, you know you are good at what you do. You’re passionate about the population you serve.

But maybe you hate selling yourself.

Marketing for Counselors Who Don’t Want to Sound “Markety”

The mere thought of embracing marketing might feel overwhelming and contradictory to your purpose of helping others. But rest assured; you are not alone in this struggle.

Marketing training is not part of traditional psychotherapy education, so many clinicians mistakenly believe it requires puffing up your credentials and trying to compete with your friends and colleagues.

The good news is that effective marketing actually does none of these things.

Successful private practice marketing embraces all the same skills that make you a good therapist: excellent communication skills, empathy, generosity, and attunement.

Your Counselor’s Marketing Guide

This comprehensive guide will walk you through exactly how to apply marketing techniques and tips specifically for therapists building a private psychotherapy practice. Whether you are a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, marriage and family counselor or couples therapist, this information applies to all mental health clinicians who value quality over quantity.

If your goal is to attract new clients and build a successful private practice, but you want to do it ethically and without sounding like a used car salesperson, follow this advice.

Define Your Target Audience (Niche)

Before you start marketing your private practice, it’s important to define your target audience. When a potential client is searching for a new therapist, they are looking for evidence that you know how to help them solve their specific problem.

If your marketing materials say you do everything, it builds less confidence, not more.

Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Who are the people you want to reach?
  • What are their needs and preferences?
  • What kinds of issues do you feel qualified to address?
  • Who are the clients you enjoy working with the most?
  • What advanced training do you have?

Once you clearly understand your target audience, you can dedicate all your advanced training and marketing messages with your niche in mind.

Hang Out With People Smarter Than You

After you define your target audience, validating your specialization with ongoing training and mentoring is necessary.

Clients do their homework.

If your original message appeals to them (because you have been clear that you understand their problem), they’ll dive deeper to see whether you can legitimately define yourself as an expert or specialist.

As you weigh out your cost/benefit analysis, I believe your dollars are best spent on improving your craft before you spend your dollars on advertising or branding.

Here are some ideas of where to start:

  • Enroll in a certification program in your area of interest
  • Hire a consultant or supervisor
  • Join a supervision group with others who specialize in your niche
  • Attend a conference with cutting-edge keynote speakers
  • Stay up to date on research and publications

Even after your practice is booming, never stop learning on your own. Keep reading books, blogs, and articles written by experts in your niche. Follow relevant thought leaders on social media platforms and engage in discussions. Develop a habit of continuous learning to stay informed about the latest advancements in your field.

I firmly believe that commitment to lifelong learning is the single most important factor that leads to success in our industry.

Build a Strong Online Presence to Market Your Counseling Practice

As a mental health clinician, once you have the skills and expertise to help your clients, you need a way for your clients to find you.

Start by creating a professional profile on a therapy directory, such as Psychology Today. In the early stages of growing your business, you may not be able to rationalize the expense of a website, so it is most important that clients and referral sources have a quick, easy way to share your contact information and the services you provide.

Then, your next step is to create a website that showcases your services, qualifications, and experience. Make sure your website is easy to navigate and mobile-friendly. You can also create social media profiles on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with potential clients and share valuable content.

But be careful not to over-expand too quickly. One of the mistakes I frequently make (and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone with this) is that I try to do everything at once. This leads me to be spread too thin, which brings frustration, and wasted money.

Marketing for Counselors: What to Actually Say in Your Sales Copy

When writing sales copy, the sequence is crucial; benefits first, qualifications, and features last.

Your potential clients won’t be interested in learning about you until they feel that you understand their problem. This is where your empathy skills come into play.

The key to attracting the kind of clients who need your help is to start right out the gates by addressing their concerns in the language they use (not talking about yourself or your qualifications in jargon language).

Clients don’t want to know what your service is called; they want to know you’ll be easy to talk to and that you understand their problem. The easiest shortcut to achieve this is to start your sales copy by addressing the benefits of your services.

For example, instead of saying:

I am a pediatric clinical psychologist who specializes in CBT

Say this instead

I help stressed out kids and teenagers feel more confident by giving them practical tools

By focusing on the benefits of what you do in your office first, potential clients will keep reading to make sure you’ve got adequate credentials and training next. This sequence creates a natural flow. First, I know you speak my language, second, I know you are a legitimate, highly trained expert.

Search Engine Optimization Marketing for Counselors

SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of optimizing your website and online presence to improve your visibility and ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

This involves a variety of tactics, including keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and content creation. By implementing these strategies, you can improve your website’s relevance and authority, making it more likely to appear at the top of search results when potential clients search for keywords related to your counseling services.

If you’re just starting out, there’s no need to get sucked down the rabbit hole that is SEO. The most important thing to know is that writing about your niche, and using your clients’ language will help more people know who you are and what you do.

Give Away a Ton of Free Stuff Trader Joe’s Style

Here comes the most fun part of marketing …

Trader Joe’s doesn’t just give you free dip because they love you. They give you a free sample to see if you like it enough to purchase it.

Many customers will walk right by because they are busy or they don’t like dip. Others will enjoy the free sample simply because … free stuff! But a smaller number will try it, like it, and purchase it because it is exactly what they were looking for.

By giving the free sample, the customer who is hosting a party can now confidently buy three containers of dip. They don’t have to risk wasting money on something they don’t like and don’t want to serve to their friends.

An effective marketing plan uses this Trader Joe’s strategy.

Sharing free content is a great way to find your ideal clients. Random strangers won’t help you sell your services, but they absolutely will share your freebies with friends and family who think they will like them.

For example:

Trader Joes Marketing

You meet someone in the produce section who’s looking at you with jealousy as you’re chewing your cracker.

There’s free dip over in Isle 14!

Content Marketing for Counselors

Your Facebook friend tags you on an article because they know you’re worried about your son’s anxiety.

Check out this blog article on “How to help your teen deal with mid-terms”

You aren’t the perfect therapist for all clients. Giving away free stuff is not a gimmick; it’s a way to make it easier for the people who want your help to find you. You want to find the people who love your style and want to hear what you have to say.

If you’re ever feeling concerned about coming across as salesy, try to remember that your clients want to find you just as much as you want to find them. Your content marketing is making it easier for them.

Here are some ideas for free content you can share to build your brand.

  • Blog articles
  • Video courses
  • Checklists or cheatsheets
  • Phone consultations with prospective clients
  • Lectures
  • Social media posts
  • Podcasts interviews

Be Patient, Clients Beget Clients

All organic strategies for marketing for counselors take time.

It can be frustrating to feel like you are screaming in an arena where no one can hear what you are trying to say. This is normal and doesn’t mean you’re in the wrong profession or using the wrong strategy.

There are clients out there who need your help. If you’ve followed the first step of educating yourself and honing your skills, you will transform people’s lives.

All you need is your first client. And then you’ll help another, and another until you have created a professional life for yourself working with your favorite kinds of clients.

Need Help?

Periodically I provide marketing help for counselors. I work with therapists 1:1 to provide marketing consultation using 4 or 6-session packages to help you evaluate your current marketing efforts and decide what changes or next steps you might want to make. My services are customized and tailored to your needs.

I may be able to assist with the following:

  • Defining Your Target Audience
  • Website or Psychology Today Critique
  • Imposter Syndrome
  • Content Marketing Consultation
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • General Support, Guidance, and Mentoring
  • Marketing Techniques to Become a Thought Leader

NOTE: I am a content marketing consultant, not a developer. I do not provide website design or back-end support.

Next Steps

On our first free call, I’ll take a look at your current marketing materials, share some tips and then see whether or not we’d be a good match.

Schedule a call with Jessica here, or call her at 610-642-3359 X1. Let her know you’d like to schedule a free 15 minute consultation with Laura Silverstein.