I have an open invite to write more for Psychotherapy Networker. What an HONOR! But it’s a very rigorous, soul-wrenching process, so as it goes, we’ll see when I have the stamina to do that again!
I ponder what people think about my article, how they reflect on their own emotional reactions to both my article, my story, but also their own story of how they’re building, or built, their private practice. I then immediately jump to my own baggage around “marketers.” This is quite silly because apparently I am one, but the HOW I got the skills, WHY I developed the skills, and the REASON I’m so passionate about teaching this stuff is pretty simple.
My experience in wedding planning was alarming. The long and short of it was, as a daughter of a marriage and family therapist, I saw all the drama that happens in wedding planning and I saw NO cultural wisdom, as my dad likes to say, about how to solve the dilemmas and tensions that bubble up in weddings. I took these problems seriously, rather than brushing them off as you might brush off the teenager who is stressed out about who they might find to go to prom. These issues engaged couples grapple with are sometimes VERY heavy. Take for example, the father who says I am paying if your mother comes alone, but if she brings her boyfriend, I refuse to pay and won’t even attend. There is nothing joyous or simple about that. You want your father there. Secondly you’d love for him to pay since he already agreed and you’ve already made financial decisions and downpayments on his promises. You can’t imagine telling your mom her boyfriend of five years can’t be there.
It is through that story and countless more that I craved doing my small part to help people out. My father and I wrote a book after tons of stories were collected, with fantastic couple and family principles on how to deal with these issues. I’m still very proud of the book! (It’s called Take Back Your Wedding and is now an e-book along with paperback.) We even created a two hour class, super easy to faciliate, for marriage educators to really take couples where they are (wedding planning stress), and help them learn from those experiences rather than take abstract ideas like your future children, future budget, future retirement.
And it was a near bust. We put our heart and souls into this. We believed in it. We even won a very prestigous wedding award for it. And yet we were stuck. Marriage educators (and many therapists) are so busy poo-poing weddings as a trival, materialistic event they can’t see the AMAZING learning opportunities. Or they’re so much older they can’t even comprehend todays wedding culture, so they minimze it’s power and influence. The wedding world on the other end is so decentralized, so partitoned off into every vendor category, and professionals trying to do their trade, whether it be baker, photography, invitations, etc. It’s hard to reach all these folks. And it’s even harder to reach all the engaged couples out there. We paid $2,000 for a print ad. We paid $125/month for a 6 month contract with The Knot, one of the largest wedding directories.
We thought, quite naively, that if you simply advertise, everything will work out! You’ll find the couples. You’ll get the business. Honestly, I’m embarassed to even admit we thought all that. It ain’t the way it works. Even though I knew, for example, ads on The Knot are mostly ignored. Even though I knew it always takes more work than an ad. I hoped it would magically work.
To then answer the WHY I got into all this, the blog post ends here, but picks up with the question of HOW we could have wasted so much money, and what in the world can we do? I stumbled into ‘search engine optimization’ and what it did was push me hard. It pushed me to go BEYOND the “wall” of “buy my book!” It pushed me beyond traditional ads on websites, where you hope to get responses. It pushed me to reach those engaged couples and parents who would greatly benefit from our wisdom but were just too expensive to reach!
Ultimately I had a major transformation. I fell in love with the internet and what it is capable of doing and being. I opened my heart and mind and was rewarded with traffic coming to me specifically around things I wrote about. I witnessed first hand the power of SHARING your wisdom, for free, resulting directly into more people finding you.
My aspiration for therapists is to dig deeper, harder, and with more passion for what they know about this world, about mental health, about the people they serve, and to be pushed into putting more online. As I like to say, at 3am when someone is really upset, something in their world has crashed, and they go online, IF they find you, will your website help them? Will your website give them resources, or normalize what they’re going through? OR will your website simply be a fact-based website with your contact information, hours and fees. Will your website be a mini-crisis line of help, or a sales pitch for how fantastic you are?