Unless you are a dyed in the wool Freudian (in which case I doubt you’d be reading my blog), you have got to find a way to get out from behind the “couch”.
Now I’m not picking on the psychoanalytic approach (in fact a dynamic approach is very much a part of my own therapeutic underpinnings). What I am picking on is the belief that you can continue to flourish in your private practice over time without having an online presence.
I can hear many of you cringe from here! Maybe you are not comfortable with people seeing your face or hearing your voice before they talk with you at intake. Perhaps you are nervous about what people might find out about you if they can find you online.
NEWS ALERT: I’ll bet the majority of your clients googled you before they ever contacted you. Many of them looked for you on Facebook.
And don’t shake your head because you work with “older” folks — Facebook has over 800 million active users, and about 19% of the U.S. Facebook users are 45+. This is good to know in case you are considering having a Facebook business page (and it is critical to know when you are fixing your privacy settings on your personal Facebook account if you have one)
Clients will find you online. You may be shy, but do yourself a HUGE favor and google yourself. At the very least, you need to know what your clients and referral sources are seeing when they submit your name on a search engine.
You might find that you have some corrections to make (old contact information on sites, inaccurate information that you can update or change). You may have some work to do to get your name up higher in the search rankings so that people can find you at all!
The fact is, most people either throw away or recycle their local phone books without ever opening them. Who needs a phone book when you can do a quick web search or you can ask SIRI to find someone and place the call on your iPhone?
I don’t think I’d want to see a physician who doesn’t have a website. I KNOW I would not chase after contact information for long without figuring that person either didn’t want a new client or s/he wasn’t up to speed with modern ways/technology.
The same is true for people looking for therapists. They want to see who you are and read about what you do. They want to see what your practice is all about and the type of work you do before they make the call.
Although I have a strong professional referral base, a good number of my new clients have found me online. And when I ask how they heard about me they often say “I found you online and you seem like the right person for me”. Wow — what did they read that led them to that conclusion? We must take seriously the weight of influence online information has these days. (For God’s sake, my students often try to cite Wikipedia as a legitimate resource for research!)
Given all of that, you’ll have to determine what level of online presence you want and are willing to pursue. At the very least, you need to be listed in at least one national therapist databases (like Psychology Today) so people can find you when they are looking for a therapist. And you really should have a website with at least a home page that tells the reader about you, what you do, and how to reach you. You can increase your “expert” status by posting YouTube videos and writing e-zine articles and commenting on others’ blogs. You can really get to know your target market by joining their discussion groups and learning about what they think/need/want.
Today, people will use the internet to determine your credibility and whether or not they can trust you. Like it or not, it is here to stay.
Remember, you can’t really stand still. If you are not moving forward you are falling behind.