Should a therapist use social media?
That’s a question that is subject to spirited debate! However, the short answer is yes, definitely therapists should use social media. The question really shouldn’t be should I or shouldn’t I, but how? This post should answer these two questions:
Why should a therapist use social media?
How should a therapist use social media?
What you’ll learn:
- How to separate the personal and professional
- What are the ethical considerations of therapy and social media
- How to use social media to market your therapy practice
Why should a therapist use social media?
This simple answer is this: therapy is a business. Businesses need customers. A good social media strategy can amplify your marketing efforts. Read our post about inbound marketing to understand what inbound marketing is and how it can help you boost your behavioral health business.
Therapists make their living by talking. Of course the “talking” they’re doing is a result of exceptional training and education. However, ultimately your business is connecting with people in order to help them with their mental health issues. There is a lot of competition in the mental health area, especially among independent therapists. How do you distinguish yourself?
A lesson from Dr. Phil
Have you heard of Dr. Phil? Is he a good doctor? Who knows? He might be, but I can guarantee that millions of people have heard of him. If they were facing a mental health issue and they could book a session with Dr. Phil, they would. Why? Because of his qualifications? Not at all. It’s because people have heard of him and some consider him a thought leader in the field. That’s certainly up for professional debate, but the reality is that he’s perceived as a thought leader because of his media exposure.
Become a thought leader!
I wouldn’t expect many of you to be able to start your own television show, however, everyone reading this has the capability to become a thought leader in their particular area of practice. Social media is the first step to making that happen. When people follow you on Twitter or read your business Facebook page, they start to get to know you professionally and start to see you as an expert.
Promote your expert status by creating and sharing content that reinforces your professional awesomeness.
The bottom line
A therapist should use social media to reinforce their thought leadership within their niche. It doesn’t matter if you conduct online therapy or only see clients in your office, the reality is that nearly all of your potential clients use the internet. They will research you, they will look to see if you’re the “expert” for the problems they have.
How should a therapist use social media?
Now that you understand why therapists should use social media, the next question is how? How can you use social media to market your therapy practice?
Separate the personal from the professional
Create a Facebook Business Page
This is very important. If you have a personal Facebook profile that you use to communicate with family or friends, keep that profile private. You should instead create a Facebook page for your therapy business. This page is a business page, it’s free and you can manage it from within your normal Facebook account. This is where you can provide your practice information and start having people “like” your page.
Liking a business page is different from a friend request. For example, I have my personal Facebook page, but for iCouch, we have a business page. See it here: https://facebook.com/icouch (be sure to like us!) If you notice, on this page, we post lots of content, but you aren’t seeing any of my personal information. My personal profile stays private and so should yours. Anyone can like your page; you don’t need to worry about who likes your page because it’s public for all to see. Consider it an extension of your office. It’s ok for clients to like your page. Liking a page isn’t a problem for privacy or anything else because it’s just someone saying they like your page. In fact, you want everyone you know to like your page because it amplifies your social reach. Liking your page is not admitting a therapeutic relationship.
Create a business Twitter account
Twitter is probably my favorite among the social networks. I love reading bite size content from those I follow. I also think it’s a great way to connect with your audience because you can have mini public conversations.
It’s important that you create a Twitter account specific to your business. When you create your account, start by following some other therapists and of course, follow us here: https://twitter.com/icouchme. Read, respond and retweet interesting things you read that are loosely relevant to your therapy niche. Find an interesting link to an article that might be interesting to potential clients — tweet it! Have some words of wisdom — tweet ’em!
There are other social networks that you might like, however, Facebook and Twitter are going to be the core social media accounts that every therapist should have.
What are the ethical considerations of therapy and social media
The ethics of therapists and social media are extremely important. You always have to keep ethics and client privacy in mind when using social media. The good folks at the Online Therapy Institute have created an ethical framework for the use of social media by mental health professionals. Read it!
Some key points to remember:
- Don’t accept friend requests to your private Facebook page from clients.
- Never, ever, ever discuss a patient over social media, even if you remove the names.
- Do not send direct messages over Twitter to clients. Twitter is not HIPAA secure and it’s also very easy to accidentally post a public message when you mean to post a private message.
- Don’t have clinical discussions on social media
The bottom line is that your social media accounts should be treated like a billboard or a radio call in show. You can interact with people (that’s the fun,) but do not assist clients over social media. Also, be aware that people in crisis might contact you via social media. Use the same procedures you would as if they sent you an email. Please read the Online Therapy Institute link above for a great walkthrough of social media ethics for therapists. Don’t be afraid of social media, it can build your brand! Just be cautious when interacting with clients. Remember, your clients’ privacy and safety trump everything. When in doubt, don’t post!
How to use social media to market your therapy practice
So now we know the why and the how, the next question is what. What should a therapist post to their social media accounts?
Post any content that is potentially useful and loosely related to therapy, wellness and your area of expertise.
Did you read an interesting article about pets and anxiety? Post it! Did someone you’re following on Twitter post a link to a great article about essential oils and online counseling? Retweet it! Did you write a blog post? Post the link on Twitter and Facebook. Did you find an amazing cat video? Don’t post it.
Remember, the purpose of using social media is to market your therapy practice. You might be wondering how posting someone else’s blogs or links helps your therapy practice. Great question! The idea is that you’re posting interesting, relevant content. That attracts likes and followers. You’re giving them great content, so they’re willing to listen!
When you get started blogging, then you’ll already have built a good audience who can help amplify your own voice. Remember, the best marketing is when you offer value and not a sales pitch. At iCouch, we practice what we preach — our blogs aren’t filled with “Sign up we’re awesome,” we instead try to provide valuable content for our audience. You should do the same. Don’t forget the product you’re selling, but don’t engage in shameless self-promotion either.
Your goal is to establish thought leadership and build an audience.
To market your therapy practice using social media, it’s important to remember to always keep your client privacy at the top of your mind. Assuming you’re clear on the ethics, the next thing to remember is to create and share useful content that supports your area of specialty. Become a thought leader! In a future post, I’ll talk about how to start your blog and create useful content. For now, get started with building your social media audience! Jump into the conversation, give and you shall receive.
Now, if you liked this article, how about getting off to a good start by sharing it!
How do you use social media to promote your therapy practice? Leave your ideas in the comments!
Do you want to modernize your behavioral health practice? You can try iCouch for free right now. Please have a look and sign up! Learn more here.