"Helping people who help people"

After talking yesterday about Rock Star Therapy Bloggers vs Regular Therapy bloggers I want to address a really common problem for therapists.  Don’t laugh because it’s very real:

Too Much Passion.

This may be too much passion for “healing”, too much passion for theory talk, too much passion for research, for emotion talk….

You’ve probably heard the stereotypes of therapists, which include being sappy, drippy, overly-emotive, all about feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeelings, anti-male, and it’s all about feeling goooooood.  I’ll address the anti-male marketing message in a separate post.

The dangers of too much passion in MARKETING your therapy practice, in my opinion, include:

  • everything you write and say becomes about you, not the client
  • you talk at a 5,000 foot level when prospective clients are in the dirt with the problem
  • you can lose sight of what people really want because you’re so focused on what you want to do or say
  • being blinded to any feedback from friends,  business coaches, or clients regarding what you’re doing or how you’re doing it
  • missing a huge window right “next” to your passion, where potentially a lot more people are wanting or needing your services

Let me give a few examples to illustrate.

If your website has a lot of “I” talk with passion-filled emotion, do some checks and balances to see if you are really speaking to the client or writing a personal diary.  Why on the world should someone care that you love a particular topic?  They don’t unless most of the words are directed to their pain or pressures.  Your passion should simply be what solidifies that not only do they feel heard and empathized with, but they feel excited that you’ll be thrilled to work with them because you have a lot of experience or training in their issue.

A common one in my world at the 5,000 foot level would be something like:

Marriage is hard work!  It requires a lot of effort, so if you focused at least half your energy on the marriage as you are on the wedding…”  I despise this!!  Stop it people!  Right now those people are in the throws of wedding planning drama.  They are putting on the biggest event of their lives, at a time when they’ve just gone from island-happy selfish boyfriend/girlfriend land, to creating inlaws and becoming a branch on a family tree.  And I am crazy intentional, have a great relationship with my husband, and in premarital counseling at the 5,000 foot level we didn’t have a lot of issues.  We weren’t living together, we’d never had a family holiday together, we couldn’t even budget since we didn’t have a home to budget for yet.  But had we been asked about wedding planning… oi, YES, there was a lot going on.  It’s almost impossible to have a simple, easy wedding where every stakeholder is equally relaxed and pleased.

The grounded approach would be to talk to their real pressures so they understand where you’re coming from and that you can, in fact, help them.  “Are you in the throws of figuring out who is on the inside club of wedding invitations?  Are you mad for the first time at your future in-laws who you thought were rather pleasant until they insisted on inviting 70 family members you’ve never even heard of in 3 years of dating?”  THAT is on the ground!  I firmly believe that wedding planning IS marriage planning because it’s all about communication, teamwork, money, family of origin.  Why in the world would you talk generic when you have such rich fodder to delve into what’s actually going on?  (A plug: If you want a free copy of Take Back Your Wedding, email me at elizabeththomas [at] thefirstdance <dot> com and I’ll send you the e-book!  I’m in the process of creating a website just for the book, but we have revenue sharing on the e-book for your couples.)

On to what people really want vs what you want.
Most therapists are rather obsessed with making their hourly rate in the work they do.  Make sense but it can be really destructive.  I know very creative therapist wanting to offer awesome services but to get her hourly rate, nobody will sign up.   One therapist is offering a really cool communication aid by email about a particular niche (I don’t want to give it away as she’s still trying to market but hasn’t hired a business coach so it’s slow going.)  She needs to risk not making an hourly rate to instead think about membership models or ways she can make the service appear affordable and useful rather than what is now – email her and you’ll pay $50+ for a response.   I gave her about 15 minutes of fabulous information but this marketing and business model stuff is very overwhelming stuff to learn fast and requires a HUGE time output, without pay, to get this sort of thing off the ground.  There is no way greed works when it comes to marketing effort.  You are paid in passion dollars at first.  🙂

Another great therapist wanted to offer a workshop at a really high rate.  When I learn it’s for engaged couples, I had to tell her it’s insane.  Turns out she was putting in all the time she’s spent working on the workshop into the final cost per couple.  Nope – not the way it works.  It’s all about what the market will pay, not what your hourly rate is.  To her credit she heard the message and has gone back to the drawing board on what she wants, how much she’ll charge, etc.

The final example I’ll give comes from my work with search engine optimization as well as my understanding of the stigma of therapy.  

Think about your client and look what is “nearby” and figure out if that is a way to get in.  Examples: working with pregnant or post partem women, find doulas, lactation consultants, baby planners, baby furniture and clothing stores.  They are stigma-free concrete places women go and you can reach out.  Marriage counseling is a tough one, but married couples have lots of activities they do from remodeling, home decorating, date nights, travel, etc.  (Hint: this is part of my creative blog in the works and “grand ideas” locally.)  For my wedding relationship website, I have had to find what their pressures are (WEDDING STUFF) and talk to that in order to get them to land on a premarital counseling website.  When you talk to their real issues (who to invite, divorced parent drama, procrastinating bridesmaids, annoying siblings) they will not only find you, but may actually be interested in the “other stuff” you offer.  You know, the stuff you’re passionate about.

And a big hint: you don’t find clients on Twitter, but you find those people who WORK, PLAY, or ENTERTAIN your clients on Twitter.  I’m building authentic relationships with a huge variety of Minnesota Twitter folks because it’s fantastic fun but also really important in networking as a therapist to see what’s out there and figure out how to reach your audience.

I’m also nearly complete with a robust e-book on writing therapy directory profiles.  It’s really exciting to be able to share nuts and bolts information on such an important topic!  Too much passion and too much therapy speak, or major “messaging problems” are at the core of most therapy profile statements. If you’re interested, give me your email here and I’ll let you know when it’s done.


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