One of the biggest issues of a new therapist just starting their practice and even therapists who have been in practice for years is getting clients. There are many clients out there who would benefit from your services. The problem is getting clients to hear about your practice and know that you are a quality therapist. Learn how to use local marketing to grow your practice.
When I started my practice, I thought all I had to do was get on insurance panels and the clients would call. It’s not as simple as that. Many people don’t go to their insurance companies website or call the number on their insurance card to get a referral for a therapist. A lot of people look online and ask people they know. After all, getting a therapist from a list of in network providers isn’t much different from going to the phone book. People want to know a little more about a therapist before they choose one. While you need to be on insurance panels, don’t expect a lot of referrals from them.
A better source for getting client referrals is Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). Employee Assistance Programs are benefits that employers offer employees to deal with personal issues that might have a negative effect on work performance, productiveness, absenteeism and the employees general well-being. They may offer employees counseling, health fairs or crisis intervention. For example, if a bank is robbed, the Employee Assistance Program may have a counselor come in to speak with employees about the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and healthy coping skills to ease any distress from the incident. Research Employee Assistance Programs in your area and contact them for an application. They are a good source of referrals when you are getting started and can lead to an occasional crisis intervention job that pays well. However, most EAPs only offer about 3 to 5 sessions for each client so it’s not a source for long-term clients. Refer to my post “35 Steps to Private Practice” for more information on EAPs and insurance.
Another way to get clients is to do some footwork and look for networking opportunities. Start by going to your local hospital and ask for a list of the doctors in your area. Many hospitals provide these lists for free. They include doctors office addresses, phone and fax numbers. Create some flyers and an introductory letter. Let the doctors know you have an office in their town and are available to take referrals.
Make a database of doctors who specialize in areas similar to your specialty. For example, I specialize in addiction so I made a list of Suboxone doctors, emergency room doctors and general practitioners. Visit the doctor’s offices, talk to the receptionist and explain that you opened a new office and are looking for referrals. Ask if there would be a good time you could talk to the doctor and explain how you could help his patients.
Groups and Seminars
You can offer to run a free informational group for a doctor’s patients in his office. For example, as an addiction counselor, I could offer a family doctor to run a group for parents on the signs of drug and alcohol abuse. Make sure to hand out your business cards to all the parents who show up. If they came to the free seminar, they are probably already concerned their child is drinking or using drugs and they may make an appointment to come see you.
Put up flyers for your business in places where potential clients are likely to see them. Always ask the business if it is alright if you put up a flyer. I took flyers to local labs because many addicts go to them for drug testing. Other places I put up flyers were throughout my office building, the local library, the public assistance office and the hospital. See my post on advertising with flyers for more information on how to make a flyer. And check out this post about advertising with flyers from Manta. It has links to some amazing templates for a real professional look.
Word of Mouth
The best form of local advertising is word of mouth. A client sees you and is happy with the service you provide so they tell people they know about it. Whenever someone says they need a therapist, your name comes to people’s minds. It takes time to develop word of mouth about your practice.
The best way to develop good word of mouth advertising is to provide a good service. Do your best to know everything you can about your specialties. Be an ethical provider and be open-minded and non-judgmental toward your clients. If you have a good service, word will get around in time. I noticed that my business picked up significantly after the first year. I think word was starting to get around about my practice. People were saying someone else referred them to me.
I also noticed that some clients who stopped coming returned. Always be courteous to people who leave therapy suddenly. It rarely has anything to do with you as a provider but is more about the client not being ready. If they leave therapy on a good note, they will be more willing to return when they are ready. A simple phone call letting them know that you’re willing to give them a referral if they need it, you’d like to have a closing session and they are always welcome to return can go a long way.