If emotions are king in the therapy room then words will be queen outside.
Many therapists are hesitant to write and allow words out of the room and into the public domain. On my blogging courses therapists usually respond either with confusion or outright disbelief that having a blog on their website could be anything other than catastrophic for their practice.
Much of the disapproval arises because of the confusion between business blogging and lifestyle or ‘opinion’ blogging. A business blog speaks professionally to your clients and your colleagues in a way that educates, informs and improves the Google ranking of your site. A lifestyle or opinion blog is designed to make money with sponsorship and advertising, and specialises in a particular niche i.e. food, make-up or gaming.
When I change my language and suggest including not blogs but articles on the websites, it sounds much more professional and therapists start to warm up to the idea. But it’s just a case of linguistics; whether you call the tab on your website ‘blog’ or ‘articles’, both will bring considerable benefits. Writing approachable, informative articles is a great way to gain confidence to write for a bigger platform. It seems much more acceptable to most therapists to have articles in ‘Therapy Today’ or ‘The Psychotherapist’ which will bring cache and expert status. Meanwhile the directory websites are hungry for articles to raise their Google ranking and that could make your business listing more visible too. There are benefits to your practice, wherever your words are printed.
Search engines love websites with new content. If you scan through Googles’ policy [https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/40349?hl=en] at the top of their list is the requirement to fill pages with useful, information-rich content that describe what you do. i.e. writing articles. Each time you create a new page, it’s another page for Google to index and another sign that all the search engines should be checking in to see what’s new: it really does add to the visibility of your business.
Having new articles published to your site improve your SEO. SEO means ‘search engine optimisation’ or in other words, being found on Google. Imagine you have got a problem you want solved. You go to your browser and type in something like:
‘How do I…. ‘or
‘What is a … ‘or
‘Where do I find a ….’
And up comes a long list of pages answering your question. The titles and content in your articles can be used as keywords, or in website jargon ‘longtail keywords’. Writing explanatory articles will draw in people by improving your SEO in a way that’s just not possible for the average 4-page therapy site.
Articles might include :
How do I heal my childhood?
What is depression?
6 signs you should see a therapist
What’s the difference between counselling and psychotherapy?
You will know the sorts of articles to write, just think of the questions that your clients have when they come to see you.
Show expert status
If you specialise in working with a particular client group, going deeper into your subject on your website will demonstrate your expert status and understanding of the topic. This will help to draw in self-referred clients but also spread the word in your area among other therapists; a great way to gather referrals.
Writing for directory websites will also have the same effect, but beware of copy and pasting the same article twice. Having duplicate material will harm both sites’ rankings on Google unless they are significantly re-written.
Normalising therapy and counselling
Unfortunately, going to therapy or counselling remains a guarded subject which people shy away from, so many people who could be helped are left unsupported. It’s supposed that:
People who go for counselling are ‘weak’
It only works for serious mental health issues.
It’s too expensive.
Therapists are judgmental.
Therapists are all woo-woo new-age types.
And so on… you’ll know the projections because you meet them at every party you go to!
Writing about the different situations and issues where counselling and psychotherapy can help, in language that your clients-to-be will understand, is a huge step towards spreading the word and ultimately helping people to feel better. You will send your articles out into the dark of the wonderweb and not know who reads them, but you will be surprised how far they reach!
By implication, when writing about particular subjects that your clients are interested in, you will be building a relationship with your clients-to-be, so that when they come, they already feel they can start to relax and trust you.
Writing about personal details can limit the potency of counselling and disclosures need careful thought. But by drawing on your own experience you can also show, with judicious disclosure, that you are a warm, friendly human being who has worked through your issues; a perfectly flawed human, just like your clients.
Clarifies your thinking
Personally, one of the most helpful benefits of writing articles, for my own website and elsewhere, is that I have time to clarify my thinking on subjects of theory and practice that are often left half thought through. Writing helps me to: -
Think through situations.
Establish where am I now?
Is this theory true?
Where does my work now, fit in with my community of therapists?
In her recent Guardian article about the poetry of therapy Susie Orbach wrote;
“As one who both writes and listens, I am often struck by how the talking/listening cure is not dissimilar to what happens with words when one is writing. Writing takes us to places we had not anticipated and shocks us with its new, unthought knowledge. This is why many of us write. We want to find out what we didn’t know we were thinking and feeling. We want to give shape to inchoate thoughts that need gathering and sorting.
The exhilaration of a new idea or wisdom, or a different emphasis, is what can relieve the often hard work of putting words on the page. It is the nuance, the refashioning, that catches our breath, while it subtly resituates us inside ourselves.”
The evil of Marketing
You only have to see how successful, business orientated therapists are gossiped about in the community to understand how much most therapists hate and fear marketing. Mostly introverted, therapists universally dislike ‘selling’ their services. The fear is that they will be perceived as too ‘insubstantial’ or ‘commercial’ and raise or distort expectations.
But using writing as a communication tool can make a wonderful bridge for introverts, we can put our message out there and promote our services, just by creating educational and informative articles. There is no requirement to write about yourself, it’s about what your service provides for the public that needs to be communicated. This is what marketing is; explaining the benefits of your service.
Oh and if you can get yourself published in a magazine like The Counsellors Cafe, all the better. Why not let them do some of the marketing legwork for you.
Kate wears three hats; she runs online courses for therapists who want to expand their practice, she is also a massage therapist specialising in women's health in her private practice in Watford and teaches women self-help skills at Love Your Belly workshops. She was trained as a Biodynamic Psychotherapist by Gerda Boyesen and at the Chiron Centre for Body Psychotherapy but no longer practices.