Getting stuck. It happens to all of us from time to time when building a counseling practice. The expression, “stuck between a hard place and a rock” captures the feeling well. You want to get unstuck, but when you try, you can’t. Everything seems to lead back to the same stuck place.
It certainly can be frustrating to say the least. It can even send you spiraling into a myriad of other emotions and impact your feelings about yourself and your self-worth. Your head can spin with all kinds of non-helpful self-talk which only makes matters worse.
But alas, thank goodness there are solutions to being stuck!
Below I describe 12 common scenarios that may be the cause of your “stuckness” and some things you can do to get unstuck.
1. Problem: You don’t have enough information.
Example: “I want to do an online webinar, but I don’t have a clue how to set one up. I am not good at technology.”
Solution: Find the information you need to make a decision.
Read a blog, take a class or read a book. Or, hire an expert– a technology professional or marketing coach who can help. You invested a great deal of money in your education to become a therapist or health practitioner. You’ll also need to invest some time and dollars into learning how to use technology in your practice or hiring someone to do it for you.
The bottom line is that you can’t afford to stay stuck because you don’t have enough information.
2. Problem: You’ve received conflicting information and therefore don’t know which to trust.
Example: “Sally, the therapist in my office told me that online marketing doesn’t work. She said word-of-mouth is the only marketing that works. However, I read online about all these people marketing their counseling practices on the Internet and it seems to work for them. I’m stumped.”
Solution: Don’t necessarily take other therapists opinions or experiences as “truths”. They may not know what works in a general sense – they likely only know what has worked or hasn’t worked for them–and sometimes the conclusions they draw as to why something has worked or not are incorrect. They are often guesses, rather than hard facts.
Be certain you understand the context that these kinds of offhand statements are made. There are many factors in a marketing strategy that will determine whether something is going to be effective or not. Therefore, what works for one person might not work as well for you. If you are confused about what is going to be the strategy that brings you the best results, you might need more information (as per #1 above) from professionals in the know.
3. Problem: You are confused and don’t know what your priorities should be.
Example: “Yesterday I thought I should start networking with professionals in my community, but my counseling website is so poorly done that it needs to be revamped. I just can’t decide which to work on first.”
Solution: If this resembles your problem, go back to your goals for your practice (you do have specific goals, right?) and see what is most likely to help you reach your goals first. If you want to get more counseling clients sooner rather than later, you might start getting out into the community and then set aside some time to work on your website as well.
If you only market in the community and your website isn’t up to par, the people who go to your website as a result of your marketing may not convert into therapy clients because your website isn’t convincing enough. If, on the other hand, you only work on improving your website and don’t do any marketing, you won’t get any clients until your new and improved website is up and you start marketing.
You need to set priorities in your business every day. It is a skill that is crucial for success.
4. Problem: You are overwhelmed by too many options.
Example: “Juliet Austin has this free report called, “67 surefire ways to build your therapy practice”. Wow! That is a lot of ways! I can’t decide which ones to do. Do I have to do all of them? How many should I do? I wish I knew which ones work best. ”
Solution: There are many ways to build your counseling practice – they all will work. Yes, some marketing methods can bring better results in some situations than others, and some may bring results more quickly than others. But, it’s not always possible to know ahead of time what will work best for you. And– you can’t possibly do everything–at least not all at once.
Do your best to figure out which strategies are going to be the best use of your time and which ones should be a priority given your specific goals, and then you just have to get going on them! Many times you just have to take a calculated/educated risk and see what happens. And of course, I repeat, do some research or get some professional advice if you need it.
5. Problem: You are stuck on the dreaded, “to niche or not to niche” question.
Example: “I was told I have to have a therapy niche, but I can’t decide which one to have. Do I really have to have one? Can I have more than one?”
Solution: I can’t tell you how many counselors I have talked to who get stuck on the niche issue – for months and sometimes even years! This happens even to those who have studied the subject a fair amount. If this is your problem, the best solution I can give you is to either get some individual help from a marketing professional, or just pick a niche (or decide not to niche) and get going! Not being able to decide on a niche, is not a good reason to stay stuck.
I find that many people come to me with this problem and often in one consultation session I can help them get unstuck and help them make a decision. Why? Because, often, it is not a lack of information they need, but help in seeing something that they are not seeing. So, if you are stuck here, do something. Do anything to get yourself moving. You can always change your mind later.
6. Problem: You are doubting that what you are doing is the “right thing” to do.
Example: “I really want to do a talk to new moms with postpartum depression, but I am not sure if that is the right way to market to this niche.”
This problem is usually based on fear – fear of making a mistake, fear of not getting enough clients or fear that it isn’t going to work. Sometimes people who have doubts like this want to know in no uncertain terms that they are doing the “right thing”.
Often, there is no one “right thing” but there are “right” decisions for you based on your unique situation and goals. Go back to your goals, plan what you think is the best strategy and then take the leap and see what happens. Push past the fear. A reasonably strategic action is better than no action.
7. Problem: You “failed” before and fear “failing” again.
Example: “Last time I tried to market my therapy practice to doctors, no one responded to my brochure. Obviously marketing to doctors doesn’t work. I certainly won’t try that again. I put so much time and money into that brochure and sending copies out, how can I be sure if I choose another method that it won’t work as well?”
Solution: Two points I want to make about this problem:
a) Make sure you are not making an erroneous conclusion about why you “failed”. Marketing a counseling practice by sending brochures to doctors and expecting immediate results typically doesn’t work so well. BUT, having a strategy where you position yourself as being helpful to the doctors and plan a keep in touch strategy can work extremely well.
b) “Failing” is fine now and again IF you learn from your experience. Even the most successful people out there “fail” sometimes. It’s those that pick themselves up and learn from their mistakes who succeed.
8. Problem: Your expectations are unrealistic.
Example: “I started my therapy practice 2 months ago. I did a free talk to 10 people, I sent out brochures to doctors, my website is up and I only have 2 clients!”
Solution: Most people seem to think it’s going to take them less time that it does to build a practice. It takes a sound marketing plan, repetition, and time to fill a practice. Many people think they are stuck, when in fact they just haven’t given things enough time or done enough effective marketing. Be realistic and set your expectations accordingly.
9. Problem: You’re not doing what you love.
Example: “I am so tired of seeing therapy clients who have an addiction and don’t show up for their appointments. I have a lot of experience providing counseling to this population so I thought I should focus on them, but I am really not enjoying it.”
Solution: Go deep into your heart and be honest with yourself about what you really want to do. If you are doing something that your heart is not into you might need to consider doing something else. And while I encourage counselors and health practitioners to try marketing strategies that challenge them as well as those that are easier for them, if you really hate what you are doing to build your counseling practice, it might be time to try something else.
10. Problem: You are feeling isolated.
Example: ” It’s hard doing this marketing stuff all by myself. I feel isolated and alone and I’m not even sure I know what I am doing. I work better with support.”
Solution: Get some support! Whether it’s a colleague, a friend or a marketing coach or consultant. If you need support then find someone! Another option might be doing a joint venture with another professional. For example, do a talk with a local chiropractor if you are a massage therapist. That way you’ll have some company, can share the workload for the talk, and you’ll both benefit by introducing your networks to each other.
11. Problem: Your physical or emotional health needs a boost.
Example: “I am too tired to market my business. I am feeling down and discouraged. It’s hard to get motivated. What is wrong with me? Other people seem to do it.”
Solution: Low energy and low mood are associated with your physical and mental health and definitely will impact on your motivation, interest and energy required to build a practice. Do take care of yourself and your health whether it’s physical or emotional. If you don’t, in the long run you won’t have a practice if you become seriously ill.
12. Problem: You’re burned out.
“I’ve worked so hard marketing my counseling practice, but I am not getting the results I expected. I just don’t know what to do or where to turn. I’m exhausted. I can’t do this anymore.”
Solution: Perhaps you need a break, a rest, a holiday. Or, maybe you need to scrap the things you were doing and start over. If you do the latter, please make sure you get some more information or guidance from someone to make sure you are more successful next time around.
The Common Thread
Can you see what is the common theme in all the solutions stated above?
They all involve taking ACTION.
“Action” is the not-so-secret solution to being stuck.
If you are not sure what action to take, take the one you think is most likely to help you get unstuck. Sometimes just getting some momentum going, even if it’s not the best action, will help free you up. Any action is better than no action.