Once you have decided on your location, have negotiated your office space, and are comfortable with regard to security, you’ll need to market your services.
One of the first principles of private practice is to relinquish the idea that therapy is all you’ll be required to do. In fact, certainly in its infancy, therapy will only be a small part of the work of establishing your practice. The key issue initially is, “Where do I find clients?”
Many therapists find the idea of advertising distasteful, but there are conservative forms of advertising, which most practitioners find acceptable. Firstly, consider approaching local GP surgeries and ask whether they might be willing to give your card to people (yes – don’t forget to have some cards printed). Even where they employ an in-house counsellor, waiting lists for such services are often long, and many patients will be willing to go privately, if only they know where to go. Some GP surgeries even have notice boards, often commercially run by outside agencies that will charge you a fee to develop a tasteful poster for your services, and then to have it on display, perhaps with a card holder as well.
You might also consider approaching local solicitors and undertakers – businesses where the clients are going through trauma of some kind and the business in question, whilst themselves dealing only with the practical considerations, may like to recommend help for the emotional issues often involved.
Yellow Pages may seem a little bold for you (and security issues then become paramount) but if you look under “Counselling and Advice” in your local directory, you’ll see that many therapists use this way of generating clients. Yell.Com is the Internet service, and you can be entered here either as well, or alternatively.
Investing in the website listing of your professional association is likely to be money well spent. Now that counselling is becoming more widely used by the general public, their awareness of the relevant professional associations is also greater. Many potential clients like the security of seeing someone who has a professional registration, and as a therapist, it can be reassuring to know that the client is taking the idea of therapy seriously enough to make such an enquiry.
Networking is a spin-off from advertising. Get involved with therapy groups, and agencies that deal with specialist difficulties. You could offer to give a talk to the local OCD Support Group, for example (obviously, where you have experience in that particular disorder). Even writing for a local newspaper will generate your name in print in your area.
You’ll eventually begin to receive “word of mouth” referrals, but you’ll probably have an established practice before you get too many of these.
To start with then, you’ll need to spend a great deal of time “on the road”, and this will mean ensuring that you have already made, and had printed, professional brochures, cards, letter-heads – whatever you’ll personally need to ensure that you present yourself as an experienced professional, rather than a hopeful amateur.
This post is part of the free E-Course “How to Develop Your Therapy Practice”. Each lesson only covers the bare essentials of what you need to learn and should not form your only source of information.
For the complete detailed guide which takes you through each step of setting up and building a successful Therapy Practice – click here.
If you missed the previous lessons, here are the links:
An Introduction to Private Practice
Is Private Practice for You?
Are You Ready for Private Practice?
What are the Initial Considerations?