You have likely experienced both personally and professionally that our mental health world is a world of word of mouth.
One of the biggest myths I hear constantly is that word of mouth is something that happens by chance. Luck. It’s out of our control, or the universe is (or isn’t) on our side. Sound familiar?
Who are you, anyway?
I know, here I am talking (or typing) to you without properly introducing myself.
My name is Alyssa, I am a social worker, and I am the Founder and CEO of My Wellbeing, where we help therapy-seekers connect with the right provider for them, and help mental health practitioners connect with compatible clients. We technically do this through our unique matchmaking technology. Behind the scenes, we do this through relentless, passionate, authentic community building.
In my social work training (shout out to my fellow NYU Silver alums), I received zero formal business training. By working with 100s of clinicians in the last two years to help them grow their practice, I have become increasingly confident that I am not alone. If you are feeling mildly overwhelmed or unprepared to own the business side of your private practice, know that there is good reason for those feelings. It’s hard! You haven’t been taught these things, yet you’re expected to be masters at them. You are absolutely not alone and there are humans out there who are here to help.
Over the last two years, I have attended 100s of panels, conferences, trainings, and events, and I have worked closely with invaluable advisors to deepen my business expertise. I am looking forward to sharing some of my insight — specifically around the power of networks and community — with you today.
7 Ground Rules You Need to Know When Growing Your Network
Before diving too deep into the tools themselves (which you can learn more about at March 27’s workshop with myself and Amanda), I’ll first acknowledge that there are about 8,000+ ways you can grow your practice.
The general feeling that results from learning this is overwhelm. Underscoring again: this is normal, and you are not alone.
I recommend keeping the following in mind when thinking about marketing your practice to maintain perspective, groundedness, and focus:
1. Give First
Networking and marketing absolutely function in a reciprocal manner. What I mean by that is the more you give, generally, the more you receive.
Giving and receiving is not always a 50/50, black-and-white relationship. You cannot necessarily expect to receive a specific amount of money back for every dollar you spend. Sometimes, things like feeling supported, learning, and growing personally are benefits as well, which are difficult to put a price tag on.
On occasion, this concept can lead to feelings of resentment or burnout. Be careful to be mindful of your boundaries. You can even set a concrete limit on what you’re open to giving to proactively refrain from surpassing your limits.
If you do have
I recommend expecting that most of what you give will not come back immediately. This will reduce feelings of resentment or failure. Practice reminding yourself that you are investing in growing your practice. Give for the sake of giving. Write that blog post and trust that the impact will come back. Help out a colleague in their time of need and trust they’ll do the same for you when the opportunity arises.
2. Be Authenticity
There is no “right” or “wrong” branding, keywords, networking, or marketing. There is only what is right for you, and for the clients who you’d be most compatible with.
Do not copy specifically what successful colleagues are doing word for word. If what they are doing is working, it is likely because they are sharing in a way that is authentic with their perspective, voice, and training.
You need to find your voice. Once you do, or if you already have (which is often the hardest part), speak to that. The clients who you will be most compatible with will hear you.
3. Take Care of Yourself
You may have heard the common phrase that you cannot pour from an empty glass.
One of the intentions of marketing and networking is to grow your community so that you can help more people and fill your practice.
Ultimately, if you burn out in the process, even if your networking and marketing is successful, you will not be able to help the people who come your way. They will experience your burn out and they will leave, which will negate all of your hard work.
Be sure to take care of yourself first. You want to ensure that when people do come your way (and they will!), you are your whole self, and you are ready to receive them.
4. One Step At a Time
Along the lines of the above, when we begin to learn about networking and marketing, we are easily overwhelmed by the multitude of options available and how much time and resources they can require.
My advice is to be honest with yourself and start small.
Commit to doing something that sounds so easy it would be ridiculous not to do it. Add bit by bit, and as you begin to gain more experience with a particular tool, choose whether you’d like to continue in that direction, or choose something else.
5. Test and Iterate
For some of us, gathering data is not our strong suit. When making decisions, however, particularly regarding how we spend our valuable time and energy, data can be very valuable.
When you choose the 1 or 2 things you are going to do to network and grow your practice, be mindful of things like the following:
- How are you feeling before, during, and after?
- How has your practice grown (quantitatively) in the three months month before, during, and after first trying that thing?
If any given thing is either deeply not resonating with you emotionally
Invest a few months (even as long as one year or more) into any given channel. As you have likely experienced in the therapeutic work itself, networks take time to build and take even more time to “work.”
6. Say No
When you have found the 1 or 2 channels that do work for you, that bring you
If you have infinite time, energy, and resources to invest in all of the tools, you can invest in as many as you like. However, if you are limited on time, energy, or resources, choose the channels that really work for you and commit to those.
It is infinitely better to do 1 thing really well that to do 10 things haphazardly.
7. Keep Building Community, Even If Your Practice Is Full
It can be tempting once we hit our client goal to abruptly stop networking and community building, eager to use our time in other ways.
It is always helpful, both emotionally and financially, to keep building your community.
Our work is fluid and our caseloads frequently change. Moreover, our work can be lonely, and there are personal benefits to building
You absolutely should adjust the exact amount of time and energy you are investing at any given time, but I recommend budgeting to never turn community building completely off.
9 Opportunities to Grow Your Network
Now that we’ve reviewed the ground rules, let’s get to the tools themselves. This piece is a brief overview and we will talk in more depth in March 27’s workshop with myself and Amanda.
All of the below is very dependent on you, your training, and your background. Please use your
1. Your Clients
I will always believe that in our work, our clients come first.
Facilitating therapy, counseling, or coaching is about far more than earning an income. You are building trust. You are creating a safe space for someone to increasingly feel comfortable being vulnerable.
You are the vessel through which the people you work with will channel change.
Your clients are a wonderful opportunity to continue to grow your practice.
2. Online Directories
Directories like My Wellbeing, Psychology Today, ZocDoc, and more, are great ways to spread awareness about your practice.
One of the reasons for this is that networks of this size have a larger budget than you do on your own to invest in paid marketing and advertising.
Prospective clients are significantly more likely to learn of larger directories and search there for their therapist, than they are to learn of your practice on their own.
There are occasions where online directories can single-handedly fill your practice. If networking and marketing is not your
3. Public Relations
Highlighting your practice in prominent publications is a great way to spread awareness about you and your work.
When your practice is highlighted in a prominent publication, likely 100s or 1000s of prospective clients who otherwise follow that publication and read it regularly learn of your practice and gain trust in you as a thought leader and expert in the space.
4. Professional Networks, Training Programs, and Conferences
Examples of professional networks are communities like NASW. Often, these communities do promote regular conferences, discounts, tools, perspectives, and more.
By keeping in touch with these communities, you may learn of new and innovative ways to both grow as a professional (through
5. Professional Peer Groups
Professional peer groups are things like peer supervision or your colleagues from graduate school. Sometimes, your professional peers are people whose training and perspective is similar to yours. When your caseload fills, and vice versa, these are fantastic people to keep in touch with to cross-refer to.
Other times, and I believe this can at times be even better, your professional peer groups are diverse in their training, background, location, fee, specialty areas, and more. In this case, if you connect with a client who is not a great fit for your practice, even if your practice is not full, you can refer to these peers who you trust as clinicians to fill that need.
At My Wellbeing, we facilitate community and peer groups for this very reason. “Therapy” encompasses 100s of different techniques, trainings, and personalities. Rapport is incredibly important in the healing process. If you are building relationships with people who you come to trust and who come to trust you, all of a sudden you have a deeply nourishing community to support you in your day-to-day on a logistical and emotional level, and to fill gaps in your practice on a financial and professional level.
Blogging is a great way to draw prospective clients to your work. It gives people an extended opportunity to learn more about your perspective and become more familiar with your particular voice and lens as a clinician.
Similar realities apply to blogging as to PR. If you contribute to another more prominent blog, you are gaining access to their following, which is often 100s or 1000s (or more) of engaged, dedicated readers, who are then learning about you and your practice, and trusting your voice as an affiliated partner with the brand they already know and love.
We encourage all of the providers we work with to guest blog on My Wellbeing. Our thousands of readers then learn even more about that provider and their perspective, and the provider’s own web presence is elevated.
7. Complementary Partnerships
Like professional communities, building relationships with sister professionals is a great way to build mutually beneficial referral sources.
When thinking about partnerships, think about whether working with you would benefit the other person’s work. Does your expertise deepen the value of what they are providing otherwise? Does their expertise or offering deepen the value of yours?
8. Newsletters and Email Marketing
Newsletter and Email Marketing are great ways to keep in touch with those who are already engaged in your services. The goal is to give those you are working with additional value and an easy, effortless way to share your work with others.
9. Web and Social Presence
I have helped 1000s of clients find the right therapist for them. I know by receiving their feedback and watching their behavior that almost immediately after learning of you and your work, they google you, and they want to see your website. You want to ensure that the website you are putting out there adequately represents your practice.
You want to create a web presence that sets appropriate expectations of you and your work and attracts the right kind of clients for you.
There is no “perfect website,” as each practitioner and each client is different. There is, however, a website that reflects who you are, and there are websites that don’t.
Keep in Touch
To learn more and dive deeper into the above tactics, join Amanda and me at our the next Therapist and Coach Connection Hour onMarch 27, 2019.
In honor of community building, I am grateful to you for reading through the above, taking this initiative for yourself and your practice. I hope this content proves useful for you.
Please keep in touch. You can learn more about My Wellbeing at mywellbeing.com, follow us on social media @findmywellbeing, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I wish you all the best in your practice, and look forward to us all growing together.