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Web Tip for Worn Down Prospective Clients

I am not sure if the research has been done, but I do know the following:

  • Sometimes people are searching for therapy knowing they are NOT going to pursue it anytime soon.  Or maybe ever.  They aren’t sure.
  • People are searching online for answers.  For help.  For hope.  Regardless of their budget or level of commitment to work.

I also know there is something important about TIMING.  The best solution to any problem, with bad timing, may create disaster, or, in the case of a business or therapist, a non-sale and potentially a never-sale.

When I”m a therapist I am going to play with this idea… and will be able to give you data.  But for those who are innovative, try it and let me know how it goes.  My idea?  Have a way for a prospective client to email you *TODAY*, with the idea that you will email them back in X period of time… whether that’s a static date that you’ll email all prospective clients, or maybe you give them a drop down list for “2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 4+ months.”

The idea is you may have web surfers who are so strung out with life that even though they REALLY like what they see about you, there is just no way they have the financial, emotional, logistical, or physical resources to get into therapy.  Right now.  But imagine if that person saw you relate to them…. wow, this therapist understands that life can be difficult!  This therapist is willing to email me in a few months to check in!  Maybe that email will be my final push.  Or my reminder because right now I’m web surfing at work and won’t be bookmarking this therapists website and will likely forget who this person is. Or with this new job/new baby/new house/crazy job cycle I’m never going to keep their information handy.

It validates, normalizes, and empathizes with people.  Maybe they have depression and can’t fathom getting out of bed right now.  Or they’re in the busy season at work but once that is over, they are interested.  Or maybe they’re two months from a new calendar year for insurance and things will brighten for what they can afford.  Or they are moving, or getting a new job, and need a little time before they contact you.

Try it!  Let me now how it goes.  And obviously there are a lot of details you’ve got to confirm, like “your email to me does not signify a therapy relationship, nor does it have any legal binding results…”  And you may want an email to be sent to them that they have to confirm – otherwise you may get bounce-back emails or people putting in emails of friends or family without their knowledge.

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A Ball of Nerves

This is me and your prospective clients talking.  I’m stressed for my final quiz and counseling role play.  The entire semester was rolled into five super-fast days and now I have a 10 minute role play where I have to offer: lots of primary empathy (you feel _____ because____), a few “clarifying questions”, a self-disclosure, an advanced empathy statement, a challenging discrepancy, and use immediacy. Fortunately this is just an undergraduate “extra” class I’m taking since I already have my psychology bachelors and don’t “need” this class for graduate school.  But that doesn’t actually stop me from being a perfectionist about it and wanting a fantastic grade.

But for your clients, simply contacting you for therapy is stressful.  If any of you reading this offer a small script or tidbits to clients on what to say in a phone call or email, I’d love to see it and will share it with others (and link to your website, which helps your search engine marketing.)  I definitely plan on including this helpful information when I’m a therapist in the future because clients have no idea how much or little they should share about anything!  And I hear from my husband the various levels of information he’s given from clients and it makes me feel bad for the clients who may be presenting a certain affect but it’s only because they don’t know what to say or do.

And speaking of “immediacy”, having a helpful tips on what to say in a voicemail or email is an awesome way to connect with your prospective clients, making them feel that you GET how hard it is to even begin the process.

And coming soon (hopefully) are two e-books.  One will be on the therapy profile itself, tons of helpful advice, and the other book will be on internet sleuthing yourself so you can find out what clients can learn about you if they’re saavy and stalker-like!  These are two much needed topics and the sleuthing one will be aided by a therapist colleague who is extra amazing at internet detective work.

Self-Disclosure on Therapy Profiles

I am writing an e-book on therapy profiles and in my counseling class yesterday came up with the exact header I was searching for: Self-Disclosure.  I’ll write a lot more in the e-book on this topic, but I just wanted to give a few pointers here on the blog:

There is demographic vs intimate self disclosure, positive and negative self-disclosure.  Which do you tend to do in therapy sessions and do you do any in your profile?

The profile statements should rarely include much about your various degrees, graduate schools, etc.  That’s demographic information that doesn’t have a huge impact on your client.  It’s perfectly fine to say what you are (social worker, licensed psychologist, marriage and family therapist, professional counselor) but too many therapists go on and on with their resume details.  Nobody cares and if they DO care, they’ll click through to your website and read the boring stuff in your “About” page.  You’re wasting valuable time connecting with a prospective client by sharing boring, irrelevant information.

I’ve seen it all on therapy profiles!  Self-disclosure is a theoretical or personal issue for therapists, but remember it’s very different to self-disclose in a session when you’ve built a relationship than “out there” online.  It can be very strategic and important to self-disclose online but it’s important to remember a lot more people are reading your profile than will ever call you.  What impression are you giving to your community?

Therapy Is Scary

I feel so validated by this profile of a therapist:

During 35+ years of practice, I have learned that many people are self-conscious when contemplating beginning therapy. Therefore, I try to help the the client feel safe and comfortable, and openly acknowledge that his/her issues could be similar to ones that may have touched my life as well. I have found that if the client is comfortable during the first session, achievement of mutual therapeutic goals is optimized.

This is one of the reasons I am so passionate about helping therapists translate their experiences and personality to the web (where, for the foreseeable future, almost everyone goes to find a therapist.)  I’ve been a “therapy pusher” since I was … maybe in high school?  I had heavy things around me .. friends dealing with incest, suicide, rape, drug and alcoholism, parental abandonment, attachment issues, and more.  These folks were in a lot of stress but weren’t sure whether therapy would really help.  All I knew was I wasn’t able to really help (other than being a positive presence.)  And I knew the status quo wasn’t making them better.

These are a few things I’d love to see more therapists address for the 50% of the population who will eventually seek therapy…oh, and please don’t just shove these in a never-read “FAQ” page.  Put a few of the ones you like the most on your homepage with a “read more common questions” link to the page with all these questions.

  • “I’m super nervous about my first session.  Is this normal?  How can I relieve my anxiety about meeting you and beginning therapy?”
  • “What if we don’t connect in the first session?  I’m a conflict avoider so I know I’ll stick it out with you even if I don’t feel a connection.”
  • “I’m not sure who, if anyone, to tell.  Therapy is personal but it impacts some aspects of my life and I don’t necessarily want to get into it with certain people.”
  • “How on earth can I do therapy when I work long, unpredictable shifts?”
  • “I’m worried that even if you say you do ‘brief therapy’, we’ll open a can of worms and I’ll end up in therapy for life.  I can’t afford that and I don’t really want this to happen.”
  • “Does it matter if you are male, or female, or your age, or your degree?  If so, how does that impact our therapy relationship and how well therapy will go for me?”
  • “I know therapy is going to shake some things up.  Is there a better or worse time to start therapy based on other aspects going on in my life?  For example, if I’m training for a marathon, is therapy going to ruin my concentration?  Or if I’m starting a new career, will therapy help or hurt my ability to focus?”

Having a Website Strategy

This blog title cracks me up considering my origins of websites was to have the idea first, then hire the webmaster, then get confused with the questions he was asking, then see the website done, then hope our idea took off…not having a clue about the thousands of errors I made.

Now I exhaust myself working backwards, knowing the various strategies that are at play with the internet.  For example:

Strategy: your website name can, by itself, create a ton of free traffic (hence I have a Domains CD on the 3 ways to think about your website name and each of their pros/cons…and how, even if you have a website name, you can redo it OR add a second name strategically.)  This is why this website blog is called “private practice psychotherapy”.  It hit a popular phrase and it gives me immediate trust with Google that, as I blog, I seem to know something about therapy and websites and marketing.

Strategy: forget about tons of energy into YOUR OWN website.  Focus on finding OTHER WEBSITES were you can embed yourself as an expert.  I know people who are experts on The Knot and NJ Weddings – two big wedding planning websites.  Basically the strategy is to use other people’s work and web traffic to get your face out there.  Your website may suck, but those folks are going to trust you because you are where they are.

Strategy: have a beautiful, or informative website and trust that as you try to get people to it, they’ll really like it, stick around, share it with others, and you’ll basically grow as would a funky boutique  on a busy street in a hip area….people spread the word for you.

Strategy: hire experts in website design, search engine marketing, and social media.  Add a business coach to help you keep your ducks in a row.  And probably have a therapist as you deal with the emotional rollercoaster of all those experts often contradicting each other and all demanding a lot of your money.  (But seriously, this is a viable strategy to hire out all types of great minds.)

These are just a few strategies you may employ.  I have a new project that I am not going public with yet because this is what I’ve got going on:

1 – talking to strategic people about my idea to see if my idea can be inside their website…thus giving me an immediate audience.  But also talking to a few people about the idea in GENERAL.  (Something may sound great in your head and awful to other people.  It’s especially important to talk to the audience you’re trying to reach about your idea so you don’t waste your time or efforts pursing something only YOU like.)

2 – researching the phrases used to figure out the best website (domain) name, but also to see what people are searching for online.  This is like market research – what does the world want?  VERY different from “this is what I WANT the world to want.”

3 – figuring out the short and long term ramifications of where to PUT this project.  Is it really its own domain name?  is it a free wordpress blog?   Is it under my Elizabeth Doherty Thomas website?  And the nature of this project demands a level of differentiation from ME so that begs the question of how best to keep this project separate from the “rest” of me.  Where I do personally start and end and where does my work start and end?  The fuzzy lines can cause a lot of headaches.

4 – know thy audience!  My audience can’t handle things that are high tech, confusing, and my audience will need to know HOW to plug in.  I need to make this extremely simple.  I also need to protect expectations (mine and theirs) so launching this carefully will be important.

5 – legalities.  Some projects require ethical and legal considerations…information sharing, making sure you’re keeping all laws, HIPPA, whatever you’ve got going on.  It’s not about something clearly ILLEGAL, but about making sure there is no slippery slope.  My idea could potentially launch a new product so the question is how the interactivity with my audience ties into the product, ownership, etc.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t know as much as I do.  I would move so much faster.  But then I see others doing all the things I’ve done wrong over the years and I remember my mistakes.  And I’ve learned.  Slow, steady, and strategic will win in the end.  And besides, it’ll be more fun to make NEW mistakes than make the same ones over again.

Where is your website traffic? A guide

I was asked by a therapist where she can find her website traffic.  So here is the long, complex, simplified, confusing answer.  Ready?

We need to break you down by type.  I’ll start with those who can edit their own websites then move on to those who have a webmaster.

If you can edit your own website, you will want to go to the main area where you log in.  Start poking around to see if they provide anything already.  Ideally they’ve got a program installed that automatically tracks your statistics.  You may find an “on/off” switch that lets you START tracking things.

Sometimes all you can see is total number of page views.  Or visitors.  Or not a whole lot else.  In that case you will want to get a piece of code put at the bottom of every website page.  HOPEFULLY you have access do the code behind the scenes, but if not, ask customer service.

The best FREE source of getting website traffic is Google Analytics.  You have to create an account with them and then get your personalized pieces of coding.  Just an FYI, Therapy Sites makes it easy once you set up an account, to “plop” the code into one area and they make sure the code is on every page of your website.  I’m sure some other hosting companies do the same thing.

If you do not have access to editing your own website, this means you have a webmaster, friend, or family member who is helping you out.  Hopefully they’re still around and not annoyed any time you want an update!  You will also have to set up an account with Google Analytics and ask them to put the special code on your website – on every single page.

Then, the game is to wait!  From the moment you put the code on your website, it will start to track anyone who comes to your website.  If you have a low traffic website that means you’ll want to wait at least a month, if not longer, to even log back in and see what’s up.  A lot of business decisions can be made, a lot of how to rearrange your website can be made, and some VERY interesting learnings can be made from your website traffic.

I talk about website traffic and business decisions at length in the Website Content CD.  But one example is a page I think is very useful (Why Do Parents Care?) on The First Dance website gets a much lower readership than other pages.  I need to figure out where it’s linked from and potentially move it to my homepage or somewhere else.  I also decided to Tweet the article and got about 20 more people to read the page in one day.  The idea is… more people read it, find it interesting or insightful, share it, or, at the very least, get a slightly better sense that we’re not “just another” wedding advice website.  Or maybe they never did visit my website even while following me on Twitter for a year, so this is their first visit.  They get to look around.  Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but I had someone by 10 copies of our book from Amazon sometime after I Tweeted that article.  And that may have because we know of someone (the matriarch) who ordered 25 copies for her entire family to read, so while wedding planning, they all knew the emotional and family drama that often unfolds (and DID unfold for her family.)  I mention that 25 copy story on my website as a way to inspire people and get them to think about how and why they may want to buy our book.

I hope I haven’t lost you!  It’s a wild crazy world online…lots of twists and turns, web surfers who start in one place and end up in an entirely different place 5 minutes later.  This is the fun side of the internet and the reason I love this stuff.  And hey, my random article, on Twitter, may have linked someone to getting premarital counseling who wouldn’t have otherwise…because he or she would have seen we have tons of counselors all over the nation.  That makes the article worth it.

Unique-to-therapists website issues

This blog is dedicated to the nuance your webmaster likely has NO CLUE about.  It’s dedicated to therapists who have been doing this so long, they may have forgotten in their hearts the nerve-wracking, angst filled nature of clients finding therapists.  And yes, we know couples take 7 years on average to actually seek marital help.  (So what are they doing and thinking in those 7 years?)

In no particular order, here are my musings:

1 – from the point someone decides they are open to the *IDEA* of therapy, it may still take days, weeks, months, or years to actually contact someone.  It’s slightly easier if you really talk about the issue they’re struggling with instead of having a bullet point list of all sorts of human symptoms (that, frankly, every OTHER therapist also has on their list.)

Example: “I work with people struggling with depression.  Whether you’ve had an official diagnosis or are pretty sure you are depressed, I understand how any action at all can be extremely exhausting.  The idea of picking up the phone, talking with a stranger and coming to my office may feel like climbing Mount Everest.  I promise to give you all the care and attention you deserve when you get to my office.  My former clients can attest to the power of psychotherapy for depression.  There is hope.”

2 – Someone may find you are one of a few strong contenders.  However, if they have financial issues, or insurance issues, or scheduling issues, the therapist who gives details may win out because the client doesn’t have to call you to find out.  They can just go to the “Safe” therapist they already know takes Blue Cross, or who has weekend hours, etc.  If every therapist point of contact feels like a prick of a needle, prospective clients are reducing the pricks as much as possible.

3 – Animals.  You may love them, have them in your profile photos, or on your website.  You may have your “resident dog” in your sessions.  Just be aware NOT EVERYONE likes dogs (or cats, or birds, or horses…)  While YOU may be OK with a non-pet-loving client, the CLIENT is simply not going to call you and insultingly say they want your animal out of the office.  They’re just going to go elsewhere.  Be aware of this fact so you’re not unknowingly turning off clients who you could really help.  A healthy-client is not going to want to feel like she is insulting you or your pet by expressing concern.

4 – Watch your website traffic if you have access to it.  There is a big surge at lunch, morning (before work) and in the evenings (probably after dinner.)  Weekends tend to be slower for website traffic because people are busy and not focusing on mental health.  If you’re a very creative therapist, consider how you can leverage these peak times.  For websites that sell stuff, they may have “lunchhour sales” that are only for 2 hours.  It creates a sense of urgency and it’s when the peak traffic is online anyway.  Have you been to monster.com lately?  They have (I believe it’s Monster…) a “boss button.”  It’s a clever way if reading a website and if you hear the boss coming, you press the Boss Button and it changes the page to boring text.  All they have to do is use the back button on their browser to return to your website.  I mention this because it gets to the reality that JOB SEEKERS are most likely at WORK where they would be in TROUBLE for job searching.  Similarly, few people would be thrilled to discover their cube mate, boss, or nosy coworker watching them surf for mental health help.

5 – If most people ARE at work, at their lunch hour, and find your website, they may not follow up until the evening.  But do they write down your information?  What about a “javascript”, or using addthis.com or socialtwist.com tools to let them email themselves from inside your website.  This means their work email program doesn’t open, leaving “work evidence” of their email to you.  Obviously a contact form does the same thing – a point of contact without them opening their work email program. But remember, they JUST found your website and may be at the BEGINNING of their search and will not contact anyone until they’ve narrowed down their list.

I hope these help!  I’ve got a lot more but wanted to get this blog entry published today.  If you’ve got any pointers or hints, remember to comment!  It helps others, confirms I’m not talking to an empty room (I know I’m not because of my website traffic, but still… it makes me feel loved to get comments!)  AND commenting with a link to your website helps YOUR website traffic.

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