Therapists, do Something Different. Please.

Jeff Guenther on Mar 31, 2019

We are therapists, counselors, social workers and psychologists. And most importantly healers. What we do is important. And we, 180,000 strong in the US, have an enormous amount of power. Our clients, and future clients that want to reach out to us, are expecting something different these days. I promise you this. I am obsessed with talking to your clients. I want to know what they think is important when it comes to finding a therapist and sticking with one that’s a good match. I even made a podcast about it. And what I know, and keep hearing over and over and over again, is that clients want us to be different than we have been. I agree with them. We must start doing things differently. Our clients and our communities want us to evolve with the times. Let’s take them seriously and do it. We don’t have to be a field that is stuck in the past.

Some of these suggestions are easier to implement than others. But try choosing at least one that is new to you and start making a change. I guarantee that you can start working on some of them right now. And I know you have ideas for change that I haven’t included. Please tell me what to add by tweeting me @hellotherapyden.

Be an anti-racist therapist

Obviously, don’t be racist. Racist therapists are not okay. I bet we can all agree on that. But also, our clients are expecting us to go one step further and actively be anti-racist. Someone who is anti-racist opposes racism and promotes racial tolerance. One of the best ways to do the work is to get trained in becoming anti-racist. Personally, I like April Harter’s program. But you can search for other trainings in your area. It’s important to figure out what you may be doing to contribute to white supremacy. It’s often things that we are totally unaware of. If we can get more in touch with our unconscious racist or biased behavior, we can help our clients get in touch with theirs.

If you are a therapist, listen to the new podcast Say More About That. A podcast created specifically for therapists to learn more about what clients really want in a counselor. In this episode Jill, a woman in her 30's who never thought therapy was for her, talks about how difficult it was to find a therapist that was truly a good match. Click play below or listen on Apple Podcast or Spotify.

Step into technology

Clients want to schedule their appointments online. Let’s help them do that. TherapyDen allows you to link to your online scheduler within your profile. And if you have a Simple Practice account, you can embed the scheduler into your profile so that clients don’t even have to leave the TherapyDen website to make an appointment. I made an easy to follow video on exactly how to do that. Check it out below.

If you don’t allow clients to schedule online, then you should at least have a website. And you might as well have a square account, so that you can accept credit cards at your office. Automatic reminders from your electronic health records is also a great perk. Technology has taken over everyone’s lives. More therapists need to embrace it.

Be more authentic

I hear it over and over again. Clients want to know more about their therapist. They want to know what they stand for. They want to know what they value. They want to know more about who you really are. Maybe the very old white men that came up with the idea of a blank slate shouldn’t be guiding us as much as they do when it comes to us being open about who we really are. Therapist profiles on TherapyDen are nudging you to talk more about your interests, beliefs and values. You should do that. You should also write more extensively about your values and beliefs on your website. Clients want to know if their values match yours. That’s not a bad thing and it makes compete sense.

Support causes and take a stand

While you are being authentic about who you really are, don’t forget to mention what causes you support. Do you support Planned Parenthood? How about the Trevor project? You should list that in your marketing materials. Your clients want to know. Are you going to the women’s march? Do you participate in gay pride events? Don’t be afraid to show your support. Again, Freud might not like you being so open and honest, but that guy was pretty problematic, right?

Research the companies you pay for services

Who are you giving your money to? Have you researched that company? Do they donate some of their revenue to good causes? Do they fight against mental health stigma? I’m not saying that all companies need to be philanthropic to be good, but if you knew they were it might help in the decision making process.

Would you feel okay paying a monthly subscription to a company that is based in the Cayman Islands (probably because they want to avoid paying taxes)? Or what if that same company didn’t recognize trans/non-binary as a gender option? If both those things bother you, maybe Psychology Today isn’t the directory for you? (And maybe TherapyDen is?)

Question the white men that created our field and established the norms

I’m a white man with privilege and I feel a responsibility to question other people with privilege that have come before me and written down rules they think we should all follow. As a trained mental health professional, I understand the clinical significance of these old treatment modalities and their suggestions. However, I’m not going to take them as gospel. And I’m not going to assume that they make sense for our modern clients and the modern world we live in. Even though most of us are not staunch Freudian therapists anymore, we do need to acknowledge that Freud and all his buddies have heavily influenced our field and what they suggested in the past, which at times is not culturally sensitive, is still influencing how some of us conduct ourselves in session. Just something to think about.

Support candidates that support mental health

Does your political representative support mental health services? Do they want to tear down the Affordable Care Act that mandates insurance companies provide mental health benefits? Do they have an understanding of what needs to change in your town in order to provide better access to mental health care? These are questions you should think about when researching candidates you are planning to vote for.

Be louder

Is it just me or does it feel like mental health professionals are told to stay in their offices and do their work quietly and without disruption? Because fuck that. Let’s get on the streets and march with everyone else. Let’s have a strong opinion while still being caring and compassionate to all. Let’s make a ruckus on social media. Let’s fight against the norms that are causing more mental health issues. Be loud in whatever way works for you. Don’t feel like you should give into the quiet little therapist that society expects you to be. That’s so 10 years ago.

What are you going to do?

There you go. Those are just my suggestions. I imagine you can come up with tons of more ideas. Share them with me on twitter at @hellotherapyden. And do something different. We need to connect with our communities in different ways. We need to evolve. We need to fight mental health stigma. You can make a difference in a big way or in small ways. Being a mental health practitioner in today’s world means that you can also choose to be an advocate. So think about how you want to advocate. Do you want to be out on the streets or do you want to join the revolution by simply making it easier for new clients to connect with you and schedule an appointment? Whatever you decide, you’ll help move our profession forward and into the future.

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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