The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) reports that Americans have a one-in-four chance of developing a diagnosable mental health issue at some point in life. What this means for you as a counseling student or professional counselor is that potential clients are everywhere. The challenge for many counselors is that much of counseling education focuses on effective therapeutic methods versus effective marketing methods. So if you, like many professionals today, dream of being your own boss and owning your own business, this is a learning curve you must address. These tips from business and marketing consultants can get you pointed in the right direction to find new clients and realize your dreams.
Use Your Counseling Education Wisely
Speaking of counseling, if you are still in school pursuing your online M.S. in clinical mental health counseling or related counseling degree, it is not too early to begin preparing for business success. Seek out elective courses in marketing, business, accounting and entrepreneurship. As an alternative, take evening workshops or weekend courses in these topics. Find a counselor in the community who has a successful private practice and conduct an informational interview with that person to learn more about how he or she achieved personal and professional goals. If you do these things, by the time you are ready to launch your practice, you’ll already have your business plan in place.
Write About Mental Health Issues
A great way to boost your name visibility and reputation in your community is to write a blog, author a newspaper column or create an e-newsletter that focuses on mental health issues. In the same way that “As Seen on TV” labels often boost product sales, once potential clients have seen your name in print or online they are more likely to trust you enough to reach out when they need counseling assistance.
Network, Network, Network
Here, networking refers to more than just maintaining your license by attending mandatory CE (continuing education) workshops or joining your local psychotherapist association. By networking with complementary professionals in your community such as doctors, psychiatrists, dentists, dietitians and others who may be in a position to offer counseling referrals, you build trust-based relationships that can lead to new clients.
Volunteer in Your Community
Volunteering to speak at high schools or colleges about mental health topics can be a great way to get your name out into the community and generate referrals. You can also speak at women’s groups, faith-based teas, civic or community associations, nonprofit workshops and parenting groups (like the Parent-Teacher Association). Be sure to hand out plenty of business cards each time you speak!
Seek Out Collaboration
There are many ways to boost referrals, and collaboration continues to be one of the best. If you collaborate with a fellow counselor to co-host a support group, workshop or mini-conference, you can double your reach and provide prospective clients with a chance to meet you and experience your personality and counseling style.
Affiliate With Referral Services
Often national or local agencies and associations offer listings for free or for a small fee on their websites. You can become listed as a counselor and gain the benefit of referrals when a visitor searches for a counselor in your area.
Create a Niche Practice
Increasingly, counseling professionals are “niche marketing” their practices. This may involve re-labeling what you do as “coaching” or “consulting” rather than “counseling.” Or you may advertise a specialty such as counseling for post-partum depression or troubled teens.
Add Passive Income Streams
Passive income streams can include fee-based webinars or teleseminars, workbooks, e-books, support groups and even supportive products such as jewelry and daily affirmation cards. You can sell these items online and at your office.
Consider Teletherapy and Email Therapy
Teletherapy and email therapy are new counseling models that are rapidly gaining in popularity. Busy clients may need to schedule sessions around complicated obligations and often phone or email therapy is the only option they have.
With these handy marketing tools in your toolkit, you can hit the ground running to build your private practice. In time, you may even discover you have a waiting list of eager clients who want to work with you!
About the Author: Ann Holth always dreamed of opening her own private counseling practice. After graduating with her master’s in counseling, she worked with a business mentor and now owns a successful practice.