I know many of you following my blog are in the process of starting a private practice, and lately, I’ve heard several of you ask if now is a good time to start a therapy practice – given the pandemic.
In short, the answer is YES! Unfortunately, the devastating current events mean the need for therapy is greater than it ever has been. In the past couple of months, I’m getting about five times as many inquiries from potential clients than I usually do. People. Need. Therapy. More than ever.
With that said, there are ways to tailor how you start your practice to fit our current context. In this article, I go over some tools to help you successfully launch your practice during the pandemic.
Starting a Private Practice: Teletherapy or in-Person Counseling?
To preface this article: Because the laws vary so much from state to state, I’m not going to make recommendations about whether it’s safe to meet clients face-to-face or not. But for the purposes of this article, I’m speaking to those of you planning on launching an exclusively teletherapy practice – at least for now.
Much of the tools involved in starting an in-person private practice still apply to launching a teletherapy practice, even during the pandemic. I have a free guide to help you with starting a private practice. If you’re interested, you can grab your free guide here: Start a Private Practice in Counseling.
The biggest difference between starting an in-person practice vs an online practice is how you get potential clients to find you. In other words, how you market your practice.
Marketing Nuances to Starting a Teletherapy Private Practice
If you dive into starting a private practice without accounting for the nuanced differences in marketing an in-person practice vs an exclusively teletherapy practice, you might find yourself feeling a bit disappointed. There is one major item to address when it comes to marketing a teletherapy private practice:
Local SEO issues
The biggest challenge to marketing an online practice is that without a physical office address, your SEO game gets thrown off. When people do a Google search for something like “anxiety therapist,” Google makes an assumption that the person is looking for someone local, and Google will offer results of therapists with office addresses nearby. As an example, here’s what result looks like when I search “anxiety therapist” using an incognito window:
I even selected “Block” when the window popped up saying Google wanted to know my location. But sure enough, I live in the city of San Jose, and that’s where all the results are located too.
Trust me, Google knows! And they assume that someone looking for a counselor is likely trying to find a therapist nearby.
So if you’re offering teletherapy from your home, without a physical office address Google doesn’t know to list your website in these local search results.
I don’t suggest you list your home address publicly for the sake of being found more easily in Google search results. But not to worry! There are a few strategies you can use to help people find you.
One Question to Ask Before Starting a Private Practice
Before diving in, it’s worth asking yourself if you plan to transition to meeting clients in-person once it’s safe to do so. If so, you might want to consider still targeting potential clients local to your area, so they have the option to switch to in-person appointments when the time comes.
If you’d like to try your hand at an exclusively teletherapy practice for the long haul, then you can market your services statewide – which is kind of awesome!
Of course, you can always change your mind down the road and it’s not a big deal. But it’s helpful to think through this a bit before diving into the next steps of marketing your teletherapy practice.
Tools for Starting a Private Practice During the Pandemic
Here are some tools to help you market yourself when starting an online practice during the pandemic:
1. Leverage therapist directories
My suggestion when starting a private practice is to post a listing to ALL directories that have a free trial, and then collecting data about which ones are sending you clients before deciding which ones are worth continuing to pay for.
It’s a bit of work upfront, but it’s free to collect that information and implement an effective marketing strategy going forward. For the ones that aren’t sending you clients, ditch them when the free trial ends.
There are like a bajillion online therapist directories, but I’ve linked to as many as I could below. Feel free to rummage around and see if you can find more!
Psychology Today Directory for Teletherapy
Online Counseling Directory
The Therapists Directory
Directory for Therapists
Find a Therapist
Anxiety and Depression Association of America Find a Therapist Directory
Network Therapy’s Provider Directory
Don’t forget about local websites too! You can connect with local networks to be listed as an online therapist based on your target demographic. For example, you could check in with local universities, churches, and various community centers to see if they’re interested in listing your profile on their website for any of their community members who are in need of mental health support.
This is a double-win because not only do you get free advertising, but you get some awesome local SEO juice because you’re getting a backlink from a local website that does have a physical address. If you’re not familiar with backlinks, there isn’t time to dive into it in this article. Just know it makes it easier for people to find you in Google searches when local businesses link to your website.
Yes! Even though your website likely won’t show up for search terms like “Austin Couples Therapist” if you don’t have a physical office address, you can still leverage SEO to help potential clients find you!
This is a frequently untapped yet super effective tool. In fact, I uploaded a video with my biggest secret to private practice success in 2019, and guess what? It’s all about SEO! So this tip was true both then and now, but our targeting might look different. Instead of “Boise Teen Therapist,” You might instead target things that are very specific, like “How to Help my ADHD Teen Focus in school.”
Because I think this tip is SO important and has a lot of components to it, I’ll be launching a series in the coming months doing a DEEP dive into SEO – I’ll share all of my tips so you can leverage them to your advantage, so watch for that!
If you want help with this right away, I have a few resources available already on the subject of SEO. You can check those out here:
The biggest secret to private practice success – SEO tutorial for beginners:
Private Practice Elevation Podcast SEO tutorial: How to find keywords for your website
(Keywords Everywhere now charges an incredibly nominal fee to keep their platform secure – 100% worth it!)
3. Use Google My Business
Even if you don’t have a physical business address, you can have a Google My Business listing! I have a video showing you how to set up Google My Business when you do have a physical address. The only modifications to the steps in that video are to select “no” when they ask if you have a service location, and afterwards adding in your service areas using cities or zip codes. Here’s what that looks like:
This will allow your business to still show up on Google maps and might even help you show up when people do a local search for a therapist. Sweet deal!
4. Use Google Adwords
Even though organic search results might not list your practice when someone searches for a local therapist, you can absolutely target your area using Google ads. This is a simple yet effective way to get your practice to show up right in front of the people who want to meet with you. It’s money well spent!
To be completely honest, I’m not so familiar with Google Ads because I’m not using them myself. I get enough inquiries from organic search results. Here are a couple of resources to help you get started with Google Ads as a therapist:
Of course, there are many other tools you can use to get launch your practice! You can leverage social media, provide online talks to the local community, and more. Get creative and see what fits for you!
Want more support starting a private practice? I have a free guide for that! Check it out here to grab your free guide: Start a Private Practice in Counseling
Until next time, from one therapist to another: I wish you well!