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Honesty Gets You Everywhere

Last night I finally satiated my curiosity by counting the number of inches of scar I have on my body, thanks to the year 2009.  (A whooping 31 inches, folks!)  To be honest, I was more open before I realized I wanted to pursue a mental health license.  Now I feel stuck.  I have very intense stories, raw, honest, complicated, insightful, shocking, that need a home.  (And yes, therapy is good for all that, but therapy is private.)  There is a hunger many people have to be more public, to witness to it surviving and thriving.  The challenge for therapists is just how public to be and about what!

As a savvy internet marketer who is also insanely genuine and real (what you see is what you get online and off!) my thoughts run the gamut when it comes to marketing my future practice.  My latest newsletter article for the Minnesota Marriage and Family Therapy association was about growing up in a systems thinking house.  The editor worried for me, which made me paranoid.  He worried that I was so honest, he hoped people would respond positively so I wouldn’t feel so exposed.  I found it odd, because it’s really not that personal the way I view personal.  And then it hit me again.  I am going into a professional of stiff but caring individuals who are sometimes/often overly focused on puffing their feathers among each other, rather than letting their guards down.  Heaven forbid a therapist be vulnerable!

Right now I have therapist friends of all extremes being honest and raw online.  On the one extreme is reading a Facebook status response that is the actual client, saying she’s excited about her 1:30 therapy appointment, on the therapists personal Facebook account.  The other extreme is a Twitter friend who has no picture, no last name, and a blog that also has no names attached.  She doesn’t want clients to ever find her, but she wants to express her therapisty self.  Another therapist friend plays a solid middle game, truly being herself, sharing her marriage joys and struggles, her parenting experiences, and has maintained a full practice for twenty years because she is REAL and her clients appreciate it.

I just can’t be either extreme.  But the middle is really, really large!  And with a therapist husband, I have to be extra careful because his clients can see what I’m saying and he has his own very different personality and privacy limits.

Here’s where I am at so far and I would really love your comments (I took off comment moderation so it’ll appear right away) on how you handle being your real self with being a therpist.

Truth #1 – therapists are never a blank slate and for those of us who won’t ever take insurance, we can’t afford to be commodities.  We are selling ourselves as it connects to prospective clients.

Truth #2 – the utmost care must be given to prospective or current clients so as to not shock them or create intense emotions (this could be anything from raging about politics, religion, or sharing the intense version of a personal tragedy you’ve experienced.)

Truth #3 – people heal best in community, in support systems where they don’t feel alone.  If a therapist can more personally relate to a client, even if they don’t over-disclose, isn’t that at the core of what this crazy thing called life is about?

Truth #4 – Therapists who faced their fears and came out publicly with their internal demons end up finding more personal growth, help a lot more people, experience more public acceptance than they ever thought possible, and end up actually growing professionally.  (And let me just say I went to a workshop with great therapist self disclosure and it was far more powerful than any material I could ever read or therapy sessions I could attend on that topic.  If I were alone in the workshop I would have just broken down bawling.  As the therapist said, NOBODY gets a pass on potentially having personal drama or tragedy.  Not even mental health professionals.)

Truth #5 – It seems to me demons are best opened up if they relate to the clients you see.  It seems best to only risk burdening or over-disclosing if you work with the population that you’ve experienced personally.

Truth #6 – to speak your truth it seems therapists have an obligation to have sought therapy and worked on their poo.  Otherwise it seems you’re a raging hypocrite who wants people to pay you to help them but you haven’t taken the time or spent the money working on yourself.

Truth #7 – Failure is awesome, more connecting, and leads to greater things.  My audio trainings include a ton of my failures and it makes me sad more marketers don’t open up.  Isn’t it more encouraging to know others make mistakes and have come out the other end better?  My father once started a workshop by (with permission) sharing a fight he had just had with my mom/his wife minutes before the workshop started.  He then went on for the next 1.5 hours giving his presentation. And you know the only thing most of the audience will ever remember?  That even experts are human!  So many people approached him afterwards with glee that he and his wife also have fights, and how much better they felt about their own marriages.  It became almost ridiculous how being a real human with people was breathtakingly amazing and worth a conversation about.


What I consider a fun challenge, then, is where do these moments of honesty live?  Only online?  Only in the therapy session?  Only in paid products so they’re only semi-public?  Somewhere in between?  And what can you generate for a service or product, out of your honest truth, that may be the most amazing thing ever to a prospective client or web visitor?  I know my story leads me in many potential directions, with many potential clients, referral streams, and innovative new niches.

What about you?

ps: in the name of honesty, I get nervous writing posts, more nervous when I get comments or don’t get comments (isn’t paranoia great?!), ridiculously happy when people subscribe to my blog or Top 10 Tips report, and very pleased when people comment with great thoughts.


A Rant Against Therapists on Behalf of Prospective Clients

I get frustrated.  Angry.  Annoyed.  I publicly apologize for the profession I’m about to join.  Therapists are an amazing bunch of people who put everything they have into helping people heal.  But there is a huge gap in what therapists do and what prospective clients experience.

Therapists are often clueless about the non-office “stuff” of therapy, especially marketing.  I completely understand and empathize.  I came out of HR where I knew all those people I interviewed were so nervous and the balance of power was in my favor.  In any profession, with time, we lose sight of the emotions of prospective clients.    This blog post is dedicated to one particular story that makes all my work worthwhile in helping therapists connect with people seeking their help online.

I’m on a message board where someone asks for therapy help.  She has contacted THREE therapists and gotten nowhere.  What’s the problem?  The problem is she doesn’t KNOW what her problem is.   Huh, you wonder?  Three therapists asked her why she was calling and she couldn’t give a good answer.  So what does she do?  Gets stuck.  Sad.  Frustrated.  Confused.  She doesn’t know how she can call a fourth therapist if she gets the same response.

After just two small email-type exchanges with her it is very clear she could benefit from therapy.  Her stepfather recently died of cancer.  Her mother has attempted suicide three times.  Her brother is also suicidal.  She’s newly married and has a new baby.  She’s deeply grieving.  She’s angry, traumatized, feeling very alone, and having marital issues.  My heart aches for her.

What makes me mad…or perhaps just really, really sad?

Three therapists were not skilled at dealing with a prospective client who couldn’t label their pain succinctly
Three therapists may have been trying to figure out if she was their ideal client but instead pushed her away from seeking any help.
Three therapists didn’t demonstrate that when someone is calling for therapy they are feeling extremely vulnerable, confused, afraid, and out of their element.  The client deserved more.  You may not be their ideal therapist but for the profession of psychotherapy, really think about what you can do to help send people at least closer to where they ought to be.

I’m not even a trained therapist yet and with two or so simple questions (with the help of my new therapist husband) I was able to immediately hone in her issues and the direction she may want to go.  Remember, you may literally be the last person they call before giving up, spending the rest of their life in unnecessary pain.  It should not be the job of random people on a message board to help a struggling person get psychotherapy help.

My message for you today:  It’s not the clients job to say, “so, I think need a little EFT for my marriage with some EMDR for my PTSD and a wee bit of CBT for my PPD would be great, thanks.”

Frugal Marketing

I’m annoying myself and thought I’d share.  See, I’m a somewhat frugal person when it comes to areas of my life that I feel at all competent in.  This includes learning just enough to hack websites (ones I ethically get free), or to make my own cookies instead of buying cookie dough.  The $350 I spent on Dreamweaver seemed ridiculous five years ago, but we were tired of constantly nit picking changes to our webmaster with someones week or more delays.  This was the software he recommended so we could update our own website (and I’ve had up to 15 different websites I run on Dreamweaver so it’s very flexible!) I hadn’t ever played with websites before and there I was putting $350 into a software program that I was going to have to learn on my own.  Well, on my own as in spending another $40 for a book.

Turns out that $400 or so has saved me literally tens of thousands of dollars.  It’s made two websites still exist today when both were sinking on the ship of Web Marketing Ignorance.  What that really means is my work has helped thousands of couples get the marriage help they needed.  (That feels GOOD!)  It’s also empowered me to redo my website designs as business changes.  Now as things grow and change (as they do for all of us!) I have the free tools to change things around.  The alternative is to hem and haw, pay someone lots of money and hope what they do is something I like and something that will work.

Where do I sit today?  I know a professional copywriter could help with a few pages of some of my sites, but I’m TOO FRUGAL to hire any of them.  I’m just not convinced that $175 for a quick 50 minute analysis of a single page would create $175 or more worth of sales that I wouldn’t already have earned on my own.

I’m trying to get free e-book cover designs but finding that without the skill or software, I’m forced to beg my husband to help me or hire out.

I’ve been listening to audios of amazing entrepreneurs, falling in love with them, then going to their price page and gasping.  GASPING!  $497 for a one hour business consultation.  “Spend an intense 12 hour day” for $7,600 with someone else.  Setting up Pay Per Click for at least $500-$900, not including the money you put into the actual ads (at least $50/month.)  All of this seems painful and expensive and without faith that it works, hard to bite.

So what’s a therapist to do?  Great question.

Part of my passion is frugal marketing (hence the search engine optimization work that I teach but in a more expansive business strategy sense).  But another part of my passion is helping therapists figure out where to strategically spend their money.  This is really why I exist in the first place.  If there were people out there who could talk straight, give me the full context of what they’re selling, plus ALL my other options, I’d feel more at ease.  Instead every expert not only hard sells what they do, but they don’t give you the downsides to their area, and often they don’t even address our mental health profession.

As my husband said the other day, I don’t just love to teach things, but I love to invent new systems.  So in the coming months you’ll see a lot of exciting changes, new products and coaching opportunities that fit all levels of frugalness.  In the process I hope to shift some mindsets out there where spending any money seems foolish when it’s the other way around.

With the right level of empowerment, an educated mindset for marketing and business, and the moxy to trust your gut, I know success is possible.  My goal is to broaden your understanding of what’s possible and send you to the right places so you can spend your money wisely.  If you haven’t already, please sign up for my list to be aware of new products/services.

Arranging yourself by your clients

I’ve been listening to a lot of audios of entrepreneurs.  One of them really helped me get my passions and soul in gear.  Watch for a rearrangement of my website, a lot more products and services, organized in a way that my heart sings and I don’t dread.  Yes, you know things aren’t balanced when getting emails from people who want to pay you stresses you out!  I’ve come to realize it’s lack of systems in place and coming to peace with my ideal client and ideal projects.

Are you thinking along the same lines?

Have you listed out the best interactions you have in therapy?  Best clients?  Have you found the patterns?  Have you read your marketing materials (website, brochures, business card) through the lens of how your ideal client would respond?  If not, join me on this journey.  Chat with me on Twitter!  I’m at @marriagekids or you can click on the Twitter image on this blog.


Lots of Voices – Telesummit on Private Practice Building

I have a banner image, but just wanted to say Casey Truffo (the amazing woman who spent 45K to get an office going and then realized she had no CLIENTS to fill her beautiful office!) has gathered a lot of amazing people to talk about all sorts of things related to private practice building.  I firmly believing knowing your OPTIONS is vital to internet marketing.  My role is part-educator and part-consultant (watch for more options to learn with me soon) as I’m on the ground myself and do not have a team to dedicate personalized help to each of you.  So while the cost of the conference is a decent chunk of change I believe you’ll learn  about a lot of different topics.  From there you should trust your instincts and areas that empassion you and go with those!  Whether it’s pay per click, social media, giving workshops, there is a lot to learn from what is an hourly rate for some marketers…and it’s 18 speakers!  I can honestly advertise for Casey because she has the power to gather a lot of great people with ease for you (you can listen live or on recordings later.)  And remember, one client who comes to you two sessions generally pays for conferences or trainings like mine.  That client stays on and you’d be a fool not to spend $200-$300 and earn $1,000 or more!

Here’s the Private Practice Conference link!  (I’ll be listening to the conference myself and will be able to share more after it happens!)

Competition Among Therapists?

This blog post is in honor of an amazing blessing that has just happened to me.  I met the closest person to my Twin in terms of our mutual love and admiration for mental health and therapy AND our love of entrepreneurship and the business world.  Yes, we are both turned on by talking about the process of self-change, the art and science of therapy, AND the Old Spice commercials.

This journey has been very fast.  About twenty four hours ago we connected on Twitter after I only met her once doing a therapy marketing presentation to a group of new therapists, two or so years ago.  She shared via Twitter what she was plotting and I gasped.  Oh no!  Her website was really attractive.  She was doing a lot of what I do.  But she offers a website solution in-house ( I just refer people to various solutions.)  Lots of emotions flooded me and truth be told, I zipped through her entire website, reading everything, hoping there was some fatal flaw or reason why I was better.  (Competition can be ugly, folks!)

She had a few questions for me and I had a LOT of questions about what she was doing.  So we met.  Last night!  For four hours.

This person who was intimidating, with real world experience growing her own practice, networked with a bunch of people, was launching…what?  my dream?  Well, no, not quite my dream.  Maybe part of my dream if I had all the time in the world.  But something similar to what ignites my passion.

In four hours I shared with her MY dreams, MY plotting, MY ideas as she also shared hers.  We connected.  We were real. And in less than twenty four hours, we have amazing plans set to help embolden therapists on their marketing journey!  We’re even meeting tonight in the location where we’re going to hold our first event (in October for those twin cities folks reading this) to plot things out.

What happened?  Someone I could have scorned, feared, or felt superior to has turned into an amazing business partner.  There is power in numbers, not to mention deep friendships to be made in working together.  And quite literally we are going to be able to reach MORE PEOPLE TOGETHER than either of us alone.  Even if we make slightly less money, say, doing an event, than if we were doing it alone, we will have a lot more fun in the process.

And if we prove to ourselves that we’re capable of launching this first big idea, there are a lot more bold ideas in the hopper and a lot of real people will benefit from our ideas (not to mention therapists we bring along for the ride.)  So I encourage you to seek out people IN your exact same city who do EXACTLY the same thing you do (or aspire to do.)  You may be in for quite a pleasant surprise.  And if you’re really intrigued by all these “ideas” I’m talking about, stay tuned.  We’ve only just connected less than 24 hours ago.  Give us a few hours to put our thoughts down.  And do share if you’ve similarly connected and built bridges with “competitors.”

The Evils of Technology

I’ve been frantic with a dying laptop and five years of information not backed up.  I’m over the crisis and can share a few tips for those less technical.

One – it is probably worth having to log into different websites to check email, as compared to having something like Outlook, Eudora, or Thunderbird (which I use) where emails come to you and “sit” on your computer.  I was able to actually grab my Thunderbird inbox, sent, and drafts and move them to my new laptop, but had the laptop died before I could do that, I’d have lost all personal sent emails.  If you only check work email from your website system, it means it’s being backed up and protected and those emails aren’t sitting on your personal computer.  In my frantic fury, I knew I was 100% Ok for 5 years of work emails because they were sitting on another server, not on my physical computer.

Two – try to have as few folders as possible, or at least have them all under one BIG file.  This way you have just one place to grab all your files should your computer die.  It’s also easier if you have a backup program to just know everything vital is in one place.  I had folders all over, enough that I got paranoid I was forgetting some.  For this laptop I am finally putting things in the default folder it wants to put files in.  It’s so much easier because if it’s always going to default to the same folder, I might as well have it there.  I know… it only took over a decade of personal PC usage to figure that one out.

Three – it’s probably a good idea at year three or four to start considering your back up plans should your computer need help.  For a few months I haven’t felt I could trust my computer and then in one fell swoop, everything vanished and I thought I’d lost it all.  My laptop was five years old and had VERY heavy usage so it was time for a new one.  Five years is a lifetime in technology!

Four – make sure you suck up to any techie friends in your life every few months.  You want to be sure they’re around when chaos reins.  Fortunately my techie friend is also my husband!  I’ve also given frantic emails and calls to friends (probably 5 of them) and my father-in-law.  Those who think I’m techie don’t realize that “techie” has many meanings and I rely on many people for the hard computer stuff.

Five – be in touch with your emotions.  HUH?  Yes, technology has a logic and rationality to it but if your anxiety is really high and you can’t handle the unknown, say of bringing in your seriously sad 5 year old computer for potentially expensive repairs that may or may not do anything… perhaps your anxiety is best served just getting a new computer and letting the old computer go.  Nobody is going to “tsk, tsk” you.  If you have a techie friend, maybe give them the old computer as a thank you.  (Just don’t be offended if they say NO thank you!)

On the upside, I’m proud of myself for making the redo of Marriage Friendly Therapist really challenging for my IT team.  It makes me feel good to know that I know what is possible, even if I can’t do the programming to make it happen!

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