3 Benefits of Building a Social Media Following

3 Reasons(1)

A sizable social media following demonstrates that you are a reliable and respected source.

Once you've set up your social media platforms of choice (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), building a group of dedicated followers takes time. Though it may be discouraging to initially only have a few "likes" on your page, consistently creating and curating content and growing your following is a valuable strategy that can pay off. One of the objectives of expanding your readership (gaining more followers on social media) is raising your visibility in the community and attracting more clients. But beyond this, having a loyal audience can help bring you additional professional opportunities. Here's how:

Writing for reputable sites and outlets is one way to secure multiple income streams for yourself. In my own life and career, I am grateful for the opportunity to be a regular contributor for Psych Central and Answers and also to frequently write for other publications. And the reason that I'm able to have these kinds of additional professional experiences is because of my social media following!

Social Proof of Relevance

When I approach a site, I can better convince them to allow me to write for them if I can demonstrate that I have a substantial readership. For example, I point to my 11,500+ Twitter followers and 2,400 followers on Instagram as evidence that I have an audience that cares about the things I say. When I write for a well-known website, I then share that article to my own followers, which increases traffic for both the site and for myself. This symbiotic relationship is possible because I've first built my own social media audience.   

Demonstrates Your Expertise

In addition to showing the numbers, having a body of work you can draw from is critical when seeking to expand your professional opportunities. If you only have a few posts on your blog, you haven't yet established yourself as a credible writer. But by regularly creating and repurposing material, you have existing content to prove yourself as a trusted source. Also, your blog and other articles is what you are sharing via your social media platforms. The only way your followers will remain loyal readers is if you are consistently providing them with relevant material.

Attract Professional Opportunities

One unexpected result of building a social media following is that professional opportunities that I want are coming to me. Because I have a large body of online work, an engaged social media following, people who are seeking someone with my expertise can easily find me online. I've also heard several amazing stories of colleagues who have had publishers read out to them and offer a book contract because of their online presence and social media following.

Having a dedicated and engaged social media following is an excellent strategy to securing professional opportunities separate from clinical hours. Your online material can be "liked," re-shared, and re-pinned, and you can show the number of followers you have as evidence that you are a reliable source of information in your field.

What are YOU doing to build your social media following?

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8 Steps to Launching or Relaunching a Psychotherapy Practice

Launch (3)In this guest post, Miranda Palmer LMFT and Kelly Higdon share eight ways to thrive in the current private practice climate. The process of building a successful private practice has changed considerably over the last twenty years. Most therapists we speak with who have been in practice for a few decades started by getting their credentials from an insurance companies. Reimbursement rates were relatively high for the cost of living from the 80s into the early 90s. Things flowed. Maybe they had a listing in the phone book, but back then there was no need for websites, Facebook pages, or Twitter accounts!

Fast forward to now: the financial picture for therapists in private practice has drastically changed, as we are in a time of low or stagnate reimbursement rates combined with an increase in cost of doing business and living.

The old model is simply that, old. It doesn’t work for today, and thus we find experienced therapists with a full practice that isn’t profitable enough to prepare for retirement, and new therapists often feel lost when they ask their mentors for direction and get answers that don’t resonate with the current economy.

We want to simplify the steps required for launching and successfully running a private practice in 2014. Whether you are starting out fresh, have moved to a new city, or need to make some significant changes in your business foundation, these steps will help you get things on track!

1) Develop a clear vision of your life

We tell our clients to do this regularly. We help them reassess and ask them to be accountable for the choices they make that lead them toward or away from that vision becoming a reality. This is your road map. When you begin with a plan for your life, your business can be formed to support that plan. So before you come up with an awesome group therapy curriculum or some other great idea, write down a super clear vision for your work AND home life.

2) Take that vision and break it down into pieces

Having a simple vision, with no basis in reality, can be difficult. How much money do you need to make that vision come to life? What would it take for you to go home at that time each day? Are you preparing for quarterly taxes? Are you realistic about how many clients you can see regularly while avoiding burnout? Are you leaving time for networking and marketing your practice? Leaving time for going to trainings? For being sick? Are you leaving enough time to return client phone calls and be available for crisis situations?

This is where people can get stuck in magical math. If I see 20 clients at $100/hr, that is $2,000 per week for 50 weeks – that’s six figures! YET there are expenses, taxes, real life stuff that happens. Be honest with your capabilities and your needs. Also, be open to the idea of reaching your goals in different ways. You might discover that face-to-face sessions is only a part of the plan. Now go crunch numbers, write down the schedule, and look at the specific pieces that are needed to fully form your vision.

3) Develop a business plan based on your vision and those realistic pieces

Every therapist in private practice needs a written business plan. He/she must know exactly how the fee was developed, how many sliding or pro bono slots there are, how much money is put toward retirement, etc. There is also a bit of research to be done here. Surprised? Sure, people need mental health services, but who and where are they, and what are the holes in the market in your area? Have a clear idea of who you want serve and how you plan to serve them. Write it down; be accountable to yourself.

4) Develop a sustainable plan to let your community know who you are

Notice I didn’t say develop a sustainable plan to let people know your business exists. People decide to work with therapists they know, like, and trust. Being authentic in how you present your private practice to the public doesn’t have to mean complete self-disclosure. Maintain professional boundaries, but don’t be afraid to let your personality shine!

The beauty of our current world is that people can advocate for themselves by choosing a provider who they believe is prepared to help them heal. If a potential client doesn’t get a chance to hear your “voice” and how you practice, how can he/she determine if you are a good fit? How hard is it for you to choose a therapist for yourself? Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be without an advanced degree and a deep knowledge of psychological theory?  Make sure to clearly communicate what unique things you can offer as a therapist.

Be aware of your insecurities and how you demonstrate those to the world. Now is the time to believe in yourself and honestly take stock in what you bring to the table. It is not prideful to share your craft with others. It is necessary in order to build relationships and instill hope in members of your community.

5) Develop and maintain clear business boundaries

Your business is your service to your clients. You may think that the things you are doing on a daily basis are serving your clients, but you need to be honest with yourself. If your business is struggling, it will impact your clinical work. What would happen if your clients talked to one another? Do more assertive clients pay a different fee than passive clients? Do clients with poor money management skills pay less than a client who has better budgeting skills?

Stick to your plan. Go back, and if you start to waver, remember #1 – why you are doing this in the first place? What is the life you are seeking to create? Who are the clients you are seeking to transform? When you break those boundaries, you are holding yourself back from the dreams you have for yourself and from helping your community in a profound way.

6) Streamline your business processes

The best way to do great clinical work is to free yourself up to do great clinical work. Whether this means transitioning to a paperless office to reduce late cancellations or no shows and decrease unpaid balances, or outsourcing your insurance billing so you never have to sit on hold with insurance companies again, find a way to make the business process work efficiently. If you feel like you can’t afford to streamline your process, you need to look at return on investment and/or whether you have set a fee that fully integrates business and overhead costs.

7) Streamline your marketing process

It takes more energy to start from a stopped position. The start of launching or re-launching your practice takes a LOT of energy, gusto, and enthusiasm. Know that it won’t always be as hard as it is in the beginning. Watch what works for growing your practice most effortlessly, and make a way to continue the bare minimum even when you are full with clients to keep things flowing. Maybe that is blogging once a month, speaking a few times a year, or monthly lunch dates with new contacts in your area. If you don’t have time to do some minimal tasks to keep things moving, you need to reassess if you are being honest with yourself about the time it takes to run a business.

Your marketing must align with who you are and your core values. If you don’t want to write a blog, don’t. If you don’t want to speak, don’t. BUT, do something and analyze if it works. If it isn’t working, then tweak it until it works, or let it go and move on to other options. Just because your neighbor gets referrals from Psychology Today doesn’t mean that is what YOU should do. You must only do what is best for your business, not necessarily what is best for others.

8) Celebrate your accomplishments!

Be good to yourself; kind to yourself. There is a lot to learn when starting a private practice. Know that everyone has a learning curve, and seek out a supportive community. However, no matter how awesome your community is, you will be struggling to stay energized and enjoy private practice if you are being unkind to you. Start from the inside out! And don’t be afraid to celebrate all the great accomplishments you’ve made in your private practice.

Miranda PalmerMiranda Palmer is a Licensed Marriage Family Therapists who is passionate about teaching and empowering other static.squarespaceclinical counselors to successfully run a private practice. Visit her site to learn more. 

Kelly Higdon wants to make a difference by sharing her expertise to help clients and business owners reach their full potential. Check out her Business School Bootcamp to learn more.   


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The Power of Online Presence: Mari A. Lee, LMFT Overcame 'Technophobia' to Become Best-Selling Author

power of online Discover how some very successful mental health professionals use blogging, social media, and other technologies as powerful tools for their therapy practices.   I've discussed in great length ways that my online presence has benefited my private practice. But don't just take my word for it. Many therapists have utilized the power of social media and blogging to get the word out about their practice, establish rapport, and build trust with those in their community. I've asked a few of my colleagues some questions about their experiences (the good and the bad) building their online presence.  This is the first of several interviews where you can learn from the professionals.  My hope is for you to read these and understand even more just how valuable an online presence can be, not just for attracting clients, but for opening up other professional opportunities. Our first featured therapist is Mari A. Lee, an LMFT who specializes in sex addiction recovery.

1)  When and how did you first start putting time and effort into maintaining a strong online presence?

 Nearly 10 years ago when I was first starting out as an intern, I knew I wanted to have a website and better understand how to build my brand. I worked with a coach and a web designer to help me understand the basics. I had a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile to start.  Over the years, I began to understand even more the benefit of an online presence, so I eventually updated my website and then found ways to refine and streamline my social media.  

2)  Please describe what social platforms you currently use. 

Originally I started with a Squarespace website and a LinkedIn account; I still use both. However, I now have a Facebook business page where I frequently post and receive feedback.  I have a blog as well that I update regularly.  I do have a Twitter and a Google+ account, though truthfully, I don't use them often.  Also, I recently moved my professional email to a gmail account and am really enjoying all of the added benefits from Google mail.  

One thing I love about social media is how it can connect you to others in the field. I belong to 3 professional organizations for my specialization as a sex and love addiction therapist. I participate often and have found this to be an excellent resource to build my reputation and brand, as well as build trusted relationships with other therapists within my specialization.

3)  About how much time do you devote to your online presence?  How do you balance it with your other work responsibilities?  

I am an author, so writing is a first love to me.  I enjoy this practice and find it fun, therapeutic, and exciting to write each day. I write 5 days a week and spend about 30-60 min every morning nurturing my online presence. Though I have a very busy private practice, I really don't find this to be difficult to balance into my schedule.  I think part of this is because writing comes quite naturally to me, and also I have more time to devote to my online presence because I do not have to contend with insurance billing and such.  

4)  What kinds of things do you use to inspire your content creations; what do you write about?

I love this question! The sky is the limit with respect to what I find inspirational. It could be something from my personal life that I feel would be helpful and supportive. It might be a trend I am seeing with clients in my private practice (for example: Boundaries, Assumptions, Gratitude). It could be a poem I have read, or a movie I have seen, a hot topic in current media, a trend, a project I am working on.  

I draw from many sources, and I believe this keeps my writing authentic and "me." That said, it is important to keep the material relevant and fresh. Writing about female business owners in their 50s, might be a bit blah to someone doing a search, but writing about female business owners taking 10 weeks of vacation a year, making six figures, and writing top selling e-books may have more of an SEO draw.

5)  How do you best balance personal and professional in your online activities?  Please give examples.  

I tend to keep pretty tight boundaries on my personal and professional online activities. For example, I have a social media form for therapy clients as part of my intake packet that they sign. I do not allow clients to post to my business Facebook page or private message me. They may read an article, blog and so forth if they choose, but that is it. I do not accept friend requests or professional links from therapy clients on LinkedIn.  I have had a couple of clients attempt to add me as a friend.  When this happens I redirect them back to my policy and process in their next session. Thankfully, I have not had any issues to date with clients overstepping boundaries. If that should happen, I would address this as part of the clinical work.

6)  What is some tangible evidence that your online presence has grown your business?

My practice has grown to the point where I have recently raised my fees in order to reduce my waiting list.  I have been referring out about 15-20 clients per month to other trusted colleagues in my area. However, this is about to change, as I am getting ready to hire 2 new therapists in 2015.  I'd like to keep some of this income under Growth Counseling Services, and my business is telling me that it is time to grow.  I have also increased my income in the last 3 years by 25% and it grows higher each year.  I anticipate 2015 to be a large jump in business/income.  

7)  Besides attracting clients, what other ways has your strong online presence helped you?

I have so enjoyed connecting with other professionals. My amazing virtual assistant and I met via a Facebook professional group, and it is really fun and enjoyable to see colleagues who have become friends posting updates on their latest and greatest and cheering them on!  Additionally, I have been asked to do radio and podcast interviews, my 5-star Amazon book, "Facing Heartbreak: Steps to Recovery for Partners of Sex Addicts" is now the #1 book in the world for spouses of sex addicts, and my e-book for therapists, "The Creative Clinician: Exercises and Activities for Clients and Group Therapy" has been flying off my website store based solely on therapists hearing about this, reading the testimonials and positive posts from other therapists, and then purchasing this resource. In the last year I have been hired three times for paid speaking gigs that paid several thousand dollars each. I could go on and on - the benefits and blessings are innumerable!

8)  What have been some of the biggest challenges you've encountered creating and maintaing your online presence?

I was scared and resistant to learning new technologies.  Miranda Palmer, who is a friend and a colleague, has been one of my biggest supports in being gently relentless (and incredibly patient) in supporting me. Additionally, my virtual assistant Kurt has been a huge help in walking me through some of the unknowns. I always share that if I can figure out how to blog, attend and facilitate webinars, host online trainings, navigate my FB business page, and so forth, anyone out there reading this can. I was the biggest scaredy cat of all!

9) How have you overcome those challenges?

I started out with small, focused goals. For example, I worked on my website a website presence, then updated my LinkedIn profile.  Pretty soon, I began to attend webinars and, then set aside a budget for paid coaching when needed. I hired a tech savvy virtual assistant who walked me through the world of Facebook and Twitter.   The most important thing I have done to help myself is to set aside time to practice each week.  I ask questions, I listen and read, I offer to others any information that I have found helpful in order to give back.  And I try to operate from a place of gratitude. A polite thank you and introduction with an offer to help the other person (instead of just asking for a hand out) goes a long way in the virtual community, and in real life!

10)  What tips or resources can you recommend to help therapists who are new to the online world of blogging, social media, SEO, etc.?

Trust that you CAN do this. Try to lean into your fears and don't bite off too much at a time. Make a list, and start at the top with a website. Even 3-4 pages is a good start. Hire experts and coaches when needed. Don't feel like you have to be the best writer in the world or a published author to have a blog or FB business page. Even posting a few short sentences and including a short video clip or inspirational quote is good enough. Baby steps! And here is my numero uno tip: Operate from a place of respect, gratitude, kindness and good will. People and professionals in the virtual communities and social media will get a real sense of who you are very quickly. If you are snarky, a know it all, or mean spirited, this will translate very quickly to the online world. I try to extend from a positive space and in doing so, attract other focused, joyful, interesting, and successful positive therapists and healers. When I come across a Negative Nellie, Envious Irma, Debbie Downer or Fear Fred, I just bow out politely from those kinds of interactions. You will notice right away within Facebook groups, LinkedIn feeds, professional list serves and Twitter who these folks are; these are the people who lead with fear, dire warnings, and rain on the parade vs. picking up a kazoo, jumping on the float and moving forward. I prefer to surround myself with like-minded, whole hearted, authentic colleagues of integrity who are out there making their dreams come true. Best wishes in creating your online presence.  If this 52 year-old former tech scaredy cat can do it, so can you!

Mari Lee Mari A. Lee, LMFT, CSAT-S 
Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist #47920
Certified Sex Addiction Therapist & CSAT-S Supervisor
    I'm excited to present these therapists' stories about building their online presence.
Stay tuned for more!

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How Your Therapy Skills Can Help Build Your Online Presence (Part 1)

canstockphoto9611721 This is the first post of a 2 part series of how to best utilize social media to engage your readers.  

Developing and maintaining a strong online presence to engage readers employs the same skills you use as a therapist: the ability to foster trust, build rapport, and serve your community.  

The internet allows you to expand your therapy outreach in a way that exceeds the bounds of what you could do from a traditional office setting.  Here are some specific points to consider when building an online presence.

Your Therapy Skills in Practice

Some clinical counselors new to social media aren’t always confident about how to approach the task of building an online presence and effectively building a social media following, but you already have many of the skills you need.  Your training has taught you to help others feel comfortable, address their specific concerns, and provide professional insight to respond to their needs.  Building your online presence is simply translating those therapy skills to a larger venue.

Don’t be scared or overwhelmed by the technology side of things; by starting small, asking questions, and perhaps even learning a bit through trial-and-error, you will gain the experience you need to create a thriving online presence.

Content Creation vs. Content Curation

We’ve talked about the importance of creating quality content to frequently post to your blog and social media platforms.  But just as important is curating material that already exists; that is researching, finding, and presenting content that is relevant to your current focus or professional study.  Your goal is to connecting with both the general public and other professionals in the field in an effort to serve, educate, and inspire.

Some may wonder how much original content they should produce, and how much existing material they should repurpose.  I generally try to obey the 40/ 60 rule; about 40% of the media I share through my social platforms is my own, where 60% is material I’ve found that I feel could best serve my community of clients.

“Why am I not getting new clients?”

I have talked to therapists who wonder why they haven’t seen a significant growth in their practice after they began to devote time to their online presence.  But social media is a long-term strategy, and the results are usually not immediate.  You need to build a collection of quality articles, podcasts, media contributions, etc. that prove you serve as a reliable resource in the field.  It won’t happen overnight, but if you consistently create and curate quality material, you will be able to better serve your community, establish yourself as a trusted professional, educate the public about relevant topics pertaining to mental health, and also grow your business in order to meet your own needs.  So keep plugging away; you’ll get there!

Stay tuned for an upcoming post about the logistics of using different platforms (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) to further engage your readers.  

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Get Graphic! Using Visual Content to Build Your Online Practice Presence

Get Graphic

Photos, graphics, and memes can help build engagement and grow your online private practice presence.

Visual content is becoming increasingly important to a business’s online presence, and your therapy practice would do well to get on board.  Nothing can replace quality written content, but too many words on a page can be overwhelming and/or dull. In fact, visual media networks, such as YouTube and Instagram have more referral traffic than Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+ combined.  It makes sense, as studies show that 90% of the information transmitted to our brain is visual and that we  process images 60,000 times faster than text.  Additionally, information presented visually is much more likely to be retained, so your followers will remember things better than just plain text.  So don’t be afraid to put some quality and purposeful images out there to help boost your online engagement.  Here are some examples of ways to get graphic and connect with your readers visuals.


Photos are a great way to add to your blog or social media content.  They can both attract readers who are more visual learners and also enhance the message you are trying to get across.  You can carefully select online images to match your content, but don’t be afraid to also use your own pictures to show your human side. A word of caution:  ignoring copyright laws can really get you in trouble by slapping you with a lawsuit.  Certain companies, such as Getty, are pretty strict about their rules and aren’t afraid to go after you for breaking them.  Avoiding this type of problem is just one more push for using original photos.


Graphics are a way to portray or emphasize a quote or idea in a way that’s succinct and easy to read (think Pinterest quotes).  They can incorporate both text and images.  Tap into your inner artist by using different colors and fonts; get creative!  It’s a good idea to make sure your graphics are square-shaped to best accommodate social media networks, such as Instagram. A great online tool for creating graphics is  As is usually the case with online tools, Canva offers different levels of membership that correspond to varying levels of usability (ie:  the more you pay, the more stuff you can do).  But even just choosing the basic free option allows you to create beautiful and interesting graphics. I often design visuals from my iPhone for Instagram and other social media sites on either Rhonna Designs or InstaQuote.


Memes A meme is a kind of graphic that incorporates humor by taking a commonly known image (often from a popular movie), and then putting a twist on it.  Using memes may or may suit your social media presence; it all depends on your personal style.  Memes can provide comic relief and entertainment that may liven things up.


Remember, incorporating visual content doesn’t mean you are detracting from the professionalism of your business.  It means you are engaging a new generation of readers and potential clients by showing your human side and making your stuff easier to read. Graphics and images can be a great part of your online content.

How do YOU utilize visual content to spread the word about your practice?


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