Los Angeles Chapter  California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists

Los Angeles Chapter — CAMFT

Guest Article

01/31/2024 5:00 PM | Mike Johnsen (Administrator)

Fran Wickner,
Ph.D., MFT

Strategies to Market Your Practice:
Focus on Networking

When therapists attend one of my workshops or call me for an individual private practice building consultation, I often hear comments like:

“I don’t see clients in the morning.”
“I never see insurance clients in my evening slots.”
“I only work with private pay clients.” 

In the past, I would help therapists get a full practice based on their “rules”, such as the examples above. But since the pandemic, all rules are off.

Teletherapy has also impacted our profession, and unfortunately, the rules of how you want to run your practice right now have to change or you won’t be able to keep a full practice. 

I am not suggesting that you need to change your practice rules forever, however now is the time to look at new possibilities. Things might be different in a few years. But for now, changes in how you view and run your practice must be different. 

There are many ways to promote your practice without spending a lot of money. One of the most effective and economical strategies to build and expand your practice is to focus on networking. 

But before we can discuss how to succeed at networking, it is important to do away with four of the myths that stop many clinicians from considering this as an excellent private practice building strategy. 

Myth #1: Networking is a lot of work.

When you read the suggestions below, you will see that most of networking involves things you are already doing. It is just maximizing what you already do as part of your professional growth and the contacts you already have. 

Myth #2: Only extroverts can network.

Networking does not have to involve extrovert skills. The suggestions below show how even introverts can successfully network as a way to build and expand their practice. 

Myth #3: Networking is only for business people, not for “us.”

If you are in private practice, you already are a business owner. For your practice to grow, you must embrace that you are running a business. 

Myth #4: For networking to succeed, you have to sell yourself in a way that isn’t ethical.

Networking is basically just sharing what you do and offering a way for people to find you and/or contact you so they can benefit from your expertise. It’s about being clear at what you do and who you are qualified to help. You are being ethical when you are honest in what you can offer. 

Below are some ways to network and get new clients.

As with most practice building ideas, start with the suggestions you feel most comfortable with and then stretch yourself and try the others. And remember, due to being in lockdown for so many years, many therapists are also rusty in regards to their networking skills. Things are opening up! Take advantage of this to build your practice! 

1. Go to clinical workshops and network with other therapists.

I've found that by going to smaller trainings there are more opportunities to connect with therapists than going to the large convention-like workshops. You might even run into an old colleague or someone you went to graduate school with. 

Arrive at the training early and talk to the other participants. It’s as easy as asking where they work, what made them interested in the topic, if they heard the presenter before, etc.  

Stay afterwards and have informal discussions about the presentation, trade business cards and/or make a coffee date. 

Then, after you leave, do the important work of following up. Check out the websites of the colleagues you met. Write a quick e-mail to them. You can comment on their website, the presentation or something you talked about before or after the workshop. If you have an email list (where you announce trainings, groups, etc.) ask if it is OK to put them on your list.

Also do Zoom networking events but try to also do in-person for maximum benefit.  

2. Join professional associations.

Professional associations offer so many opportunities for networking. Go to the meetings and better still, get on the board, it will get your name out. Attend social functions in person and on Zoom, go to association sponsored community events or meetings. Most professional associations have networking lunches; go to these too. And whomever you meet in person or virtually, make sure you follow-up with an email or an offer to get together. 

3. Always carry business cards

Having business cards are useless unless you use them. Give them out whenever you can. You never know who might be a good referral source. It could be the other carpool mom, or the friend you run into at the grocery store or the person in line for the baseball game. I've found that people are really interested in our work and happy to take a business card.

If you pass a business that might be able to refer clients, stop in and ask if you can leave a few cards. Doctor’s offices are obvious places, but I have also left business cards at the hair salon and in the café near my office.  

4. Do "coffee" once a week.  

Invite another therapist, health practitioner, teacher or business person with whom you might be able to cross refer. I have found this not only has led to referrals, but to new friendships. 

If you are uncomfortable meeting with a new therapist alone, this is a good time to have a “marketing buddy”. You can take your buddy with you to these coffee dates and they can take you to the ones they set up. 

The above suggestions can be implemented immediately into your practice. Remember that follow-up is as important as the initial contact so make sure it is an integral part of your marketing plan. 

I know that many of us find the prospect of networking to be intimidating but if you network and market in a way that fits your values and personality you will get results. Having a steady stream of referrals will motivate you to keep working on the business side of your practice. 

Fran Wickner, Ph.D., MFT has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist since 1983. In addition to her clinical practice in Berkeley, Dr. Wickner is a practice building consultant and offers individual consultations and workshops as well as availability to speak to your consult group or professional association on all aspects of building and expanding your private practice. Website: FranWickner.com/ForTherapists

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