Therapist marketing blocks: How do I market myself, be a reasonable human and stay within the AHPRA guidelines

When you’re starting or growing a private practice, marketing is important. Many therapists feel uncomfortable with marketing and like all things that make them uncomfortable, they don’t do it.

It is not uncommon to hear these types of therapists say “I believe quality work sells itself”. Typically they do either no marketing or use highly avoidant methods of marketing such as sending letters. And then they wonder why the phone is not ringing or the online bookings aren’t happening. All the while, someone with less experience and competence but who is prepared to market is overflowing with referrals.

There are several reasons why therapists are so uncomfortable with marketing.

  • many therapists are introverted and don’t like making themselves the centre of attention
  • they may hold beliefs about self-promotion being wrong or bad or that it is self-aggrandizing
  • they may see marketing as salesy or unethical
  • they fear criticism from peers
  • they fear being non-compliant with AHPRA

The reality is, if you want referrals people need to know you exist. Not marketing is the quickest way to fail in private practice. How sad it is to see highly skilled people with empty books and dwindling finances.

Here are some quick trouble shooters for marketing anxiety and blocks:

  • meeting referrers face to face is often the best way to make a lasting connection. This will likely occur over 5-10 minutes during a busy GP lunch break. Even introverts can handle 5-10 minutes.
  • use online marketing options including quality websites that link to your local area, networking with peers on social media.
  • think about where your ideal clients would be looking for help. Some practices now do all their marketing via instagram and have never done GP marketing.
  • marketing your professional skills is not self-aggrandizing if your claims are reasonable and you do not claim to be better than your peers.
  • not all marketing is salesy and unethical. If I am looking for a product or service, I am reliant on marketing of some kind whether that is online advertising, a referral or word of mouth recommendation. It can be useful to think of it as a communication with your ideal client or referrer rather than marketing.
  • develop a new mantra such “Marketing equals helping”.
  • most therapists, and particularly psychologists, have the unrelenting standards schema, meaning we can be hypercritical of ourselves and our peers. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your peers will judge you as harshly as your inner critic. Those of us who are successful in private practice know that marketing is necessary. We won’t judge fair and ethical marketing.
  • being compliant with AHPRA’s advertising standards is easier than you think a) don’t use testimonials or reviews in your advertising for your clinical work, b) don’t make unreasonable claims or guarantees about treatment effectiveness or curing people, c) do not solicit reviews for your clinical work, d) do not overstate expertise and do not use the word specialise or specialist in your advertising (instead refer to a special interest area or niche), e) do not offer incentives or discounts to entice customers, f) do not encourage use of your service unnecessarily, g) do not compare yourself as better favourably against another therapist.

PS: Need help to identify the mindset and values issues that get in the way of your authentic marketing? Join the waitlist for my course Thriving Therapist Formula here or book a coaching consult with me here.

Reference: AHPRA’s Guidelines for advertising a regulated health service

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