How to Ethically and Effectively Influence Clients to Schedule an Appointment with You

Jeff Guenther on Nov 29, 2017

In many TherapyDen articles we focus on how to get your website to show up more often on the Internet, with particular attention on how to improve your ranking in online search results and get noticed through online directories and business listings. But getting more visitors to land on your webpage is only half the battle. Once you have visitors, how do you ethically convert them into actual clients without resorting to sleazy sales techniques?

There is a ton of research out there about how to write copy that sells product. That’s so much of what the Internet is about. However, there is not a lot of research and data on how to ethically convert potential clients or patients into paying ones. It’s a very different service and so much more personal than your typical online transaction. You don’t want to come off as salesy or pushy. You have to create trust and rapport through your website and that can be hard to do.

The 10 tips in this blog address how to use content on your site, and elsewhere online, to ethically influence and persuade a potential client into reaching out to you and setting up an appointment. Implementing these suggestions will really tie all your content together. You’ll tap into the emotions that the potential client has and the journey that they are on trying to find a good counselor.

DISCLAIMER: The following tips are not meant to be used in a way that manipulates people into falsely believing that you can treat their mental health issue. You should only use the following techniques to create a stronger, more trustworthy, connection with potential clients so that they reach out and make positive health decisions. It’s likely that not all of these tips will fit your personal style. And that’s ok! Pick one or two that work for you and skip the rest.


1. Use pleasure and relief as motivation

In order to positively influence our clients, we have to figure out what motivates them most. Typically, when clients are searching for a therapist they are being driven by their emotional or mental pain and the desire to make it stop. Their motivation is too feel less pain and more peace. Luckily, that’s exactly what we are set up to do.

Throughout the content on your website, directory listings, pamphlets, etc., your goal is to move potential clients closer to the feeling of peace. Or at least closer to believing that they will feel more peace if they receive treatment from you. If you can start them on that path and instill positive beliefs systems that scheduling an appointment with you will create peace for them in the future, then you are well on your way to connecting with this potential client.

However, you can also use pain as a motivator in your content. You can gently explain to readers that not seeking treatment could continue to cause their emotional pain and there is a chance that it could get worse if left untreated.

Research actually shows that using pain as a motivator is even stronger than using pleasure because people tend to want to avoid pain more then they want to feel pleasure or peace. Psychologists call it the “the negativity bias.”

Put into practice

“Receiving treatment from a qualified trauma therapist will help you feel relief and liberation from PTSD symptoms that have been affecting you since childhood.”

“PTSD is incredibly difficult to overcome alone. Receive care from a therapist that specializes in treating PTSD victims so that you no longer have to feel the pain of flashbacks, upsetting memories and emotional distress.”

2. Present something new and unique

New and novel things resonate with people. In the mental health industry, this might take the form of a new technique, trend or treatment that is gaining popularity or that you have developed yourself. It could even be a new twist on an old treatment technique.

As a therapist, if you have a new or personalized way of treating clients, let people know about it! Clients are always searching for innovative mental health treatments. When potential clients read through your content and learn that you have a unique or new way of treating their mental health concern, it can create intrigue and optimism.

This can backfire, however. If you present yourself, or your treatment, in a way that makes people feel that you are unexperienced and too radical, then you will not instill confidence and potential clients will feel wary about reaching out to you.

Put into practice

“Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an exciting and new type of psychotherapy. It is non-traditional and is growing quickly due to its proven success in treating PTSD.”


3. Create a shared enemy

This writing technique is pretty fun. It’s also a great way to bond, unite and connect with your client over something that they dislike.

Clients are often seeking treatment because they hate what they are experiencing. Whether it is mental, emotional or physical pain, if they are looking for a therapist, they probably can’t take much more!

As counselors, we need to be able to empathize with our client’s pain and convey to them in no uncertain terms that we don’t want them to feel that pain and we don’t like what is causing their suffering.

Put into practice

“Does your addiction to cigarettes drive you crazy? Is it creating health concerns? Are you spending too much money on this unhealthy habit? Do you experience shame and guilt because you constantly have to leave your friends to take smoke breaks? I hate cigarettes too! I once was addicted to smoking and it was ruining my life. I was totally under its control. I kicked the habit years ago and it was all thanks to counseling. As your counselor I am going to help you kick this nasty habit so that you can beat these cravings and lead a smoke free and healthy life.”

4. Storytelling

Storytelling has been around since people first started communicating. Stories resonate with people on both a conscious and subconscious level and help the reader to emotionally connect with the copy that is written on your website. Instead of stating facts and creating lists of issues you treat, try to develop your content into a narrative that connects with your reader.

When people are seeking a therapist, acupuncturist, chiropractor or any other wellness provider they often make their final decision from an emotional place. Stories tap into a very emotional part of our psych. Approach your content as a story and apply storytelling techniques to your copy. This can help your potential clients feel connected to you and start developing the intimate relationship that will deepen when you begin treatment.

Tell the story of the journey you took that led you to starting your practice. Tell potential clients about how your treatment techniques came to be and how they have evolved over time. If you feel comfortable, provide case studies from clients that you have treated in the past. Include their presenting problem and the specifics of their journey to health and wellness.

5. Make it simple and fast

Okay, so this one might be tricky for therapists. But if you can confidently pull it off, and be ethical about your offer, then it can have a very strong influence on potential clients.

As you probably know, and experience yourself, people don’t want to spend a lot of time doing anything. We want results and we want them fast! It’s not surprising that people respond well to anything that seems like a relatively quick fix.

To use this method you’ll need to present your services in a way that conveys how quickly you will try to solve the presenting problem. If you have a specific formula or use a treatment method that only takes a few visits then this is your chance to show it off!

Put into practice

“As a mental health therapist, I practice solution-based therapy techniques. In the first session, I will collaborate with you to develop a step-by-step system that will address your main issues and quickly work through any resistance that is currently getting in the way of reaching your health goals. We will NOT be exploring your past relationships and family dynamics. Our sessions will be focused on the future and how to set yourself up for optimal mental health.”

The next five…

If you’d like to find out about five more techniques to ethically and effectively influence clients to schedule an appointment with you, download the list here. (I know it’s annoying to enter your email to get access to the full list, but you won’t regret it!)


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.

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