This week's article is a guest post by Marissa Lawton, licensed counselor, and content marketer for clinicians. In this post, she explains how content marketing lessens our work load and helps to fill our private practices with our ideal clients.
Each and every therapist has spent years honing her craft. We’ve gone through months of advanced education and have pursued hours upon hours of continuing training, voluntarily, or not. When it comes to helping others heal, there is no one better equipped than those of our profession.
Grad school especially helped us develop the skills to treat clients and to bring them through their struggles to the other side--a functional, healthy, and preferably happy individual. If your program was anything like mine, you identified a modality, or two, or three that resonated with you and your approach to healing and dove head first into incorporating it in every session.
Whether this modality was a good fit for your caseload or the agency where you worked was an entirely different question, however, and you might have found yourself, again, like me, shifting away from approaches that interested and empowered you toward ones that fit the mold of the clients you were assigned and the culture of where you worked.
Our graduate programs also prepared us well for another potential pitfall of the profession, (counter)transference. We learned that working closely with others on some of their most intimate problems could inevitably cause us to see ourselves (or our significant others) in the clients' stories and for them to over-identify with us. We’re taught about objectivity, to check in with ourselves regularly, and to bring concerns to the attention of supervisors and consultants.
We are also well-prepared by the gatekeepers of the helper community to handle any and all ethical dilemmas that pop up in our client work. In fact, with an entire graduate course requirement and mandatory continuing education, becoming and remaining ethical therapists is at the core of our professional identity.
The Reality of Clinician Burnout
All of the potential professional pitfalls mentioned above impact therapists’ careers. Each has the propensity to knock us off of our professional game and leave reframing and reconstructing our professional identities. However, none of the above has the same negative impact on our personal and our professional well-being as much as an imbalance between our therapeutic capabilities and our desire to act therapeutically.
As budding helpers, we are taught about the ever-encroaching and all-encompassing debilitator that plagues overworked therapists--burnout. It is engrained in us that neglecting to take care of ourselves while in the throes of a heavy caseload will drive us to exhaustion. Burnt out therapists lack empathy for their clients and struggle to show up in ways that help others heal and thrive. In fact, burnout is so depleting, it is the number one reason, well-trained and highly effective therapists leave the field--never to return.
Whether therapists experience it as a mild, professional boredom, or a full-on mental and emotional breakdown, burnout is a legitimate risk factor of becoming an occupational helper. It’s caused by the inherent social isolation of the field, unclear boundaries, an intense desire to help others, or a combination of these along with a multitude of other factors. While easily remedied if caught early, therapists often don’t always recognize the fact that they are burnt out until they are well on their way to professional apathy.
Sure, we’re told all about the importance of self-care: reading for pleasure, spa days, and vacation time. We’re warned to prioritize ourselves and establish clear delineation between what takes place in session and the lives we live outside of sessions. And, we’re convinced that a change of pace or some professional diversity will quickly address any up-and-coming weariness. But, what is so conveniently left out of our graduate and subsequent education, is that it is entirely possible to build a practice that is inherently burnout resistant from the very beginning.
What is Content Marketing and Why Should Therapists Use it?
By now, clinicians are well aware that they must market their practices to see any kind of success. There are so many professionals in our field, that without a concentrated effort, we will never stand out among the crowd. However, many of the traditional ways we are taught to stand out--in-person networking, business events in the community, forming partnerships with doctors and psychiatrists, hosting open houses, etc.--all demand so much of ourselves that any time outside session is spent working on every other aspect of our practice (talk about poor boundaries and the potential for burnout).
Because of the stress and strain of traditional promotional efforts, many clinicians are turning to the internet to do much of their marketing for them in a passive, less time-consuming way. This approach is amazing and has the potential to yield fantastic results. Regrettably, being trained clinicians, and most likely having zero sales experience or training from grad school, most therapists honestly have little idea how to maximize their online brand.
The truth about internet marketing is that any AND everything that is posted online counts as content. This includes the weeping rant we posted seven years ago over a pint of ice cream after the boy we swore was "the one" broke our hearts. It also includes the picture from the very next night in the horrendous crop top doing a keg stand at that grad school rager where we found our very next “Mr. Wrong.”
Though hilarious (or mortifying - however you want to look at it), what’s difficult about marketing in 2017 is that nothing ever disappears from the internet. If it’s been posted somewhere, whether immediately “deleted” or not, it is accessible by someone, somehow. Unfortunately, all of the content we have ever created contributes to our online reputation and our web presence. The fortunate thing, though, is that content is cumulative. So, the more and more positive things you post about yourself personally and professionally, the better your reputation becomes.
This strategic curation of online content that highlights you and your practice in a positive way becomes what is known as your brand. Positioning your brand so it is easily accessible by those that most need your help is what is known as content marketing.
Content marketing is an extremely powerful tool for attracting clients and building a practice with much less effort and overhead than ever before. Utilizing blogs, videos, images, and social media allows therapists to highlight themselves among all other clinicians in their geographical area and position their practice as the one that is the best match for those needing services.
What’s more, recent surveys show that technology (e.g., the internet, smart phones, etc.) are not commodities. Regardless of their socioeconomic status, clients are online. Therefore, content marketing is one way to reach populations that might not ever find their way to therapy through traditional channels. Lastly, content marketing is a fervent way for us to build practices we truly love and are excited about showing up to everyday.
Three ways Content Marketing Prevents Burnout
Because content marketing is an effective way to position ourselves as therapists in front of those in need, it is a great tool for helping us build practices that are inherently burnout resistant. In this sense, developing an authentic online brand we are proud of translates to an honored professional identity inside the session room.
Capitalizing on content allows clinicians to mold a caseload to fit their desired needs and to practice therapy in a way that lights them up. In essence, clinicians avoid becoming burnt out by designing a practice that lets them work with whomever they want in whatever ways they want.
Three Ways To Use Online Marketing To Control Your Professional Happiness:
Build a practice full of ideal clients
Most of us have spent years working in agency settings where we worked with any clients who came through the door. Worst yet, they were clients that were “assigned” to us by superiors, or the courts. Nothing drained us more than providing therapy we were less than thrilled about, then having to justify our approach through dictated documentation procedures and case presentations.
When you use content marketing to build your practice, you can control exactly who schedules a session with you. If what makes you extremely happy is using cognitive restructuring with trauma victims, you can choose to only position your skills and your practice for middle aged, male veterans suffering from PTSD. Or, if you’re really energized by helping high-achieving teen girls who are anxious about succeeding in college, you can go straight after 15-18 year olds at all-girls college prep academies (and their parents).
The opportunities for choosing your ideal client are endless. But, what's so great, and effective, about content marketing, is you can strategically target those in your ideal market, create content that is directly related to their presenting problems, and position it online so those who need it most see it.
What’s even better, is that when your caseload consists 100% of clients that energize and excite you, you are keeping burnout at bay. By creating a practice based on what you love about therapy, you are free to explore further specialization that you are interested in as well as truly carve-out a professional identity that resonates with who you are at the core, not who your assigned demographic or your agency wants you to be.
Market while you sleep
One of the most trying aspects of traditional marketing is the amount of time it takes. The sheer number of hours spent connecting with other medical professionals and attending networking events is enough to make any therapist feel a little burnt out. Add in the fact that these meetings take place during working hours and therapists are literally being pulled away from the couch and losing money.
One way to combat this is understanding your website’s ability to be your hardest working employee. The content on your site acts as a gatekeeper for all potential clients. Those you are targeting will land on your site and be drawn in by the fact that you are speaking directly to them. They will lose track of time reading article after article that resonates with their innermost struggles, make their way to your services page, and figure out how to schedule with you. People who do not fit your ideal client profile will leave your site, saving you time and energy to work with those who light you up.
Content marketing does this work for you. Once you send a blog post or video into "internet land," it is there for anyone who looks for it to find. In fact, you might even notice that referrals come in from posts that are months or even years old. Another great element of content marketing is its ability to go “viral.” While you might meet 20 connections over two hours at a networking event, 1000 people might see your blog post over two hours on Facebook.
The fact that your content markets for you means that you no longer have to promote your practice after hours, or take time away from clients to generate referrals. Your time outside of work can be yours again, spent on things you enjoy, or that fill you up.
It can be systemized
While we’re talking about expending time, there is a learning curve that comes with content marketing. It does take a while to understand your niche and how your ideal clients behave online. Then, you’ve got to create the content. But, the absolute best part of content marketing is its ability to be systemized. Yes, you will need to take the time to write the actual blog and social media posts, but once they are written, they can be uploaded into an online scheduling tool that promotes it across platforms for you.
You can also develop a content creation system (or use mine) that generates everything you need on a monthly basis. The cool thing is that since you are talking to one specific type of client online, coming up with what to say is really easy. Everything you post should interrelate, so once you’ve come up with a topic or two, the rest will fall into place.
Another awesome thing about systems is that once you create them, and practice them once or twice, they take on a life of their own. You’ll start to get more and more efficient and very quickly create strategic, tailored content that resonates with your ideal client and fills up your practice.
Here are a few steps to take to start building a burnout-proof practice:
- Nail down your niche
- Design a Services Page on your website that details how you help your ideal client
- Develop a content creation system that helps you come up with tones of related content topics
- Create consistent, tailored content (blog posts, videos, social media updates) that speak directly to your ideal client
- Upload content to an online scheduling system
- Post content online where your ideal clients will see it regularly
If you’d love to learn how to incorporate content marketing in your practice and prevent burnout by mastering the blog post creation process, download your FREE checklist here.
Marissa Lawton is a licensed counselor, national board certified counselor, and member of the American Counseling Association. She is also an avid content marketer and lights up helping female clinicians build their private practices through strategic and tailored online marketing.
Marissa is the creator of The Clinician's Guide to Content Marketing, a comprehensive system that helps therapists identify their niche, find them online, and generate content that speaks directly to their ideal clients. Learn more about Marissa.
Marissa recently taught her content marketing system to members of The Refreshed Therapist Network. Learn more about the network, and how it can support you in life and work, here.
Let me know in the comments below:
- What do you think of when you hear the term "content marketing?"
- What is your #1 struggle when it comes to marketing yourself online?