10 Reasons to Become a Media-Savvy Therapist

About 8-9 years ago, I felt a pull toward gaining media and social media skills and expertise. At the time, I wasn't sure why...or how. In hindsight, I now see the clear benefits of my media visibility for my private practice and for me as a professional. I also had no idea how fun it would be to build relationships (with producers, journalists, reporters, TV hosts, etc.), educate my community, and share my message and expertise with thousands of people. This decision to become media-savvy has altered the course of my professional life in exciting and new ways. Because my practice has grown so much (3 locations, 20 employees) and requires more management, because I'm increasingly involved in media work and content creation, and because it felt like the right thing to do, I have retired from clinical work. I now focus on writing, private practice business consulting, earning my PhD, and spending time with my family. These opportunities would not have been possible had I not acquired social media skills.

Reflecting on my career (thus far), I want to share with you some tangible benefits of becoming proficient with (social) media and maintaining an online presence. Here are 10 things you can do by becoming a media-savvy therapist:

1) Educate Your Community; Educate The World

The mental health field is by nature a helping profession. We became therapists to help people who are struggling in some aspect of their lives, right? One of the biggest ways to do is this by educating individuals. No matter your area of expertise (marriage therapy, addiction, depression, etc.), you have valuable insight that you can share with your community to serve them and better their lives. By embracing media (TV, radio, print) and newer technologies (blogging, podcasts, social media), your message can be amplified exponentially, causing you to reach a greater audience.

2) Grow Your Practice (even during an economic downturn!

I founded my private practice (Wasatch Family Therapy) in 2002 and consider myself an early adopter of technology. We created a website not long after we opened and have fully embraced and utilized social media as the years have gone by. To say that this has grown our practice is an understatement: maintaining a strong online presence has beenour number one strategy in acquiring new clients. What's more is that we now refer out over half of the individuals who seek our services (click here to read more about how our practice grew even in the economic downturn of 2008).

3) Increase Your Credibility Through Social Proof of Expertise

As you use your platform(s) of choice (blog, Facebook, Google+, etc.) to create content and build your body of work, you will in time gain followers who are interested in what you have to say. This will establish your social relevance and up your credibility. Others now view you as an expert and someone to be trusted. This can open up doors for you professionally, just like it has done for me! (read here about how gaining a social media following has brought me valuable career opportunities).

4) Employ a Fee-for-Service Model 

Because I am familiar to more people, I have been able build a fee-for-service practice. This has led to increased income and has kept my clinicians from having to deal with the stress and burden of insurance companies. A private pay model also helps provide better quality therapy for clients. And once again, it's due in large part to our strong media presence that we were able to "break up with managed care."

5) Raise Visibility For Your Profession 

We as therapists often lament the fact that mental health issues don't receive as much airtime as they deserve (though thankfully, this seems to be changing). Your media skills can help bring these topics to the forefront for your friends, family, and followers. For example, NASW has featured my work in their media news and even invited me to do national webinars. Good media interviews add visibility and educate the public about your profession in general and also about your specific expertise.

6) Create Additional Income Streams (book deals, paid blogging, consulting, etc.) 

There is so much more to being in this field than seeing clients. My online presence has afforded me the opportunities to write for major websites and blogs, consult others about how to best build their practice, and even write a book (currently working on my second one)! By growing your media skills, you too can diversify your professional activities and create multiple streams of income for yourself.

7) Create Content For Your Blog

The information you access through your social media platforms can give you great inspiration for your blog. For example, when I do a TV interview, I then post it on my site, which improves SEO and provides new and engaging content. I've found that because of my technology connections, I never am lacking for material to blog or write about.

8) Reach MORE People With Your Message, Passion, & Expertise 

The power that social media provides to reach others is truly unparalleled. I can now talk with hundreds or thousands of people at one time with each interview, not to mention the many more who will watch, listen, or read it online later. You can infinitely expand your outreach and get your message out there by utilizing media and social technologies.

9) Add Incentive for Additional Clinicians To Join Your Practice 

My media presence and relationships have given other clinicians a reason to work for me instead of opening their own practice. So individuals who potentially may have been my competition are now on my team! Your media presence (blog, interviews, Facebook, etc.) can attract new therapists who know about your vision, values, and niche from what they've seen online.

10) Gain Recognition by Professional Organizations

My media appearances and online presence has garnered the attention of reputable organizations, and I'm grateful to have received some notable accolades. For example, I was named #1 online influencer for depression, and #2 mental health online influencer by ShareCare (a social media health company founded by Dr. Oz, Discovery Communications, and WebMD's Jeff Arnold), and received the 2015 National Association of Social Worker Award for my website JulieHanks.com.

How can YOU improve your media-savviness?

And what great opportunities await you as you do? 

Join my upcoming media training. Click the graphic below to get on the list!

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7 Factors That Affect Private Practice Income

Maintaining a successful therapy private practice takes a lot of time, effort, and skill. There are countless aspects of your business that require painstaking attention in order for things to run smoothly. It can be difficult to work so hard and still sometimes experience economic uncertainty, so it's important to analyze the causes of financial inconsistencies. Here are 7 factors that affect private practice income: 1) Client Retention Rates     

The ability to keep a client engaged in meaningful and helpful therapy is a learned skill that greatly impacts your private practice income. It doesn't get as much attention as generating new referrals, but in my experience it is equally important. While it would inappropriate to continue seeing an individual who no longer needs or desires therapy, keeping clients committed to the therapy process and attending sessions regularly not only helps them adequately work through their struggles and meet their goals, it also helps practitioners maintain their business. Conversely, clients who prematurely discontinue therapy put both themselves and their mental health professionals at a disadvantage.  

2) The Number of New Referrals   

Acquiring new clients is of course an excellent way to increase income, but it can be hard to predict the ebbs and flows of exactly when new individuals will seek your services, so it's not a guaranteed strategy. I have found that it's helpful to begin tracking the number of new referrals and then chart them so you can anticipate and prepare for business lulls in coming years.

3) Economic Climate        

The general state of the economy can greatly impact whether clients will go to sessions as often or are willing to pay out of pocket. For some individuals, therapy is considered a necessity, while others may be view it as a luxury. Your income as a practitioner is in part dependent on the current economy of your community and state.

4) Season/Time of Year     

The time of year can affect when current and/or potential clients ramp up their therapy time, as well as when they often take breaks. In my experience, the last two weeks of December is when everyone (clients and providers) take time off for the holidays. Just as with new referrals, tracking the dips in client numbers can help you save for those times when you will not be getting paid.  

5) Fee Collection

You may have a steady stream of clients, but your income can be significantly lowered if a number of them have outstanding financial balances. How much money do people owe you? Are you good at collecting your fees? If you work with insurance companies, are you able to get reimbursed in a timely manner? All of these play a major role in the financial stability of your private practice (click here for how to set high expectations and create firm financial policies).

6) Moving Office Location        

Relocation will almost certainly affect your private practice income. Depending on how far you move, it can take time to develop relationships, create a strong web presence, and acquire referral sources for therapy. Even if you are moving to another location in the same city, you may find that this may temporarily impact your client hours.

7) Leave of Absence/Taking a Vacation       

One of the biggest complaints I hear from private practitioners is that if they are sick and have to miss a few weeks, they are left without an income. Taking some time off from seeing clients means we are not getting paid; understandably, this can create financial concerns.  

These and other factors (some within your control, others not) can greatly affect how financially stable your practice will be. And as one of my goals is to help therapists experience income stability, I again strongly encourage you to pursue multiple income streams as a way of advancing professionally, serving your community, and also providing for your own needs.

Click here to access my webinar about how to develop multiple income streams.

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Social Media Bootcamp For Therapists Webinar Feb 27

Social Media Bootcamp: Attract Self-Pay Clients to Your Private Practice
Date: Thursday Feb. 27  5:00 pm MST (4:00 pm PST, 6:00pm CST, 7:00pm EST)
Presenter: Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW
Attract more self-pay clients to your private practice by effectively and ethically using social media.
Over the past 12 years I've built a private practice with 3 locations and 20 providers with a fee-for-service private pay model (free of managed care) by attracting ideal clients through building a strong online presence and building an engaged social media following.

In this 90 minute webinar you will learn:

  • The building blocks of a strong online presence that will attract your ideal clients to your practice.
  • The most important thing you can do to attract ideal clients online to your practice.
  • Which social networking sites will reach your ideal clients.
  • Learn effective strategies to grow and engage your social media following.

Register for Social Media Marketing Bootcamp Webinar!


Building Your Private Practice In A Digital World: NASW Webinar Nov. 8

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Let me show you how to build strong online presence to grow your private practice!

If you're not a social worker, you can stop reading now. I know social workers are supposed to be inclusive, but this is one small exception. This webinar is only open to social workers. If you are a social worker AND a  member of National Association of Social Workers (NASW) then I hope you'll join me for my first national webinar "Building Your Private Practice In A Digital World: Creating A Strong Online Presence For Your Practice" on Nov. 8.

Those of you who read my blog regularly already know that I am a social media junkie and technology nerd AND a social worker in private practice. I've combined these passions webinar designed to help private practice social workers present themselves well online and attract new clients. In this 90-minute webinar social workers will learn more about:

  • Why online practice presence matters
  • Which 2 key questions can guide you in developing your online practice presence
  • The elements of an effective private practice website
  • How to make it easier for potential clients to find your practice and become your clients (SEO)
  • How to build an engaged social media following to build your practice

Webinar Details

Title: "Building Your Private Practice In A Digital World: Creating A Strong Online Presence For Your Practice".

Date: Thursday November 8

Time: 1-2:30 PM Eastern Time

Who: To participate you need to be a member of any NASW Specialty Practice Section. If you're not an SPS member you can join one for $35

Cost: FREE

CEU's: 1.5

Registration: Pre-register here

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Put These Free Practice Building Webinars On Your Calendar

I've been researching webinar platforms lately and trying to find the time and muster up the courage to host my first webinar. Until then, check out these excellent, and free website building and social media webinars. I've personally attended webinars from both presenters listed below so I can vouch for the quality and relevance of their presentations. Maybe one day you'll sign up for one of my practice building webinars, but until then, put these on your calendar!

Jan. 11 "The Facebook Divide" with Laura Roeder

Social media marketing maven, Laura Roeder is offering a free Facebook webinar about the new Facebook changes, how to separate your personal and professional life on Facebook once and for all, and how to build your business (or your practice). I love Laura's down-to-earth style and her gift for simplifying aspects of social media that overwhelm most people. She's funny, practical, and endearing. Though this webinar is geared for any small business owner, and if you are in private practice you are a business owner. Wednesday, January 11th at 1PM pst / 4PM est Register by clicking here.

Jan. 16 "Wordpress For Therapists" with Therapy Marketing Geeks

Clinton Power of Therapy Marketing Geeks will be covering WordPress installation basics, creating pages, posts and more. This webinar is geared toward mental health/health professionals! You can read more about my personal Wordpress obsession here. I participated in a Therapy Marketing Geeks webinar a few months ago and was impressed with their knowledge and warmth (and charming accents). Monday, January 16, 5pm PST Register by clicking here

Jan 26 "How To Get Started in Social Media Marketing" with Laura Roeder

See how Laura uses social media for her own business, how to use social media to drive traffic to your website, and how to create results from your social media marketing efforts. Though not geared toward mental health professionals specifically, you'll benefit from how Laura simplifies and clarifies the purpose of social media and how to use social media effectively. Thursday  Jan 26th 1pm PST / 4pm EST Register by clicking here.