Fall Into Cash Guest Blog: How to Communicate Your Value as a Therapist
Written by Deb Legge, PhD LMHC, Speaker, Coach & Private Practice Mentor
When helping mental health professionals grow their private-pay private practices, as I do, you’d think the heavy lift for that job would be helping clinicians find clients. But it’s not that simple. By far, the greatest challenges and roadblocks I see for private practitioners seeking more private-pay clients can be broken down into two categories: (1) What they believe about themselves, others, and their world, and (2) How they communicate a message that lets potential clients know that they are valuable, and their best choice.
Let’s look at the first category. If you want to get more clients over the life of your private practice, it’s imperative to acknowledge that your identity and worldview are influenced by your experiences (and the meanings you attach to your experiences) to date.
You weave these experiences, reflections, and meanings into stories you tell yourself repeatedly. Stories like: “I’m not good enough,” “There’s too much competition,” “I’m a bother,” “Money is scarce,” or “There aren’t enough clients” are all examples of self-defeating stories underpinned by a shaky (and often lacking) sense of self-worth.
So, the journey to filling your book with private-pay clients requires a strong sense of worth, which begins with an awareness of the stories you tell yourself. It requires having insight into how these stories affect your perceptions and beliefs about you and your business, a willingness to do the work to correct these stories, and the drive to show up and do the work that will allow you to gain confidence, clarity, and certainty in your worth.
While worth is a concept we determine, value is something others determine when they are considering whether to buy what we are selling. Although the thought of “selling” your services might be difficult for you to reconcile alongside your desire to help others, rest assured — if you are in business, you are in sales. No one can benefit from all you do until they raise their hand and say “YES! I want to see YOU!”
Value brings us to the second category of challenges I mentioned. Many hard-working private practitioners spend their entire careers worrying about where they will find their next referral.
Even if they’ve done the work to correct their stories and determine their worth, they miss the boat on the concept of value. They spend time and money telling the world about their experience, education, and accomplishments as if their c.v. is the tipping point for a client searching for a therapist. They talk about their work in terms that are academic and hold little meaning to potential clients. And as a result, they continue to struggle and can’t understand why their books are not filled with their “ideal clients.”
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I’m here to say that the only reason your book is not full is that not enough people know about you and what you can do for THEM! (Read that again)
Don’t we all want to know: “What can you do for ME?” Of course, we do – it’s human nature. The interesting twist, however, is that even though others determine our value, it is our responsibility to educate them, by highlighting the benefits we bring to the table. We help them determine our value to them, by highlighting benefits that are compelling, desperately needed, and meaningful.
Three Key Steps
So, here are 3 steps for you to develop a benefits-oriented approach to communicating your value to potential clients.
Know your target market, or ideal client, like the back of your hand
A target market is a specific group of people with shared characteristics, that inspire you to do your best work, and on which you focus your marketing efforts. Choosing a target market or two doesn’t prohibit you from seeing anyone you like – it just helps make your marketing efforts more focused and more efficient. Examples of target markets include:
- Adults with anxiety
- Kids and teens with ADHD
- People with terminal illness
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People really want to work with you when they know you “get it.” When they know that you understand what they need and desire. Your experience might help you know many of the nuances of your target market, but the best way to know their specific needs and desires is to find out firsthand. The answers to these questions should be the basis of your marketing message:
- What do they worry incessantly about?
- What are the concerns that keep them up at night?
- What are they willing to work for?
- What do they need to change, NOW?
Tip: Read “All In Start Up” by Diana Kander if you’re looking for a fun and helpful book about how to tap into the needs of your target market
Craft an effective message that speaks to their urgent needs and compelling desires
Remember that all they really want to know is “What can you do for me?” Whether in print or in person, focus on BENEFITS rather than features. Whenever possible, use the language they use when describing their problems and concerns, like:
- “I’ll help you develop and manage healthier, more satisfying relationships,” rather than “I am trained in DBT.”
- “I’ll give you strategies to tolerate and manage those awful panic attacks so you can stop cancelling plans at the last minute,” vs. “I provide symptom management for anxiety and depression.”
- “I’ll teach your child strategies that will help them feel successful and empowered rather than on the brink of a meltdown,” instead of “I’m a certified ADHD coach.”
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If you do want to share features, do it in terms of how it can BENEFIT the client, for example:
- “I am certified and experienced in EMDR; W e’ll work together to resolve your past trauma quickly and decrease the distress that overwhelms you when you get triggered by things in your day-to-day.”
- “I’ve worked with hundreds of couples over the past 10 years, and I can teach you techniques that will help you confidently address your relationship issues in the moment rather than letting them build up and turn into a lifetime of resentment and frustration.”
- “I have special training in mindfulness meditation, and I’ll give you techniques that will help you stop letting anxiety dictate your life.”
Be consistent in relaying your message in everything you say and do
People will choose you and pay for your services…
- If they understand the potential benefits your services will bring them. YOU must connect the dots for them. When you give people features and leave them to come up with their own benefits, most of them won’t. Knowing what they need and what you have to offer isn’t enough. YOU must make that connection in your message.
- If the benefits you offer are in line with their priorities. People find money for that which is important to them. Help them prioritize their need for YOU to help them fill the gap between what they have and what they want.
- If they are convinced that you have what they need, NOW. Provide valuable, helpful information on your website, your blogs or in your Facebook posts. This will help you build credibility and trust before they ever even speak to you.
- If they get your name on referral from someone they trust. Be sure to identify and reach out to physicians, educators or others who might be referring to you. Let those folks know what benefits you have to offer their people and you’re likely to get more referrals from them as well
All of this might seem time-consuming and difficult, but it’s just part of really knowing the folks you serve and showing them that you are the one to help them best. Your marketing message becomes your “why” – why you do what you do. It comes through as your passion. It is genuine and, therefore, will resonate with the people who need you most.
Once you shift your focus from features to BENEFITS, everything changes. You’ll feel better knowing your marketing efforts are simply part of your responsibility to let people who need you, know you exist. Your marketing will be simplified as well because you know what they need, and you know how to express that in terms that are compelling to them.
For my free training and to learn more about how to fill your book, go to: www.PrivatePayPractice.com
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