When do Clients Seek Counseling Services the Most (and Least)?

Jeff Guenther on Nov 12, 2017

I run a very popular local therapist directory in Portland, Oregon. It has grown to become the primary way Portlanders find counseling services in the city. The site launched four years ago and I have been able to collect some interesting user data that tells me what is most important to clients. In recent blog posts, I have detailed the top mental health issues chosen by clients as well as the top mental health treatments clients are seeking. In this week’s blog, I am going to take a look at when clients are most frequently seeking counseling and if there are discernible patterns evident in the data. 

I think this data is interesting because it gives us a glimpse into human behavior. From this data I’ll try to extrapolate why clients are visiting the therapist directory at certain times. I’ll also try to answer the question of whether or not there is truly a “summer slump” during the hot months when many therapists assume clients are not seeking therapists as much because the sunny weather is keeping people happier (or busier).

Knowing when people are looking for services can also help you plan your marketing campaigns. You can use this data to run digital ads during peak times in order to get the best reach for your campaigns. 

One thing before we dive into the numbers. My therapist directory currently attracts a little more that 17,000 visits per month. All the visitors land on the site in different ways. Some folks click on a link they find on social media, others type the address directly into their browser, while many find the site doing a simple Google search. A little over 90% of the visitors come to the site through online searches. The data that I am analyzing for this blog comes only from visitors who find the site via online search. I feel that is the most telling when analyzing patterns of counseling interest by the public.

What day of the week is most popular?

As you might imagine, the two most depressing days of the week, Monday and Tuesday attract the most people looking for counseling services. Almost 18% of weekly visits come from each of those days. The weekend only brings half the amount of people looking for mental health services. The graphs above shows a steady decline in visitors as we approach the weekend. 

What I find interesting is that even though people have more time on the weekend to search for a counselor, they choose to do it mostly during the start of the work week. The weekend may offer a sense of relief and reprieve, which might not prompt people to look for a therapist. 

If you are actively running a marketing campaign for your therapy practice, it would be smart to spend most of your ad buy during the work week to maximize the amount of exposure it gets during the times when therapy is on peoples minds. 

What hour of the day is most popular?

Over 50% of visitors are seeking therapy between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm. If you’re following along, we now know that most people are looking for a therapist on Monday and Tuesday between 9 and 5. It seems like going to work at the start of the week is a big trigger for folks. And they tend to look for a therapist during work hours. 

A little over 30% of people are looking for a therapist between 5 pm and 10 pm, while 15% are night owls and are looking for counselors during the wee hours of the night. 

Again, it could just be a little depressing to be at work and that might be why people are looking for some help. Or maybe folks can avoid their mental and emotional problems during off hours because they are more able to sooth themselves when they have more free time. And of course, many people are on their computers during work hours and set them aside at quitting time.

Running therapy ads during work hours would be the smartest decision if you want to maximize your reach. Running online ad campaigns after work doesn’t pay off much and that could be because people are busier after work at happy hour, picking up kids, preparing dinner watching TV or running errands. 

What month is most popular?

This was a little tricky to figure out because the therapist directory has been growing at a steady pace ever since it launched four years ago. Almost every month has had more visitors than the last. I tried to identify a baseline average increase over the site’s life and then looked at monthly traffic numbers that fell above or below that baseline. 

As you can see from the chart, January is, by far, the busiest month to visit the therapist directory, with March and July following behind. The huge increase in January traffic can be attributed to, at least in part, to the drop off that naturally happens in November and December. In keeping with the patterns we’ve seen in the other two charts, when people have the most free time (outside of work), they search for therapy the least. So, in November and December, when people typically have a lot of time off for holidays and often travel to visit family, we see a slow down in site traffic. In January, when we are all back at work and it’s the dead of winter, pitch black at five pm and no vacations in site, people start searching for that therapist.

We can also see a spike in March, but that may be location specific. By early March, it’s been raining for five months straight in Portland and spring does not feel imminent. 

There is a common perception in the mental health community that there is a summer slump in client referrals during the warmest months of the year. However, the data shows that this is not the case, with a slight uptick in traffic during July and August. 

In terms of marketing, it may be a smart play to focus on January, rather than trying to reach people in November and December when they are distracted. And don’t skip on summer! There is a lot of opportunity there.  

In Conclusion

I hope you found this info as interesting and useful as I do! As a mental health professional, I know it can be difficult to know how best to market yourself. This data, plus the information on top issues and top treatment orientations, can provide you with a lot of guidance on what potential clients are looking for (and when). Finding the intersections of your unique specialities and qualifications with what the public wants is the key to filling up your caseload. Best of luck!

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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