Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Marketing a counseling private practice now

Fast forward a bit. Cell phones grew smaller and then smarter. Then cell phones weren't fast enough for our culture - it was email and text messaging. Now? I am told "Texting is so yesterday - people are communicating in 140 characters via Twitter." There is instant messaging and some are even saying that is too slow.
Think about it - we are communicating more and more via text. How many times do you dash off an email rather than making a call or leaving a voice mail?
What does this mean to private practitioners?
If you are building or marketing a counseling private practice now, you've probably already had requests for phone sessions.
But I believe that our "nanosecond" culture will sooner or later invite you to deliver services in a way that is appealing to this need for instant connection and connection online.
Your clients or prospects will ask if you can do therapy over the computer. This could be email, social networking, instant messaging chat sessions, online forums and other interesting ways that stretch my thinking such as avatar based "Second Life."
Will online therapy via text be a service you are interesting in offering?
I think there are many questions that first need to be pondered. The answers may be as unique as each individual practitioner.
Can the same level of therapeutic relationship be created using text-based communication methods?
Taking away the face-to-face interaction will not be appealing to many practitioners. Visual and non-verbal cues can be as important as anything actually said in session. Text might be misinterpreted or impact the client significantly - without the therapist or coach realizing it.
At the same time, the written word is so powerful that it might accelerate progress. It might be easy to ignore a statement from the clinician in a session - but harder to do so online. Clients who need anchoring could read and re-read emails or texts to help them remain grounded. And as more and more people use text as a way of relating, people may actually feel more comfortable with the therapeutic relationship in a cyber-space environment as compared to face-to-face.
Will the fact that it takes a few moments to interact via typing be a benefit or a hindrance to the process?
I could see that in some cases it invites the client to focus on what they want to say. It might take time to develop a rhythm and a process that is comfortable. Online therapy via text might not be a good choice for those who are slow typists or who are uncomfortable with short sentences or misspellings.
Are there legal and ethical considerations?
I do believe that technology is ahead of our laws. Our professional associations are trying to keep up with 'best practices' guidelines but with technology moving as fast as it is, that is probably an impossible task.

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