Jeff Guenther on Feb 11, 2018
I feel like I have had more conversations about the Psychology Today therapist directory than anyone else. I have analyzed it for years, torn it apart, studied its code, scrutinized its user interface and figured out why it works for some and doesn’t work for others. As a therapist with a private practice, I had a listing on Psychology Today for years and experienced firsthand both the good and the bad.
Just like Psych Today, I have created a therapist directory. It’s a local one just for Portland, but it typically outranks Psych Today in popular online searches and it’s growing every week. It’s been up for about six years and has over 700 therapists listed on the site. Due to its success, I developed a national therapist directory at TherapyDen.com.
The reason I created a therapist directory is because I think Psychology Today’s sucks. I think it sucks because of both moral reasons and because of how the site is designed. However, I know that Psych Today’s directory does work for many therapists and I can acknowledge how helpful it can be for counselors building a practice. In this article, I’ll explore both the pros and the cons of Psychology Today, which I think we can all agree is the biggest game in town when it comes to therapist directories. First, I’ll list five reasons you should follow my lead and cancel your Psychology Today profile. And then I’ll look at the good side of the giant site, with five reasons you should keep your listing forever.
Before we get started, I have come up with a free list of 5 things that should be on your therapist profile to attract your ideal client. Click here to enter you email and I’ll send it to you.
It was hard to whittle down my list to just 5 reasons. But here are the things I think are most problematic about Psychology Today and are the most compelling reasons to NOT list your practice on their site.
First of all, I am not a tax expert so I am not an authority on this subject. However, I do know that Psychology Today’s therapist directory is owned by Sussex Directories Inc. and if you go to their website you can clearly see that they are located in the Cayman Islands. And really, the only reason a large company is located in the Cayman Islands is because there is no corporate or income tax on money earned outside of its territory.
Which means that of the roughly 80,000 therapists paying $30 a month to be listed on Psychology Today, Sussex Directories is pulling in a cool 29 million dollars a year. And that doesn’t even count all the other directories they run. I don’t know about you, but I expect more from a mental health directory and it just doesn’t feel good to me that they may not be paying their fair share of taxes.
It’s easy enough for therapy seekers to search for a counselor by zip code on Psychology Today. But once you reach the search results page, it’s confusing and clunky to do any type of advanced search. You have to fiddle with the sidebar in order to narrow down the search, which is not intuitive. And your options are limited to what Psych Today thinks is the most important. If a client wanted to filter for therapists that are sex positive or specialize in open relationships or focus specifically on the effects of our current political environment, they are out of luck.
As I am sure most of you are aware of, Psychology Today publishes a popular magazine that magically shows up in all of our waiting rooms. It seems harmless enough until you start digging, which I did. I searched through all 26 years of the Psychology Today magazine in their digital archives. And what I found was that Psychology Today absolutely loves white people. Especially young, beautiful, thin white women. White people are featured on the cover of their magazine at a staggering rate. A little over 95% of their covers feature white people. Only six covers (again, over a period of 26 YEARS!!!) include a person of color. Every single person featured on a Psychology Today cover is thin. Zero plus-sized or fat people ever. Every person on the cover, except for Sigmund Freud and the Dalai Lama (sorry guys) align with the traditional, western standard of beauty. The cover models are exactly that: models. It’s both incredibly boring and offensive.
Psychology Today would love for all of us to think that if we sign up for a listing and link our website to our profile then we’ll have a great backlink pointing to our website which will boost its performance in Google searches. That would make sense, wouldn’t it? The more backlinks you get from websites pointing to your website, the higher you’ll rank in online searches.
However, in Psychology Today fashion, they don’t simply link to your website. Instead, when someone clicks on the Website button on your profile they are taken to a different website for a fraction of a second and then redirected to yours. The web address they go to looks something like this:
The reason they do that is that they don’t want to link out to a bunch of therapists websites (it’s an SEO strategy to limit backlinks). I think they should get over it and give us all a backlink that will help us move up in search results. I'm sure their site will still rank first.
Because Psychology Today is lazy and doesn’t want to put in the work, people can’t choose from a complete list of local insurance companies. If someone in Portland wanted to search for a therapist that accepted the most popular insurance available in the state, Oregon Health Plan, they are simply out of luck.
It’s understandable for them not to list every single local insurance company from all 50 states. Their insurance list would be super long and out of control if they did that. However, a simple and elegant solution would be to only list insurance providers in the state that you entered your zip code for. Why they don’t do this when they can easily create this fix makes zero sense to me.
As much as I don’t like the Psych Today therapist directory, there are some really solid reasons to have a profile.
Like it or not, Psych Today dominates in online searches. They have tons of money and pay to show up at the top of Google ads when people perform a search. And they can also take up the first two to four organic listings in Google search results. Which feels ridiculous but that’s more of a Google problem. I don’t know why Google hasn’t caught on and fixed the multiple listing problem for organic searches. All this means is that therapy seekers are most likely going to end up on Psychology Today’s directory. So it would be smart to be found where most new clients end up.
To piggy back just a bit on the previous reason, some clients think the Psych Today listings are the definitive list of therapists in their area. We all know that’s not the case. But some people just don’t understand that therapists choose not to list on the site. So to be on the safe side, you might as well have a profile on the site.
Especially when you’re starting to build a caseload, it’s a good idea to have your name, address, email and phone number in as many places on the internet as possible. When new clients see you listed in multiple places across the internet, they tend to gravitate to you more. It’s just marketing 101.
I know it can feel like $30 a month is a lot of money. But really, it’s an incredibly good investment. Even if we only get one regular client a year from the site, we have more than made back our annual Psychology Today fee of $360, plus so much more. I think therapists should choose up to five paid directories to be listed on. In my experience, you’ll always make a huge return on investment. It’s a no-brainer.
Because of Psychology Today’s pop psychology monthly magazine that they’ve been printing for what seems like forever, they have really strong brand recognition. The general public doesn’t know about all the shady business we therapists know about. Which means that if you link your name to their website then some of their positive public brand will transfer on to you. And that’s not a bad thing.
So there you have it. Either the Psychology Today therapist directory is a necessary evil that we all have to deal with or they’re just evil and we should all delete our profiles. Honestly, I have no judgment of any therapist that decides or doesn’t decide to sign up. And I also have a lot of understanding for why Psychology Today does what they do. They want to help people connect with mental health care and they do a good job at that. But in the end, they are a business, like any other huge business, that wants to make the most money they possibly can. And even though I don’t run my businesses like that, I have come to accept that other people do and that’s their choice.
Because of my obsession with Psychology Today and creating my own therapist directories, I have made a list of the top 5 things you should have on your therapist profile in order to attract the clients that are a good match for you. Click here and enter your email address and I’ll send you the free list.
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.