Tag: practice promotion

Finding Your Voice

My good friend and EFT practitioner, Barbara E Belmont has been blogging recently about fears of various aspects of finding your voice, speaking up and speaking out. (You can read her blog at http://www.barbaraebelmont.com/blog/)

As I read what she has to say, I‘m wondering what is it about putting ourselves out there, in whatever way, that brings up such fear and anxiety. Whenever I speak to practitioners, I hear their concerns about aspects of growing and developing their practices, and their fears closely resemble everything that Barbara has been talking about, even though the context in which she writes is very different from your average therapy practice.

I think most people can relate to these fears at some level. It is a rare person indeed who is able to act totally without reference to how their actions will be seen and interpreted by those around them. Read more

A Business Plan for a Therapy Practice? You must be kidding!

It seems over the top doesn’t it? You just want to help people, and don’t want to be bothered with all this business stuff.

I get it. But before you close this post down in disgust, bear with me just a moment or two longer.

Many small businesses don’t create a business plan until they go to raise finance. But a business plan is so much more than just a piece paper the bank might ask for, and even if you don’t need to borrow money, it’s worth the time and effort it takes to prepare it.

Much of what is included in an average business plan is straight factual information:

  1. The name of the practice
  2. Contact details and location
  3. Legal status (sole practice, partnership, company)
  4. Details of financial and legal advisors
  5. Principle Staff (if any)

However, the real meat of the business plan (and where the most benefit lies in taking time to think about it) is under the following headings:

  1. An overview of the practice: your values, your vision, your purpose, what’s unique about it.
  2. The environment you practice in: The profession, locality, competition.
  3. What you offer: Your services, clients and marketing
  4. What you perceive as business risks and your response to those risks
  5. Financial Information: Budget, cash flow, historic income and expenditure

You may never need to borrow money for your practice, but clarifying your ideas about these things will reap you benefits you can’t imagine. It will help you to feel more confident about who you are in your practice. It will help you to focus your promotional activities, and it will help you to identify changes you may want or need to make to handle a problem before it has actually landed in your lap! In other words, it puts you into the driving seat of your practice.

There’s an example of how these headings might look in a business plan for a small practice on my website at http://thisbusinessoftherapy.com/small-practice-business-plan/

Finally, when you’ve thought about it, and gathered this information for your practice, think about what steps you need to take to implement what you’ve learnt and decided.

If you need help with this, I’d love to talk to you. Contact me at http://thisbusinessoftherapy.com/contact-us/

Where to Practice From? Location, location, location!

Can the Client Pay?

Twice recently, while discussing with therapists who might be their ideal clients, the question of clients’ ability to pay came up. Or rather, it didn’t come up. Neither of the therapists in question mentioned ability to pay as a criteria they would consider in forming an idea of their ideal client. And yet, both of them were struggling to earn enough in their practice.

Unless you’re lucky enough to have a trust fund, or an understanding and wealthy partner, most of us need to get paid for our work, especially if that work is going to go on for some time. So, in my view, the client’s ability to pay is important.

When I asked the question, each was surprised, and both agreed that it was an important factor. Isn’t it interesting, though, that it wasn’t something they thought of? Other possible criteria tripped off their tongues with ease: presenting issue, client’s age and gender, the client’s desire and willingness to do the work. But ability to pay? No.

As a profession we can be highly ambivalent when it comes to the matter of money. We need to earn a living, but many therapists seem to feel that it’s wrong to be paid out of people’s misery. A cartoon posted on Therapy Tales commented “I suspect that therapy is the only profession where the service provider feels somehow obliged to work for free.” They’re right. Doctors, Priests, Teachers, Social Workers and Funeral Undertakers all get paid. What’s so different about therapists?

eurosPerhaps this belief that it’s wrong to take money out of other people’s hardship is masking a reluctance to be seen as having needs of our own, or a fear of being thought of as “only interested in the money”? A commenter on ShrinkRap says that talking about money is more difficult than talking about sex or suicide, and I suspect that’s true for many of us. We can talk about sex or suicide because they are client issues. It’s usually easier to talk about someone else’s problems than our own. Talking about the fee for therapy brings into the open my need to earn a living, and it can be hard to make a stand for having our own needs met, perhaps in the face of the clear and pressing needs our clients may present.

And then again, maybe we make this issue far more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe it just comes down to a question of appropriate boundaries. Boundaries are the therapist’s responsibility and are part of the holding frame within which the work is done. We set out the boundaries at the outset of the relationship, including our fee (if there is one), and our policy about cancellations. We move the boundaries only if we are satisfied that it is appropriate to do so in the interests of the client.

It is the client’s responsibility to pay the agreed price for the service that they want and have asked for. And if they can’t pay? Well, that’s just grist for the therapeutic mill, we talk about it. I can hear the arguments against…what if the client is suicidal…what if they have a financial crisis…what if a child is involved? what if…? You have to decide as a therapist whether you’re willing to change the boundary for this client in these circumstances. If it’s a short term thing, then you may decide to take the bounce. On the other hand, if it’s likely that the client will not have the resources to pay you going forward, you may decide to wean the client onto another service that doesn’t charge, or charges less. And who knows how the client may benefit from your decision, whichever way you go!

From a business perspective, it’s even simpler. What business are you in? Providing therapy services for free? Or providing therapy services for a fee? The choice is yours. You can choose to provide your services for nothing, but that is very different from not charging because you’re unable to hold the boundary, or unable to say “no.”

One practitioner told me that after we spoke about this issue, she found herself becoming much clearer about the fee boundary, and as a result, felt freer to be totally present to the client. Interesting isn’t it?

If money is an issue in your practice, either because you don’t earn enough, or because you struggle to talk about it, I’d be glad to help. Please contact me here to avail of your free 20 minute consultation or to make an appointment or browse my services to see what would suit..

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What’s in a Name?

How do you decide what to call your counselling or therapy practice? Do you use your own name, or do you opt for a name that conjures an image in the mind of potential clients or referrers? Do you choose something that captures the essence of the service you’re hoping to provide? Here are some things you might like to take into consideration in deciding what your business is going to be called: Read more

I Absolve You For Being Human

“I absolve you for being human!” That’s what my friend said to me when I told her of my mistake. “I absolve you for being human,” and then she added, “And you could absolve yourself, too!”

I try hard to get it right. I had tried hard for about 20 minutes to avoid this particular mistake, and I thought I had, but then someone pointed out to me that the very thing I had been trying to avoid had manifested just as I secretly feared it would.

I wonder if the fear of being judged for getting it wrong (especially in public) holds back many practitioners from putting themselves out there and making themselves more visible to potential clients. I know the idea is to stay hidden under the veil of being “the blank screen” onto which clients can project their view of the world, and so bring out their transference. But maybe there’s just a teensy little bit of fear that we might be seen as ordinary people; and then the truth would be out that we are really no different from those normal, mistake making mortals to whom we offer our help. If clients saw us in our true colours, if they knew how much of a mess we really are behind the role of the therapist, behind that convenient blank screen, maybe they wouldn’t be so quick to catch hold of the hope that we can offer them something more.

When that kind person brought to my attention that I had made a mistake, I immediately thought, “See, that’s what happens when you put yourself out there.” And the part of me that wants to live my life from the safety of the broom closet had her moment of victorious righteousness. But there’s a bigger, braver part of me that knows that that safety is an illusion. The bigger, braver part of me knows the truth of the saying, “It is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.” And that goes whether it’s love of another human being, or love of the enormous abundance of the world we inhabit.

So when my friend said, “I absolve you for being human,” it really hit home. The gift of humanity is that we always have a choice. We get to decide what we want. And I want more than brooms and dust pans. So I thanked her for her gift, and closed the door of the broom closet behind me as I left.

Five Ways to Make your Marketing More Effective

A therapist client asked me recently to help her create marketing material that would bring in more clients. This otherwise articulate professional found it difficult to put words together into promotional material, in a way that sounded authentic without being sleazy. If you’re going to invest money in getting a brochure or flyer designed and printed, then you’ll want it to work for you.

Here are my five tips for making your material stand out from the crowd and still be appropriate to the work.

1. Talk about them, not about you

It’s tempting, isn’t it, because you are what you know best. You know who you are, what you’ve done and what you do. Sorry to burst your bubble, but potential clients don’t much care. They’re interested in whether you can bring some relief to the pain they’re feeling. You need your words to reach out and connect with where they are.

So talk about them, what they might be experiencing, and how you imagine that feels for them.

2.   Don’t talk about process, talk about what they can realistically expect to achieve, or what they want to achievehelping hand

Again, it’s what you know best! And yes, some clients will be interested in how you work, but only as a means to an end.  You are ethically bound not to give undertakings about outcomes, but you can still focus on what a client wants to achieve, and at the end of the day, all clients have one thing in common, they want to feel better. You may not be able to resolve the problem they have with their mother, but you can tell them that many people feel better for talking about it.

3.   Talk their language, not yours 

Speaking jargon creates the impression that you are the expert. However, it can have the effect of reducing your client to a ‘case’ and is to be avoided. A potential client may be impressed by your technical knowledge, but in this world of fast paced communication, you have about 15 seconds to get your message across. If it doesn’t grab their attention, you run the risk that they drop your brochure in the waste before they reach your phone number. A potential client shouldn’t have to work to understand what you are offering them. Use language that is descriptive, easily understood and that your potential client can relate to.

4.  Don’t try to be all things to all people, you’ll just end up being nondescript. Choose something that you are interested in and focus on that

You don’t have to be an expert in everything.  And the purpose of marketing is not to display all your knowledge and expertise on all subjects. The purpose is to answer the client’s question, “Is this someone who might be able to help me?” Choose something that draws you and talk about that. Because you are interested, you will find it easier to talk (or write) about it congruently and from the heart. This tells a potential client (or referrer) something of who you are as a person and will help them to connect with you.

5.  If you want clients to find you, they have to be able to find you

A client has to sort through a lot of information to make a choice of therapist. You need to make it easy for them. That means having your contact details out there where clients are likely to look, whether online or offline. The more places your name and phone number appear, the better. You will also need to find something that makes you different from others. People remember your quirks! If you can’t think of something to differentiate you, include a good photo of yourself.

Finally, you could spend a lifetime trying to get it just right. Aim for good enough, and review it before you reprint.

If I can help you with any aspect of promoting your practice, or finding the ideal clients for you, I’d be happy to do so. Please contact me with your questions or queries, or to avail of your free 20 minute consultation.

…And Then There Was The Accountant Who Spun Plates!

In most professions you get the generalists and the specialists. In medicine you have the GPs and the Consultants. In Law you have the Conveyancers and the Criminal Lawyers. You have the local dentist who does fillings and polishing, and you have the orthodontist. In counselling and therapy too, we have those who specialise in one field such as addiction,or adolescents, and those who can turn their hand to many issues.

Plates Spinning on Sticks
Plates Spinning on Sticks

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Who Minds the Shop?

A couple of years ago, my therapist had to drop out of the work at short notice due to a sudden illness.  I can still remember the shock of learning that she was going to be absent for several months, and the difficulty I had in dealing with it at the time. As therapists we are often good at dealing with our client’s crises, but sometimes we aren’t so hot at looking after our own shop! In my case, she had enough notice of her absence to be able to tell me herself, and to arrange for another therapist to provide emergency cover, but not every emergency will give us that luxury.

red lightMany therapists work on their own, and very few have administrative or secretarial support. If you were unable to see your clients, through a sudden illness, or family crisis, the last thing you might feel like doing is ringing clients and supporting them, possibly dealing with their distress when you have an issue of your own going on. And yes, I know, we’re trained to do that sort of thing. But really, wouldn’t it be nice if there was someone in your life who could make those calls to your clients, and offer them the emergency support they might need to weather your absence? Read more

Have You Enough Support for Your Business?

I was a bit taken aback when a colleague suggested to me during the week that what I was really looking for was support. After all, I teach this stuff, don’t I? As a therapist, I provide support for my clients, usually emotional support, and sometimes the more practical support of looking at resourcing or problem solving. In this role, I write and teach others about the business of therapy. Need support? Moi?

As you can guess from my reaction, I can be touchy about allowing others to support me. Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am independent, self-sufficient and like to be able to fend for myself in all situations. I hate it when there’s something I can’t do! Needing support conjures up shame for me, and that’s not a place I like to visit unless I have to.

supportNow in general, this independence is a very useful trait. If something needs doing, and I think I have any chance of doing it myself, I’ll have a go. I can do many things well, and a few things really, really well. I’m enthusiastic and willing. I’m what Jane Austen refers to as an ‘active, useful sort of person[1]. As a result, I have skills and abilities galore. But there’s one thing I can’t do for myself no matter how hard I try.

I can’t see my own blind spots. And a major blind spot for me is that I get caught between those twin horns of wanting to sort things out for myself on the one hand, and being a therapist on the other. Read more