Marketing for Therapists in 2023: How to Overcome 7 Common Challenges

Photo of therapy private practice

Marketing for Therapists in 2023: How to Overcome 7 Common Challenges

Maximize your impact with solutions to your common marketing challenges.

Marketing is an essential (and often, elusive) component of success for therapists and mental health brands. 

It’s not just about gaining clients; it’s about making a lasting impact on those who need your expertise.

You might have the expertise and tools to help so many people, but…you need to be able to reach them first!

As an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, an MA in Psychology, and a 13+ year PR industry veteran – I totally get it. Marketing and mental health services are two different worlds, and connecting the two so you can get in front of your ideal clients can be a challenge. 

Fortunately,  these challenges also have solutions.

By embracing a few tried-and-true strategies, (as well as a few innovative ones), you can conquer these challenges to connect with your ideal clients, and target audience. 

Crafting the Right Message is a Unique Challenge for Therapists

Communications and branding can pose significant challenges for therapists and mental health brands.

Knowing what to communicate, and the right way to communicate it comes with extra challenges when mental health is concerned. 

What we choose to communicate can have a profound impact on our potential clients, and approaching our marketing and branding mindfully is critical. 

Challenge #1: Social Stigma is a Barrier

Social stigma can be a formidable barrier to communications and marketing for therapists, as it creates a climate of fear and hesitancy among individuals seeking mental health support. 

“The greatest challenge I face in marketing my services is breaking through the persistent societal stigma that surrounds mental health. It’s a sobering reality that many individuals hesitate to reach out for support due to fear of judgement or misunderstanding,” explains Dr. R.Y. Langham, a Clinical Psychologist with a Ph.D. in Family Psychology.

Social stigma is a barrier to finding therapy clients
Mental health stigma comes in all forms. Photo source: TN.gov

According to the American Psychiatric Association, more than half of people with a mental illness don’t receive help for their disorders; likely due in part to social stigma. 

So, how can therapists and mental health brands communicate in a way that reduces stigma and gently encourages people to action?

We’ll get to the solution in a moment…

Challenge #2: Finding the Right Message is a Delicate Balance

Therapists  and mental health brands must navigate a delicate balance when it comes to messaging. The challenge comes with crafting communications that resonate with individuals seeking support while never undermining the complexity or seriousness of their challenges.

“Our biggest challenge is delicately balancing the need to reach out and engage our target audience without ever making light of the deeply personal and serious issues they may be dealing with,” says Lachlan Brown, an expert in Behavioral Psychology and Founder of Hack Spirit.

In the realm of mental health, the power of words to either hurt or heal is amplified, making it a crucial consideration for therapists and mental health brands.

The language we use can have a profound impact on individuals who may already be vulnerable and facing significant challenges.

Words that stigmatize, belittle, or trivialize mental health concerns can cause further harm, perpetuating the very stigma that needs to be dismantled.

Challenge #3: Clients May Not Know What They Need

Marketing to potential clients can be challenging when they may lack clarity about their specific needs and what they are seeking. 

“Differentiation is difficult in a market when often potential clients aren’t even completely sure what they want or need to move forward, and they might be choosing based on factors that are less relevant or foundational than they realize,” explains Sarah Kitlowski, Co-founder & Chief Financial Officer, of Glass House Recovery. 

As therapists, it can be difficult to navigate a market where individuals may be uncertain about the type of support they require or the factors that truly matter for their mental well-being.

Solution: Mindful Messaging + Education + Third Party Validation

Overcoming the social stigma around mental health to reach your target audience requires marketing strategies that foster trust, empathy, understanding, and education.

It also requires strategic alliances with credible and trustworthy partners, such as media outlets and influencers who can help disseminate the messages to even larger audiences.

Mindful messages about mental health + client education + third party validation can go a long way in breaking down barriers to seeking mental health treatment.

Consider these steps:

  • Outline key areas of expertise and opportunities for education. As a therapist or mental health brand, it’s essential to reflect on your area of expertise and the topics you possess deep knowledge in, while also considering areas where clients might benefit from further education. Monitor conversations on social media marketing platforms by following relevant hashtags, joining relevant groups, or participating in online discussions. This allows you to observe the language, concerns, and needs of your target audience. Tools like Hootsuite, Sprout Social, or Mention can assist in tracking and analyzing social media conversations. By aligning your own strengths and specialties with the areas your target clients have concerns about, you position yourself as a trusted expert in those specific areas. You’ll refer to this list of specialty areas in the next step when you begin creating content. 
  • Leverage the power of written content and video. Establish trust and rapport with potential clients by providing educational resources, sharing insights, and showcasing your expertise. Effective content strategies address the concerns and questions that potential clients commonly have. By addressing these issues through informative and empathetic content, therapists can provide reassurance and demonstrate that they understand the challenges clients face. This helps to establish a connection and build trust, as individuals see that therapists are attuned to their needs and are equipped to support them.This can be done through video, webinars, podcasts, blog posts, and social media posts. By offering valuable information, you can build credibility and foster a sense of connection before clients even reach out to you.
  • Partner with news outlets and influencers who have more reach. Media publicity and influencer partnerships present an even bigger opportunity to challenge societal narratives about mental health, simply because they have a much larger audience than you do. By sharing your expertise through earned media interviews, articles, or collaborations with influencers, you can contribute to destigmatizing mental health issues, and promoting open conversations on a massive scale. Better yet, by partnering with third parties who are willing to share your message, you also get the added benefit of credibility and third-party validation that you just don’t get with other forms of marketing or advertising. 
Example of how media publicity can help therapists attract clients.
A story I recently wrote for PsychReg. By ‘borrowing’ their audience, I was able to showcase my expertise to more people than I would on my own!

If you’re struggling to identify the right messages, or you don’t know where to begin in approaching the media, it can be highly advantageous to consult with a Branding & Media Relations expert who has a background in mental health.

As an AMFT and MA in Psychology who’s also been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur and HuffPost, I understand your unique challenges, and I know how to get things done. You can contact me here to schedule a consultation.

Competing for Your Audience’s Attention is Becoming More Difficult

So, imagine you’ve got your messaging all figured out. Now, you need to know what to do with those messages!

You’re probably  facing some challenges when it comes to capturing your audience’s attention amidst the overwhelming noise and competition for their attention.

With countless voices vying for recognition in a crowded marketplace, it can be difficult to break through and resonate with clients who are seeking mental health support.

Establishing a strong brand identity and a strong online presence to reach your potential clients is both a challenge and a necessity. 

Challenge #4: So Many Options, So Little Time!

As therapists, it can be challenging to figure out the most effective channels to reach our target audience. And the options are endless!

With so many options, from dozens of social media platforms, to blogging platforms, and everything in between – it can be a challenge to reach our ideal prospective clients, even once we have the right message!

“Reaching the general population on Instagram rather than attracting other therapists [has been one of my biggest challenges],” explains author & psychoanalyst, Dr. Claudia Luiz.

With the evolving landscape of digital platforms and varying preferences among individuals seeking mental health support, finding the right channels for engagement can feel like navigating a complex maze.

Challenge #5: The Market is Saturated and Noisy

In today’s market, it can feel like there’s an overwhelming number of therapists and mental health professionals vying for your potential clients’ attention. And there is!

With so many voices competing for recognition, it’s challenging to stand out and get noticed.

Social media channels are noisy and saturated for therapists
Getting more ‘likes’ can be hard in a crowded marketplace!
Photo source: Daria Nepriakhina

“One of the biggest marketing challenges for therapists is standing out in an increasingly saturated market. With the rise of digital platforms and social media, capturing the attention of potential clients amidst the noise can be daunting. You must develop a unique brand identity and communicate your value proposition clearly and effectively,” explains Anne Balke, Content Project Manager at Brainmanager.io

Solution: Discover Online Hangouts, Choose Priority Channels, Become a Thought Leader

When it comes to marketing your therapy practice, understanding your target audience is crucial.

Hopefully you already identified who your ideal client or target audience was when you were creating your brand messages, and content ideas. Now, you need to figure out where those ideal clients ‘hang out’ online, so you can reach them. 

Here’s a simple 3-step process I’ve used time and time again to find clients in a crowded marketplace: 

1) Find out where your ideal client or customer ‘hangs out’ online. Analyze the marketing strategies of therapists who are successful in your field. Observe the channels they use and assess their effectiveness. While it’s essential to differentiate yourself, competitor research can offer valuable insights and ideas for your own marketing efforts. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. 

2) Pick 2-3 marketing channels you want to use, TOPS. Although it may be tempting, it’s not possible to effectively master every single marketing channel to reach your audience; nor is it necessary. Begin by choosing the top 2-3 channels that align with your target audience,  your own personal preferences, and your marketing goals. By concentrating your efforts, you can ensure quality content and consistent engagement, which are critical for cutting through the noise. 

3) Deploy your messages to become a thought leader. By now, you should have your message and content strategy developed, and you should have an idea of which channels you want to use to reach your target audience. Now it’s time to go for it! Schedule your social media posts, write your blog posts, record your videos, reach out to media contacts. Whatever channels and messages you’ve decided on, now is the time to put that strategy into action!

In a crowded marketplace, simplicity is the key to standing out and effectively reaching your audience.

By focusing on a select few top channels and mastering them, you can cut through the noise and capture your audience’s attention more effectively.

This focused approach allows you to build a strong presence, establish credibility, and foster meaningful connections with your audience. Remember, it’s better to excel in a few channels than to be mediocre across many!

Issue #3: Implementation & Measurement

Once you’ve got a marketing and content strategy outlined, the work is far from over. 

Implementing and measuring the results of the strategy are just as important as creating one to begin with!

Challenge #6: I’m Too Busy, and/or I Don’t Want To!

I get it. Working with clients who are struggling with mental health challenges can be incredibly rewarding…and taxing!

Who has time for marketing!?

If you’re too busy, burnt out, or just don’t have the capacity or desire to implement your marketing strategy, that’s obviously a huge barrier to attracting clients!

But, deploying a marketing and content strategy isn’t for everyone, and it’s totally okay that you don’t want to do it.

Fortunately, with the freelancer revolution, online marketing tools, and hundreds of reputable marketing and PR agencies available at the click of a button, finding talent is easier than ever before. 

Challenge #7: Is My Campaign Working!?

Measuring the results of any marketing or PR campaign can be a challenge and, it’s totally understandable that you may now know where to start. 

However, understanding the impact of your marketing and PR efforts is essential for refining strategies and maximizing your return on investment. 

If you put in all the work to deploy the marketing strategy, you might as well keep an eye on how well it’s working! Otherwise, what’s the point?

Solution: Hire Help & Use Tools to Your Advantage

If you’re struggling to implement and/or measure your strategy, you’re definitely not alone…

But, it may be time to employ some help!

Marketing, PR and branding all require dedicated time and effort. By delegating your campaign responsibilities to professionals, you can free up your time to focus on what you do best – providing therapy and serving your clients.

By outsourcing some (or all) of the work, you can have peace of mind knowing your campaign is being handled by professionals who are skilled at what they do. 

To find the right marketing or PR partner for your campaign, assess their experience and expertise, ask for examples of their past work, and set aside time to chat with them to see if it’s a good personality fit. 

When I’m working with clients, I always like to chat with them first to see if our personalities and values align. After all, this is a relationship just like any other, and being able to have good trust and rapport is critical to the campaign success. 

(Contact me if you’d like to inquire about my PR consulting, media outreach, or content development services). 

Using measurement tools to your advantage can help you keep track of your campaigns whether you implement them yourself, or decide to hire a professional.

Marketing analytics tools for therapists
Measurement is an important part of any marketing / PR campaign!
Photo source: Stephen Phillips – Hostreviews.co.uk

Using both free and paid tools like Google Analytics, Google Alerts, social media analytic tools, and email analytic tools can help you monitor the success of your campaigns, so you can make changes when necessary. 

Final Thoughts: Onward and Upward!

In 2023, marketing for therapists presents both challenges and solutions in an increasingly competitive landscape.

Marketing serves as a crucial bridge for therapists, private practices, and mental health brands; connecting you with individuals in need of services. 

A well-executed marketing strategy enables you to establish trust, build credibility, and communicate your expertise to potential clients. 

With these things in mind, it’s well worth your time to implement solutions to the marketing challenges you’re facing, so you can make a difference in the lives of even more people. 

By overcoming marketing challenges and leaning into your passion, you can create significant opportunities to empower clients, guiding them on their journey toward personal growth, healing, and improved well-being.

Hey therapists, private practices, and mental health brands!

Want to keep reach even more potential clients? Consider our PR Consultation, Content Development, and Media Outreach Services if you’re interested in any the following:

  • Attracting new ideal clients in a competitive market
  • Refining your messages and creating content your audience can relate to
  • Getting mass exposure, traffic, and improved credibility through media exposure

Contact us today to learn more.

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