The Secret Sauce for Mixing up a World-Class Psychotherapy Blog By Howard Rosenthal, EdD on 2/19/21 - 4:56 PM

This won’t sound very scholarly, but for me, the best part of high school began after school let out for the day. It was then I would rush to a small hamburger stand within shouting distance of my home and order a burger, a Cherry Coke, and an order of fries. Just the thought of it is still enough to make me salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. Classical conditioning is not quick to dissipate.

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Truth be told, both the fries and the burger were just a tad above average. But OMG—and everybody agreed—the sauce was to die for. Virtually every single customer requested burgers and fries with double or even triple sauce. The sauce tasted like catsup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressing combined on steroids.

What made the sauce so darn jaw-dropping good? Well, quite frankly, nobody knew. It was a secret. No surprise. The containers behind the counter had the labels removed.

For many years after graduation our high school’s yearbook and even the local papers would “reveal the recipe for the secret sauce.” But there was only one problem: every year and every article described a different recipe.

Worse yet, about the time I received my high school diploma, this tiny eating establishment, which would hold all of five or six customers on a good day, closed- up shop. A few former employees stepped up to the plate revealing recipes that were too vague to muster up the secret sauce.

Sadly, I don’t have the recipe for the secret burger and fry sauce, but I do have the secret sauce for creating a winning psychotherapy blog, and it works nearly every time. And unlike the sauce, the mixture of ingredients need not be perfect. So if you’ve been wanting to serve up your insights but haven’t been sure of how or where to start, I’ve got a recipe for you.

Often a little story like the one you just read is a great way to begin. But here are some of the best ingredients that I have mixed into my own recipe.

Ingredient #1: Begin with a compelling title. Consider my first-ever blog for psychotherapy net. It was titled, It’s the Psychiatric Meds, Stupid. I wanted the reader to be saying, “What in the heck is Rosenthal talking about? Are psychiatric meds good or evil? I absolutely, positively, need to read his blog and find out.” Direct marketing experts discovered years ago that an advertisement or press release with a good title is more likely to be read than a terrific document with a weak title. Why would a blog be any different? Hint: It isn’t.

Some other titles from my own trophy closet include: Alcoholics Anonymous Founder Bill Wilson’s Long-Lost Treatment Paradigm. In case you haven’t read the blog, I’ll guarantee you he wasn’t pushing merely the merits of Alcoholics Anonymous. Nope. In fact, I explain to the reader in the first few sentences I am going to tell them something they don’t know. If you think about it, entertainment aside, isn’t the entire purpose of reading a blog to learn something you don’t know?

An excellent question to ask yourself is: Will the reader learn something new from my blog? The ideal answer is yes.

Titles with numbers can be powerful attention grabbers. My blog Conduct Therapy Sessions Like Ellis or Rogers in 7 Days or Your Money Back is a great example. The word “how” or the words “how to” are some of the best words to use in a blog title. Imagine combining these words in a title and teaming them up with a number, such as my blog Gone in 60 Seconds: How to Handle a Mental Health Workshop Heckler.

And believe me, I’m not the only blogger with killer titles. This site is inundated with bloggers who created world-class titles. Surfing the site for just seconds revealed 20 Seconds: Coming Out to a Client, by Alex Stitt, and Closing the Deal: The Art of Selling Yourself to New Clients, by Robert Taibbi.

Ingredient #2: See what everybody else is writing about, and then write something totally different. Indeed, you can write about what is trending or popular and often this will work well. The problem is after an exceedingly short period of time the topic is totally covered in a traditional fashion by a host of bloggers.

When this occurs, why not take the road less traveled? Even if you are covering a traditional or trendy topic, why not cover it in an innovative fashion? In my blog In Search of the Perfect Private Practitioner, I weave in the story about the pitfalls in my own private practice.

Had I created a blog titled My Private Practice, readers might have been recommending it to others as sleep therapy, or more likely would have never read it at all.

At one point in my career, I penned over 20 pieces for a publication in our field. My secret sauce, if you will, was I never wrote a single entry about a mainstream topic.

Topics that are historical, or have not been covered in years, often work well. Case in point, my blog The Gloria Films: Candid Answers to Questions Therapists Ask Most showcases a landmark psychotherapy movie shot in the mid-sixties, or roughly the time Ford was releasing the Mustang.

Ingredient #3: Write the blog in your own voice. When I entered the field of psychotherapy, I not only wanted to become a great therapist, but I also wanted to become an accomplished writer. Some of my therapeutic literary heroes included Albert Ellis (who originally wanted to write the Great American Novel), Andrew Salter, Lewis Wolberg, Jay Haley, Gerald Corey, and Arnold Lazarus, to mention just a few.

I thus began to emulate their writing style. But there was just one problem with my strategy. If somebody wanted to read Ellis or Corey they would pick up something penned by these experts, not something cloned by yours truly.

The very best advice I can give you is to merely write your blog as if you are talking to a friend over lunch or a latte. As yes, this could be virtual during COVID.

My college students often verbalize this principle in a more eloquent way. “You know, Dr. Rosenthal, when we read your books, articles, and blogs, we know you really wrote them. They sound exactly like you in class.”

Ingredient #4: Whenever possible, use a trick or so-called surprise ending. In my blog It’s the Psychiatric Meds, Stupid, you will discover that perhaps it wasn’t the psychiatric meds which impacted my client and why. In my aforementioned In Search of the Perfect Private Practitioner blog, you will discover that maybe . . . just maybe . . . the perfect practitioner wasn’t so perfect after all and why it mattered! In my blog centering on Bill Wilson, I revealed near the conclusion of the blog that on his deathbed Wilson did not want to be remembered for Alcoholics Anonymous, but rather for a treatment paradigm unknown to most readers. (Hello: read the blog, did you really think I was going to spill the beans without your reading the blog? No spoiler alert here, therapy fans!)


Try on these four ingredients, add a pinch of your own creativity, and I look forward to reading your blog in the very near future.

So how will you begin your first blog? Hmm. Try this. “Well, when I was in high school there was a great burger joint nearby, and they had the best BBQ sauce I had ever tasted” . . . or maybe not.

File under: A Day in the Life of a Therapist, Therapy Humor, Therapy & Technology