Jeff Guenther on Jan 02, 2018 in Digital Practice
Be. More. Authentic.
As therapists, we are trained to only self-disclose when it is clinically appropriate. Even when we do choose to be real in session we pick our words carefully and hide details that we think could be an “overshare.” I completely understand why we do this. There are tons of therapeutic reasons why counselors should be guarded when talking to clients.
However, as therapists, I’m sure we have all had powerful moments with our clients when we decided to open up a little more than we typically do. And if you haven’t had that experience, I challenge you to push yourself a little further in this new year. Clients want to know who they are talking to. Clients want to feel like we are real people with real problems and real relationships.
I often hold focus groups and perform interviews with people who are seeking counseling services. Lately, I’ve been hearing that the number one reason these folks settle on a specific therapist is because of an authentic personality trait that they’ve picked up on while reading their website or talking to them on the phone. Sure, the client wants to know that they have some experience treating their issue. But even more importantly, they want to know they can sit in a room and feel comfortable with the therapist. And in order to feel comfortable, they want to connect on a real level.
Every time I talk to someone who has chosen a therapist, I ask them what it was that made them pick that specific counselor over all the rest. Here are some recent answers to that question:
“The therapist wasn’t afraid to share how much they enjoyed school and still get excited about learning new things. I wanted to make sure I was going to see someone who was smarter than me.”
“When I talked to the therapist on the phone, they weren’t afraid to joke around. I feel like I know what her sense of humor is like.”
“I only wanted to see a therapist who has been divorced like me.”
“My therapists is a good match because he knows a lot about depression and is a huge Portland Trailblazers fan. Sometimes I spend ten minutes venting about how the Blazers lost last night and I want my therapists to feel my pain.”
“I picked my therapist based on who they voted for in the Democratic primary.”
Like I said at the top of this post: be more authentic. Clients want to know who you are on a deeper level. Share the real reasons you decided to go into mental health. Talk about the social causes that are important to you. Or be even more risky and talk about the social causes that don’t resonate with you. Talk about hardships you’ve overcome. Talk about things that make you laugh. Talk about flaws you’ll be working on in 2018.
My specific challenge to you is to reveal at least one authentic thing about yourself on every page of your website. From the homepage to your contact page, be revealing and interesting. If my research is correct, you’ll attract a lot more clients this year if are brave and honest. And if you want extra credit, and probably even more client referrals, I challenge you to blog about a revealing and authentic experience once a month and post it on your therapy website.
If you’re having a hard time coming up with ways you can be more authentic (without crossing the line into inappropriate), click here and I’ll email you a list of 20 ways therapists can be more authentic on their website. The list includes ideas from only slightly revealing to majorly revealing. It’s up to you to find your level of comfort.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005. Jeff is the creator and owner of Portland Therapy Center, a highly ranked therapist directory. Jeff, and his team, have launched a new progressive therapist directory, TherapyDen.