The therapists guide to paid advertising - Jane Travis, Grow Your Counselling Business

'What's the best way to get clients for my private practice?'

I'm asked that all the time, and it's not a simple one size fits all answer.

There are consideration, like what's your niche? What skills do you have? How many clients are you looking to attract? How much money do you have to invest? What have you already done?

Some of us pay to take out paid advertising - yes, myself included, and yes, we learn most by our mistakes! 

Because as a counsellor or therapist running a private practice, paid advertising isn't the best investment for your business. 


The therapists guide to paid advertising - Jane Travis, Grow Your Counselling Business

Consider how people access counselling: they recognize they need some extra help and do one or both of these things;

  • Talk to a friend, and the friend recommends someone they have used themselves or know of
  • Research local therapists via Google

Generally, people don't flick through a magazine, stumble across an advert about therapy and think 'Ooh, thats so what I need!'.

So let's take a look using paid advertising to grow your private practice.

Why paid advertising isn’t cost effective for therapists.

1. Advertising is expensive

People make a lot of money by selling advertising space.

I don’t have a problem with people making money legitimately, good for them, we all need to earn a living!  

But when they sell you an advert, it’s because to them that’s a sale and adds to their profits.

It's up to you to decide whether that investment is right for your business.

When marketing your business, you need to be aware of Return On Investment (ROI).  

ROI is exactly what it says: its the amount of profit you can expect back through your marketing investment.

Now look, I’m most definitely NOT an accountant! So I can’t walk you through the finer points about calculating your ROI but for me, I consider how much money each client brings me.

Although I have short term and long term clients, I estimate people see me on average for 12 sessions, so an average client means 12 sessions at £45 = £540.

So if the advert is £300 and brings in one new client, £540 minus advert £300 = £240 divided by 12 sessions = I earn £20 per session LESS normal expenses ie room rent, travel, tax etc.

And you can see if you average less sessions or charge less per client you could soon be out of pocket.

2. Advertising is a gamble

You have the odds stacked against you.  You need the stars aligned so that your ad is seen by the right person at exactly the time they are ready to access help.

I treat paid advertising like I do lending money to friends - I only do it if I can afford to lose the money! So if I either pay to advertise or lend money, it’s only ever relatively small amounts. I can't afford to lose £300!

If you have the money, maybe it’s a risk worth taking. Experiment with it, see what types of advertising works. But as with gambling, don’t spend what you can’t afford to lose.

Are there any exceptions?

Yes!  Here are 3 places you can consider targeted advertising relatively cheaply. 

Parish magazines

Local ‘parish magazine’ type publications can be good.  People often keep hold of copies and refer to them when they want a local service. ​

If they see your ad in there, they might remember it to use themselves or share with someone that needs it.  

But don’t pay a lot!  In my experience, they can be hit and miss.

Facebook ads

Facebook ads can be a very cost effective way to advertise as you can directly target your ideal clients.

I’d recommend not running an advert as such, but promote your best blog post (which includes a Call To Action (CTA)) to direct people to your website where they can explore.  

But if you’re going to use them, be sure to know what you’re doing or it’s an easy way to lose cash.  

You'll find loads of information on using Facebook Ads, so do your homework first to get the most from it.

Google AdWords

Lots of therapists have had success with Google AdWords, though again you need to do your homework to get the most out of it.

An introduction to Google Adwords - Grow Your Private Practice

The benefits of advertising

Advertising will get your name out there.  

BUT there are so many other ways to do that for free or very low cost.  Take a look at my free resource '54 Specific Ways To Attract Therapy Clients' for ideas

An interesting consideration is 'According to a Nielsen study92% of consumers believe suggestions from friends and family more than they do advertising - this stat alone solidified the word of mouth use case'.

Read more in 'Harness The Power Of Word Of Mouth Marketing'


Watch out for people contacting you to advertise.  

I regularly get emails from companies promising to get me on page 1 of Google (they can’t - well, maybe they can but it'll do you no good at all - read this really interesting article from Yoast, the king of SEO 'Can an SEO agency get me to rank No 1 on Google?' ) 

Or saying they have a last minute ad for a major publication and they can let you have it at a reduced fee.

Anyone contacting you like this is just SPAM.  Spam is the online brother of the dodgy door to door salesman. It’s illegal in many countries.  Take a look 

All the emails I send have a double opt in - which means, you have to confirm that you’re giving permission for me to email you. I won’t send any emails without it because - well, there's no point.

So people emailing you to offer advertising or marketing advice that you haven't asked for are best ignored. Spending money with people that are engaging in dodgy marketing practices isn’t wise.  

If you choose to advertise.

Do your research on the best place for you to advertise. Take into account

  • Your niche
  • Your geographical location

Consider carefully what you want to say, the design you use and always include a (CTA) like ‘call me now for a free 10 minute consultation’

What to do instead of paid advertising

When marketing your practice you’re playing the long game. It’s about letting people know who you are, what you do and how to connect with you. It’s about getting known, growing the ‘know like trust’ factor, about demonstrating your knowledge.

Further reading: 6 Secrets Therapists Need To Know To Start Marketing Your Private Practice

Remember, it’s not our job to persuade people to come to counselling.

All this can be achieved for free or cheaply by blogging, social media, email marketing and networking.

So if you're considering paid advertising as a way to promote your practice, be clear on your objectives, be clear on your budget and have realistic expectations. A single ad will rarely bring clients. 

Need more help with advertising your private practice? Maybe you're a technophobe? Then this course is for you! Take a look now.

Taking it offline: the power of in person marketing. A course for counsellors and therapists in private practice

About the Author Jane

Jane lives in beautiful Lincoln with her 2 boys and rescue dog. When she's not talking about herself in the third person, she's usually found with her feet up and eating Maltesers. Sometimes she even shares them with friends. Follow me on Instagram

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