My Thoughts on the NYTimes Article, “What Brand Is Your Therapist?

I’m sure you’ve read this article by now:  What Brand Is Your Therapist?  It’s provocative enough to have gone viral in the psychotherapy community.

I don’t agree with it.

The synopsis is: Psychotherapy’s Image Problem Pushes Some Therapists to Become ‘Brands’

If I were to write an article about what I see as the real problem, the synopsis would be: Psychotherapists Attempt to ‘Brand’ Themselves to Make Up for Poor Communication

Toward the beginning of this article, the author quotes Casey Truffo as saying the problem one of her therapist clients had was “a blah-sounding message and no angle.”  One only has to look at the thousands of therapist websites out there to know that yes, blah-sounding messages that are too general to be effective are prevalent in our field.

However, the implication that “branding oneself” is the only solution makes the situation seem rather dire. How about just learning to communicate more effectively to the specific folks you’re really trying to reach? That sounds “smart” rather than “selling out.”

I commonly suggest that therapists choose a niche. The reason I believe niching is effective is that it allows me to market myself better. In focusing on a smaller target audience with a specific problem, I can really get to the core issues and emotions that a person with that specific problem is dealing with. I can reach them on an emotional level. When I do that, I communicate better. And when I communicate better, I attract more clients.

Niche so that you can communicate well. And if you want to treat more than one target audience, then choose more than one niche. But whatever you do, communicate specifically to each group in a way that is meaningful to that group. We should say you need to niche your marketing, not your practice. That would be more accurate.

Ultimately, people have not changed for the last thousand years. And a thousand years from now, they will still be the same.  Our core desires have always been and are still to be listened to, to be understood, and to be respected. In fact, I’d assert that in today’s faster-paced world, the hunger to have these core needs met is greater than it ever has been.

The problem, as I see it, is that therapists don’t know how to translate their vast wisdom about the human condition into effective communications that reach their clients.

Truffo was quoted as saying, “No one wants to buy therapy anymore. They want to buy a solution to their problem.”  I’d go further to say that people don’t even want to buy a solution to their particular problem. They really want to resolve the core needs that all of us have (which may be manifesting in the particular problem). Every client you treat has:

  • the need for love
  • the fear of shame
  • the pride of achievement
  • the drive for recognition
  • the yearning to feel important
  • the urge to look attractive
  • the lust for power
  • the longing for romance
  • the need to feel secure
  • the terror of facing the unknown
  • the lifelong hunger for self-esteem

Sure, if my awareness, at the moment, is limited to my fear about my daughter sexting (an example used in the article), then meet me where I’m at.  However, if I see you for some time about that issue, and I feel heard, met, respected, and I get a glimpse of your vast wisdom stemming from all your training as a psychotherapist, then am I really going to go to another “brand” when I suspect I’ve been sexually abused? Or, am I going come in to see you again, based on the trust I have in you?  I’d suggest the latter.

The author of this article, Lori Gottlieb, has years of experience as a journalist. This gives her the ability to write circles around the rest of us (I certainly include myself in “the rest of us”).  My suggestion, since she has recently escaped from the tight deadlines of journalism, is simply to slow down. Lori, I’d say, take the time you now have to really get in touch with the emotional state of your potential clients. Then, write directly to them. Meet them where they are. Demonstrate that you understand. Show them that you will really hear them.

Get that message to them. I’d be shocked if your practice didn’t grow.

To find out more about how to gain more clients, click here.

If you’re interested in branding your practice with a logo, click here.

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