Therapists are a goofy bunch. Some are very territorial, not wanting to lose any prospective client to a fellow therapist. Other therapists find a great referral source tell their colleagues to join in, even if it’s the same office suite and the same shared client base. (Love those therapists on the Marriage Friendly Therapist therapy directory who refer colleagues!)
But no, I don’t mean your real competitors are therapists. Life for mental health professionals would be fantastic if the only competition were other therapists!
The real competitors for therapists are:
self help books with strong claims at easy, inexpensive, or quick fixes
the media – it’s a lot more interesting to talk about bad therapy or awful therapists or my pet peeve – completely exclude mental health professionals in stories that could use some psychological framing and perspective for the viewer to fully understand how and why something bad happened
life coaches or holistic coaches – the good ones who market well and “don’t know what they don’t know” are able to make bold claims, offer tremendous hope, and walk into arenas therapists just don’t, whether it’s adding in nutrition, fitness, or alternative medicine to psychological healing…all of which may be very useful (or at least enticing) to some prospective clients
past clients of bad therapy – there nothing worse for the profession than hearing horror stories, whether it’s actual abuse from a therapist, nasty insults to clients, or “yeah I just paid $100 and after about 8 sessions and the therapist not saying anything, I gave up and feel totally ripped off!”
cultural bias about therapy – “Why would anyone pay someone to listen to them complain?” “therapy is a crock!” “Why go to a therapist when I have my best friend to talk to?” “I don’t have the money or time” “Nothing is going to change just talking” “I’m not crazy enough to need a therapist” “I don’t have the problem, he/she/they do.”
and my passion? The reason I spend all this time blogging, writing in newsletters and magazines, helping therapists through consulting, products and services?
bad therapy marketing – yes, that’s right. There are a lot of great therapists who market very poorly and actually play into the bias against therapy. The lingo, the incomprehensible discussion of theories and modalities, or playing into the stereotypes of the “woo woo” hippie peace, love, and happiness therapist who just wants you to share your thoughts. And let’s not get started on the anti-male bias in therapy marketing. It’s very female driven in imagery and how it’s described. My husband did a fantastic, intentional job when designing his therapy office to avoid all the stereotypes of therapy (running water, butterflies, bamboo, mountains, smooth rocks, etc.) Partly he finds all that stuff very cliche, but he also wanted to ensure the atmosphere was welcoming to as many personality types as possible.
My challenge to you is to think about ALL those reasons people may read your website, or therapy profile, and may not be convinced to seek therapy generally…or seek you in particular. I’ve written (though it’s not yet published), some great “Myth Busting” on my therapist husbands private practice website. It can’t hurt and at best, will be that final nudge for someone to call. Try it on your website, too. It may just help.