Over a two week period towards the end of last year, as part of some research I was doing for Pathway to a Full Practice, I decided to ask every single client I saw, this question: what is the single most important factor for you, when it comes to choosing a therapist?
That was 44 answers. A few people mentioned things like cost, or the experience level of the therapist. But there was one thing that came back as overwhelmingly the number one factor.
Here are the exact words of one of my clients (and they pretty much sum up what 90% of my other clients said):
“To be honest, it’s about whether I trust them. I mean, trust is obviously built over a long period of time, but there definitely has to be a feeling of trust right at the beginning.”
Your clinical and therapeutic skills are the work you do. But your skills and your work aren’t actually the reason people choose you. Right from the very beginning – in your marketing, your conversations, your values – what really, really matters is if people feel that they can trust you.
You can spend dozens of hours creating social media posts or designing special offers or doing any of the hundreds of things that are part of growing your practice. But if you’re not building trust, it will be infinitely harder to get things off the ground.
Here are just a few ways to be sure you’re always building trust, in every aspect of your practice:
On your website – are you talking mostly about you, the wonders of your therapy, or your approach to healing? Or are you speaking to your clients, about their needs and their lives?
On social media – do you have a consistent presence and a consistent message? Trust is built over time, but it doesn’t take long to see if someone is consistent in what they’re saying, and how present they are. It’s not just about being visible – you need to be visible in the right way.
In your treatment plan – are you encouraging people not only to keep seeing you if they need to, but also to see you less frequently as they get better? We trust the people who put our interests over their profit.
In your communications – do you return calls and messages within a day, and do you let people know what to expect when they reach out? For example, having your working hours clearly on the contact page of your website and on your voicemail message? It’s fine not to return calls on a Sunday (or any day of the week you choose!) but what’s important is to let people know why they might not hear from you, and when they can expect a return call.
In the little details – do you remember the details of your clients lives that they’ve shared with you, and remember to ask about them? Not just the key health issues that make it onto the consultation form, but the life-stuff – a child’s graduation date, the family pet that wasn’t well, the big holiday, the upcoming exam. Caring enough to ask about these things makes all the difference.
In your attitude – do you really, genuinely care about your clients? By making sure your care comes across – through empathy, kindness, really listening, being warm and approachable, going the extra mile – you can build more trust and credibility than you can imagine.
Of course there are other things to focus on too – creating a referral system, search engine optimisation, marketing, etc. It’s not that building trust is the only thing that matters. It’s just that without trust, the other things won’t take you very far.