Once a therapist gets their license they are ready to open up their own private practice. Opening up a private practice is the easy part but marketing a therapy business can be challenging especially if you’re new to the field. I have interviewed Florence Soares-Dabalos LMFT to help give tips on how to make your therapy business marketable.
Tell me a little bit about yourself?
“My name is Florence Soares-Dabalos and I am a Licensed Marriage Family Therapist. I graduated with Honors from CSU, Sacramento with a Masters in Marriage Family Child Counseling. I have been in private practice for 5 years although I have been doing this type of work for 13 years now, mostly in the non-profit sector. My areas of focus include teens, empowering women experiencing life transitions, and pre-marital counseling.”
How are therapists in private practice doing in today’s economy?
“I currently live in Chico and most of us in private practice in this area have suffered some losses in the last 1-2 years due to the economy. We have seen a decrease in referrals and clients. Unfortunately even therapists who have been in private practice for 20 years have suffered a decline in client caseload. I have received less number of referrals due to people not seeing their doctors as often as before. People are choosing to pay for expenses other than therapy. There are some therapists, however, who have continued to thrive and tell me it is because they have connected with CPS, adoption agencies, and have gotten specialized training in areas like EMDR or EFT. I have also found that most therapists have part-time jobs to supplement their private practices or have partners with full-time jobs. It’s rare when a therapist in Chico does this full-time. My colleagues from other areas of California have shared with me that they are starting to find part-time jobs as well in order to supplement their practices. I would say at this time the private practice industries in most areas are not doing so well.”
What are some marketing approaches that can help therapist get clients?
“It really is about establishing personal relationships with referral sources. Some of the marketing approaches I use include participating in a weekly networking group, utilizing TherapistFinder.com, having a website with free resources, emailing a free quarterly one-page newsletter, offering free community workshops, partnering with financial planners and hosting free workshops on divorce, and then pounding the pavement by going to MD offices and schools, introducing myself and asking how I can support their patients. I then follow up with these contacts every quarter either by calling or stopping by their offices. I have colleagues who use Psychology Today’s on-line advertising and have set up a way to accept credit/debit card payments. And most of therapist utilize our local CAMFT (CA Marriage Family Therapist) chapters to help with website presence and connect with colleagues.”
What can a therapist say about their private practice to attract clients?
“I have found that specializing in an area of focus has paid off for me. I have my name on the local high schools and middle schools lists of counselors kept in their counseling offices and have proven to be the “teen expert”. I have 13 years experience working with teens. My experiences have leaded me to share my knowledge with others and then word-of-mouth gets around. I also just opened an office in Colusa, California and have promoted myself as a local since I grew up there.”
Does providing some sort of initial free service lure clients to seek therapy?
“I have tried offering discounts and offering free assessments but that has never worked. What seems to work the best is still establishing personal relationships with my referrals sources and then they share with others. Word-of-mouth is still the best approach for me.”
What would you like to say to someone who has his or her own private practice?
“Take the time to establish those relationships with your referral sources. It’s about quality not quantity.”