With so many people training to be therapists, are there enough clients to go around?
I hear a lot about the difficulty therapists have attracting clients, especially at the start of their journey into private practice.
After investing large amounts of time, money and effort into something you feel so passionate about, you discover there are very few salaried positions, so if you want to be a therapist you have to start your own private practice. <gulp>
So you decorate the spare room, have some business cards made and put an advert in online directories.
But the phone doesn’t ring, and you start to feel demoralised.
But I say there's no better time to be a therapist. And before you send me hate mail, take a read why...
I hear a lot about the myth of the saturated market and for a while I totally bought into it.
I’d bemoan the squillions of training providers for training up new therapists when clearly there weren’t enough jobs or private clients to go around.
I’d grumpily blame the BACP (a membership body in the UK) for not doing something about it and even start feeling threatened when I saw new names popping up in my area.
I live 6 miles from Lincoln, my closest city, so I’d blame all the new therapists that are closer to Lincoln for pushing my details on to page 2 on online directories and therefore stealing my clients.
Does that make me sound really awful? LOL yes, of course it does, but d'ya know what? I bet I’m not the only person to feel that way.
But the truth is, there's never been a better time to be a therapist and here's why.
Mental Health Campaigns
There are many organisations moving heaven and earth to remove the stigma around mental health issues and make both talking to friends and family and accessing help easier.
Here in the UK we have:
- The Campaign Against Living Misarably (CALM) which is about preventing male suicide
- Time To Change who campaign to put an end to mental health discrimination
- Mental Health Foundation, raising awareness of mental health issues
- Rethink Mental Illness: 'Our goal is a better life for everyone affected by mental illness'.
- Mind, who say 'We won't give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect'.
- Sane working to end the stigma of mental health issues
There will be similar all over the world.
These are just the ones that immediately came to mind, there are hundreds of smaller organisations dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and actively campaigning to reduce stigma with the aim of ending the shame around these issues and making it easier to access help.
There’s a long way to go yet, but the work being done is simply amazing.
In 2015 Time To Change said 'latest survey shows public are less likely to discriminate against people with mental health problems'
What that means for therapists is people are more likely to seek out help.
Watch any show on TV, and you’ll see that people are often directed to get help. Jeez, even Jeremy Kyle has his own dedicated on show counsellor (or he did till the scandal).
Going to counselling is no longer seen as something for the crazy, weak or self indulgent, it's seen as a way to get help. It's being normalised.
And of course, I don't need to tell you that we don’t just work with people struggling with mental health issues. We also work with loss of direction, bereavement, eating disorders, relationship issues, communication, trauma and PTSD, self esteem etc etc.
Recently, therapy got the royal seal of approval.
Prince Harry spoke out about his own experiences and how counselling helped him deal with issues following the death of his mother.
Marjorie Wallace, founder of the mental health charity Sane, said: “It’s done more good than many, many campaigns. It’s given a message of hope that feelings left for too long can become malignant – but that it is never too late to seek help.”
I loved Harry before this: now, I love him just a little bit more.
People are understanding the impact life can have on us and starting to understand that counselling is a way of helping themselves.
When I first started in practice in 2005, having your own website was in its infancy. I advertised in the local newspapers and in the yellow pages, which were both expensive and I had no control over placement and who would see them.
Facebook had only just started (2004) and social media wasn't 'a thing'
Oh how things have changed. When was the last time you used the Yellow Pages? (When was the last time you saw a local newspaper for that matter.)
Now, if I want to know something - anything - I fire up Google and in a millisecond I have the answer.
This really opens up how we as therapists market our private practices.
We can write a blog which helps and informs our ideal clients, and then share that blog all over social media without ever crossing any personal disclosure boundaries and all for free.
We can use our social media to help people, to offer them tips and ideas, thoughts for reflection and therefore connect with people
We can let people know where we are and what we do, and we can let our warmth and knowledge shine through so when people need us or know someone that does, we'll be in their mind.
And if we choose to advertise, Google AdWords and Facebook ads can be target to specifically attract our ideas clients.
If your niche is working with stressed businessmen, you can directly target males aged between 30 and 50 that run their own business for just a few quid.
Yes, it makes us feel uncomfortable that Facebook has these details but equally it's fabulous for marketing.
What does this mean for private practice therapists?
It means more people than ever are:
- Open to the idea that therapy can help
- Looking to access counselling
- Experiencing the positive effects of therapy
- Talking about their experiences
Which is why more people than ever are training to be counsellors.
We have a choice:
Complain that there are no clients
Get active and start to attract clients to you via your website, blogging, having a niche, networking, using social media effectively, starting a newsletter etc.
It doesn't have to take huge amounts of time if you actively plan what you're going to do and get focused.
Because there's no better time to be a counsellor.
'But Jane, people simply can't afford private counselling'
Some don't have the money to access private therapy, that's true and that's a subject for another blog.
But many people can, and will, prioritise their health and wellbeing. So when they are looking for a counsellor, make sure it's you they pick.
And if you're not sure how to attract clients, come and join us in the Grow Your Private Practice Club. GYPP is your one stop show for all things to do with growing your practice. It's not just lots of amazing courses, workshops and resources, it's also about increasing confidence and connecting with peers.
Just click the button below to find out more and join us.