Trying to find marketing resources as a therapist can be difficult and overwhelming. Especially if you're a therapist in private practice or a very small group practice.
Most marketing resources are written for medium to large businesses and organizations and when small businesses are included they don't tend to include sole proprietorships (private practices) or small partnerships (small group practices).
A Brand is.....
A brand is a representation, either of one's self or a business. For the purpose of this blog, I will be speaking about two types of brands: professional brand and business brand.
A professional brand is something all professionals have regardless of their professional field. This type of brand is how you show yourself as a professional. Yes, this includes the superficial including clothes and hairstyle but it also includes your professional personality.
Do you want to represent yourself as the serious professional? The funny one? The nurturer? The list can go on and on and in reality you, as a professional, will take on a combination of many. An important thing is that you are paying attention to how you represent yourself, be authentic in your representation, and create a professional brand you feel inspired by.
A business brand is a name, symbol, design, or anything to indicate a product, good, or service. So that means business names, special designs like logos, artwork, handouts, business cards, etc all represent a brand.
Now, does this mean a therapist's professional brand and business brand are likely to interact? Of course! The frequency and level of intensity of the interaction will depend on the therapist's workplace (private practice, group practice, agency), their level of networking, and public engagement (being a presenter, author, podcast/vlogs, etc)
Now, branding, and marketing in general, may look different for mental health professionals depending on where you work, such as agencies, group practices, and private practice. Each will look different in the world of branding and marketing.
Because of this, I will be breaking this post into three main sections; private practice, group practice, and agency work.
Many therapists have an opinion on which type of workplace is "the best" and that private practice should be the "goal for all therapists." This is not my opinion! I am of the opinion that a therapist should choose the work setting that feels the most authentic to them and allows them to do the most authentic work. For many that is agency work, for others, that's a group practice, and for some, that is a private practice.
One is not better than another as long as you enjoy what you're doing! There can be toxic private practices just like there can be toxic agencies and group practices. Work in a setting that is best for you!
Congratulations! You have selected the option with the most work.
BUT, It also comes with the most freedom!
You are both the business brand and the professional brand which can be extremely intimidating and is a lot of work. You are the poster child of your business, it all revolves around you. Because of this you, as a professional, are likely to receive greater exposure if you market your private practice.
You have to think about the types of marketing you want to do.
>Do you want business cards?
>Do you want a website?
>Will you be on social media?
>Do you want to blog?
>Will you have a newsletter?
These are just some of the questions you need to ask yourself. For a therapist in private practice, engagement is going to be key. How will you/do you want to engage with other professionals, potential clients, and represent your professional self to the public?
A business name is important because it represents the entire brand. For therapists in private practice, there are a lot of conflicting opinions on whether it is "good" or "bad" to use your own name as the business name. For example, is I used Ryan Dillon Counseling.
In reality, it doesn't really matter. Make sure you select a name that you like and represents what services you offer. If you can see yourself moving at any time, maybe don't pick a name with your current city in the title.
One mistake I see therapists in private practice make is treating your business brand and professional brands the same, especially if the business using the therapist's name.
So, to be clear, even if you are using your own name as the practice's they are still different and should be treated as such.
They both serve different purposes and so need to be treated differently.
A private practice is a solo practice with one individual, a group practice includes multiple different therapists practicing under the same business brand.
A group practice can be owned and operated by one individual or a group of therapists depending on their chosen structure. It can include a mix of employees and private contractors or only one of the two, that have little to no control over the business brand.
Everyone in the group practice is included under the same business brand and depending on the group practice policy's determines how much, or little, an employee or contractor can deviate from that brand.
Most of the time group practices have a setup where they will handle the marketing, administrative duties, finances (pay), and supply an EHR. They may even handle scheduling, which is always a plus.
Because of these things many people prefer a group practice setting because it can remove a lof the tasks people don't want to do.
Exposure as a therapist
I often hear people say that therapists in group practices get less professional exposure than those in private practice.
The answer? Yes and no.
Obviously, if you are running your own private practice with a website, social media, blog, etc, you are going to get more exposure, because it's just you.
However, the success and overall health of a group practice is based on the uniqueness of its therapists. Many group practices do, and should, highlight their people, either on their website, in their blog, on social media, and encourage their therapists to present and hold workshops.
In fact, if a group practice isn't working to increase the exposure of their therapists, which then highlights the business brand, and/or won't "allow" their therapists a right to creating their own exposure, then it's a BIG red flag.
Selecting a group practice
This is a big decision. When looking for a group practice to work with make sure you've made a list of certain things that are important to you and your professional brand. Are there specific things that you want your place of employment to do or have?
This list will make it easier for you during your hunt. Don't interview with a place if they don't match your top requirements. Rushing into something is going to cause more issues in the long run.
ASK QUESTIONS! Remember, when interviewing with a group practice the interview goes both ways. Ask them questions that you want the answers to. If you respond poorly either in answer or because you asked a question, then it probably isn't the place for you!
Agency work gets a bad rep and is often portrayed as a "step" therapists take to get to either group practice or private practice. But, many people prefer an agency setting and that's ok!
So, what is an agency?
Private practice is one therapist and a group practice is multiple, but both stay in the realm of a small business. An agency can be small but it can always be a medium to large business, can be owned by non-mental health professionals, and have an established brand their employees are expected to represent in a particular way.
A therapist at an agency is very unlikely to have any say in the company's brand or policies.
Many like agency work because all they have to do is show up and do their job to the best of their ability. All marketing, administrative, finances, EHR, and much more are taken care of for the therapist.
Exposure as a therapist
This is completely dependent on the policy of the agency. Many encourage presenting at the conferences, under the agency name, some don't mind if you use their name or not, as long as you're still representing yourself and the company in a positive light.
There are some agencies that do not allow outside exposure of their employees, in my opinion, this is a very big red flag.
Selecting an agency
Since you are very unlikely to have a say in the day-to-day operations of the business brand it is vitally important you do your research into an agency before deciding to work for them. You may not have the business brand to make choices about but you do still have your professional brand to think about in this process.
Find a location that fits you and your professional brand.
So, what do you do?
Be authentic to yourself, think about your professional brand and what's important to you.
Whether you're in or thinking about private practice, group practice, or agency work, your professional brand will be with you throughout your entire career.
It's extremely important that you stay authentic to yourself in order to have an authentic brand that people are drawn to.
Want to explore building a business brand?
Make a list of what's important to you as a business owner, or a potential business owner. Don't just right into making a website.
Do your research on other brands. Look up as many private and group practice websites as you can you note what stands out to you. Do not take or plagiarize! You're simply looking.
Contact the owners of the brands you feel most drawn to. Trust, me, connecting with these therapists will be great networking and it shows your appreciation for what they have created, which everyone loves to hear. Who knows, maybe they will give you some pointers or at least share their story on how they got started.
Thank you for reading!
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