How to Compete with Online Therapy Platforms
As COVID-19 forced isolations, therapists, counselors, and other mental health professionals came to rely on telehealth services to provide continued support to their clients. And while as many as 1 in 4 Americans are affected by mental health issues every year, many people still can’t receive the mental health help they need, despite the recent acceptance of teletherapy.
There’s also a new challenge facing mental health professionals: increasing competition. Not only has teletherapy lowered the costs of running a traditional brick-and-mortar practice, but clients also now have access to therapists across the country.
All of this begs the question: how can local therapists and counselors compete with online providers?
What Is an Online Therapy Platform?
An online therapy platform provides a secure digital space where therapists and clients can hold sessions. Users sign up and pay for the therapy service before being assigned to a therapist who can support them.
Most apps or platforms feature communication channels such as text and video calls for communication. They can also include lessons, learning modules, and activities to improve the patient’s progress.
Virtual services are still held to the same standards as traditional visits to a therapist’s office. For example, these platforms are required to protect patient privacy by complying with HIPAA regulations, just as a traditional session would.
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Online Therapy Platform and Direct Therapy: What’s the Difference?
Though virtual therapy is more common today, many patients still struggle to choose an option that best suits their needs. It’s important to understand the different options available before choosing the right one.
Direct therapy relies upon direct communication between the patient and the provider. This communication may occur in person, over the phone, or on a video call. It’s considered the “traditional” form of therapy and is often what people envision when they think of therapy or counseling.
Online Therapy Platform
By contrast, an online therapy platform lets users and providers interact asynchronously and does not require the same level of direct communication as direct therapy.
A client can sign up, select a therapist, then leave messages with questions and concerns the therapist can answer at a later time.
Online therapy services are less personal compared to direct services but can appeal to those who are uncomfortable having face-to-face conversations in-person or online.
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The Power of Therapy: How to Position Your Services for Success Against Online Platforms
So, how do you make sure that your therapy business can stand up to these digital competitors? Let’s look at some key strategies:
Promote a personal therapist-client relationship
Personal, face-to-face interactions inherently make direct therapy stand out from online platforms. Patients want to know they are working with a therapist they can trust—something live communication fosters. Unlike online therapy platforms, which often charge a fee for real-time sessions, clients value the personal attention they receive from therapists. Make sure to highlight this difference in your marketing.
Emphasize your authority
Proving your authority is a critical part of online marketing (Google’s EAT and YMYL guidelines reinforce this)—especially as a mental health professional.
Mental health and well-being fall under Google’s Your Money or Your Life criteria meaning you and your content will be held to a higher standard than some others. Make sure your content marketing demonstrates your Expertise (E), Authority (A), and Trustworthiness (T). This will help you improve your SEO while also building trust with clients.
Focus on quality
Don’t try to undercut the prices of online therapy platforms. Instead, focus on the quality of the services you provide.
Personal, direct therapy and mental health services are life-changing for patients. Show why you are better, not cheaper. Create digital content such as blog posts, YouTube videos, and advertisements that show who you are, how you operate, and the results your clients can expect. Quality therapy services should be the heart of your brand identity, not cheap prices.
Develop your online services to meet client needs
Online therapy platforms are convenient—a key appeal to their patients. But you don’t have to sacrifice quality to the convenience gods. Just find new ways to offer all the convenience and ease-of-use online platforms provide.
For example, you could offer virtual face-to-face video calls as supplements to live sessions. Knowing that mental health issues can affect clients anyplace, anywhere, and at any time, it could be reassuring to clients to know they have other resources available. Develop mobile-friendly services, so your patients can access them while they are on the go.
Don’t Let Online Therapy Platforms Intimidate You—Show Your Patients Why You Are Better
Your therapy makes a real difference for so many people. This will continue to be the case, even as competitors emerge.
Keep on doing what you do.
It is possible to learn from the challenges online therapy platforms present traditional mental health practices. You can begin to develop and test new strategies by incorporating the ease and convenience of these platforms into your practice.
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