One of the biggest challenges for most kinds of therapists is explaining just what it is that you do. Whenever I’m teaching copywriting for therapists (literally what to write on your website), or marketing for therapists in general, this is usually the first subject to come up! It’s important for a lot of reasons, not least the fact that most people probably understand only a fraction of the benefits of your work.
Just the other day, I was talking with a friend on the phone who was busy, stressed and in serious need of some hands-on treatment like a massage. But she and her family had their hands full at home with work and a young baby, and so she was feeling guilty about taking time out for something that ‘everyone thinks of as kind of a luxury’.
Even with common and well-established treatments like Massage Therapy, the misconceptions are very much alive! And so as therapists, many of us regularly have to explain what we do, how it helps, and what it’s really all about.
Education is part of our role as practitioners, but it’s not always easy.
It gets even harder if the particular modality you practice is less well known, has a complicated name, or simply sounds ‘a bit strange’ to people who first hear about it. If what you do is called Naturopathy or Sensorimotor Psychotherapy or or Myofascial Release or EMDR, it can be an uphill struggle to get the essence across to your clients or colleagues. (As a practitioner of Craniosacral Therapy in the years before many people had heard of it, I can empathise with this!)
This is a problem for everyone. Because if a potential client is still confused about what you do after they’ve arrived on your website, they are unlikely to reach out to book an appointment with you. It’s as simple as that. So let’s look at how to move from confusion to clarity…
Here are 4 quick tips for explaining your therapy or treatment to the world…
1. Don’t get into all the details
At least, not straight away! At the beginning, your potential client isn’t usually looking for a detailed description of anatomy or body systems, or the history of how your therapy developed, or the healing process itself.
What they want to know first is if you can help with the kind of things they’re struggling with. And so the best way to tell someone about what you do is to start with HOW you can help.
- What are the tangible benefits of coming to see you?
- What will they experience after treatment, in terms of the problems or struggles they are currently experiencing?
- In other words, what difference or changes will they notice in their daily lives?
At some point on your website, you’ll be sharing more details. But to start with, tell people about the kinds of problems you can help them to solve, or the changes they can expect.
2. Use Real World Language
When you do start explaining more about how your therapy works, watch out for what I call ‘therapy in-speak’. We can all be guilty of this! Therapy in-speak is the kind of language that is full of meaning for you, the practitioner, but whose meaning may not be clear to your clients. Words like embodiment, somatoemotional release, natural healing mechanisms, holistic, processing…
There’s nothing wrong with these words, and I’m not suggesting you don’t use any of them. But most therapy websites are written mostly in this language. And you need to bear in mind that these words are probably unfamiliar to your clients. This can make what you’re talking about harder to understand.
Take a look at these two sentences, which introduce the same treatment.
‘This therapy supports the body’s innate self-healing capacities, facilitating the release of emotional blockages stored as tissue memory.’
‘We use safe, gentle techniques and a light touch to help your body to let go of tension, both physical and emotional.’
Notice how different it feels to read each one. If you were completely new to this therapy, which sentence would you find more helpful? There’s nothing ‘wrong’ with the first one but because it’s written in therapy in-speak, it’s less concerned with being accessible and clear to the client.
“Simplify. Then add lightness.”
So, could you explain what you do in more simple terms? Could you use some of the kinds of words that your clients would use themselves? It’s important that elaborate explanations don’t come at the expense of your clients getting a real feel for what your therapy is about, and why it might be right for them. Using real world language doesn’t make you sound less professional, and there are plenty of ways to make your professionalism clear.
3. Be More Human
Sometimes – usually because we’re trying to sound professional and credible again – the way we explain things can come across as formal, complicated, or a bit dry. This is one of the biggest problems with marketing for therapists. You’ve probably already noticed that descriptions on therapy websites can sound very similar to one another, or similar to the standard descriptions offered by professional therapy associations.
The best way to sound original is to write in your authentic, natural voice, and to share something about your approach and your values. Of course you’ll have a boundary between your professional and your personal self. But it’s okay to let your personality and your passion for what you do come through. Letting your clients know why you love your work is important.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
John C. Maxwell
You could include what I call an ‘I believe…’ statement on your website, which is a way of sharing your values and your unique approach to what you do. Here’s an example:
‘I’m not here to fix you. I don’t believe you need to be fixed. My job is to listen to your body and your story, and to help you find your own way forward.’
Let your humanity and your unique voice come through. You can do this and still be professional and clear in your boundaries.
4. Use the Power of Storytelling
A great way to give someone a sense of how your therapy works is to use real examples and stories to illustrate the experience of coming to see you.
Stories are powerful because:
- You don’t have to work so hard to explain things. Stories make it much easier to understand how your therapy could help.
- Stories engage the reader (your potential client), helping them to relate their situation to what you do.
- And if you find it difficult to sing your own praises (as most of us do!) or you’re worried about making claims about what’s possible, real stories and testimonials are a positive way around this.
You might share (with permission) the story or case study of one of your clients, along with the changes they noticed after their sessions. Another option is to share testimonials on your website, written by your clients themselves. And of course you can share elements of your own journey of healing, recovery or discovery, if it feels appropriate to do that.
Bottom line? Explaining your work is only partly about the facts.
Marketing for therapists needs to be different from mainstream marketing. It’s even more important that what you share is authentic, relatable and understandable. I hope these tips give you some ideas for how to share the work you’re so passionate about, before you start getting into the details. You can apply everything you’ve just read to your website, but also to your social media posts and even your conversations whenever you’re asked about what you do!