Never Talk to a Therapist at a Party By Eric Morris, PhD on 3/5/19 - 12:41 PM

Building a successful therapy practice is difficult.

I was reminded of this fact at a recent dinner party. I was perched next to the food table when I struck up a conversation with a therapist friend of mine. Given my interest in the business side of therapy, I asked her about her private practice.

“How’s business going? Do you have enough clients?” I asked.

She instantly looked frustrated and she sighed. “I only had 9 clients this week; I hope business picks up soon!”

I agreed that it can be difficult to find new clients and asked, “Do you have a professional website?”

She shook her head and noted that she wasn’t very comfortable with technology. I sympathized but reassured her that building a website these days was relatively simple, even for those who are uncomfortable with software. Moreover, most web hosting companies offer free templates to design a great looking, professional site. Sites like are a good place to start, I offered.

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“Once you have your site built, you should register with Google.”

I explained that all she had to do was create a Google business page and that this would help with her Google page ranking.

At the mention of Google page rankings, I sensed that my colleague was beginning to plan her exit. I quickly changed tacks and told her she could focus on building up her social media presence, as this would give her potential clients different ways to find her online.

“Which sites should I focus on? I don’t have a lot of time since my son was born,” she explained.

I told her to first focus on getting a profile on and creating a business Facebook page. I suggested she could then slowly build up her LinkedIn page and populate it with therapists who could refer clients to her.

“All of these sites are important,” I noted, “but the best way to get new clients is to have positive ratings online. Create a profile on and ask your clients if they would be willing to rate you.”

I reminded her that potential new clients will feel reassured contacting her if they see evidence that she has helped other clients.

My colleague seemed intrigued, so I carried on. I asked what types of clients she worked with.

“Anxiety and depression mainly. How about you?”

“Yeah, me too.”

I told her that I had struggled at first to stand out, as many of the therapists in my city also worked with anxiety and depression. To rectify this, I took the approach of specializing in working with clients that were challenging, such as those with borderline personality, substance abuse problems and eating disorders. When I would speak with my therapist colleagues, I would give them an easy to remember pitch, “I work with complex clients.” This led to several referrals because many therapists struggled with these types of clients.

I suggested to her that she could try to specialize in a specific type of anxiety, such as phobias. Many therapists advertise their comfort with a variety of mental health issues but when colleagues are considering referring clients, one needs a way of standing out. I told her she needed to keep her branding simple.
“I don’t like thinking of myself as a brand.”

I validated her concern, but I assured her that it was important to consider how you would like to be viewed by potential clients and colleagues. You want to be in control of the narrative, and one way to do that is to have a therapeutic focus that is easy to remember and is consistent across your various websites.

I suggested a few other ideas that she could consider as a way of further differentiating herself from her colleagues. For example, she could advertise her comfort in working with clients from diverse backgrounds, such as LGBTQ or military clients. I also noted that she could offer a better therapy experience for her clients, such as using a therapy management system, like Simple Practice. These types of programs allow clients to easily book sessions online or pay their bills automatically.

Similarly, she could have clients complete an intake questionnaire. This would allow her to get relevant information about clients before the first session, thereby creating a smoother process for the client.

At this point in the conversation, my friend smiled politely, as if to acknowledge how bewildering it all was. I could tell she was ready to get back to the light party banter.

I smiled back, hoping to transmit encouragement and support. I wished her well and turned my attention back to the food table.  

File under: The Art of Psychotherapy, Therapy & Technology