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You CAN become a successful therapist.
This article is a rapid-fire list of the best tips to get started in practice, updated for 2022. All of the points below can be used to develop and market an in-person or online therapy business.
None of these things are difficult to do (providing you aren’t too much of a technophobe). However, they do require some learning and persistence.
They require that you make decisions and get on with implementing them – rather than avoiding making those decisions.
KEY POINT: The more decisions and actions you take every day the faster your therapy practice will grow.
When I started out as a therapist I trained with the UK College of Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy (then owned by Donald Robertson) – I only took that one training and applied it. In-depth and thoroughly. Deepening my knowledge by reading and studying. Building skills by applying it all to myself at first.
Within 18 months of completing my training I was supporting my family in London (on a single income) – and had replaced my £40,000/year salary. Shortly after that I hired my wife (Fabienne, now co-Director) as my secretary because I was so busy.
Why am I sharing that?
Because I don’t want you to get sucked into the “I just need one more course to be ready” mindset. That’s called avoidance. Get on and get cracking!
Probably my biggest mistake was losing focus on my private practice and considering other projects (8 weeks lost to the concept of launching a yoga magazine!). A mentor at the time said “stop running around chasing every latest idea like a headless chicken. Focus. Commit.”
Focus, focus, focus.
Focus is genius.
Set goals and focus. Commit. Apply problem-solving constantly.
Define the problem. Define the goal. Get creative in generating ideas and strategies. And address interfering factors like: stress, anxiety, overwhelm, hopelessness, low self-belief, lack of clarity about goals, etc.
[Use the techniques you learn on the Diploma in CBH to address all those issues.]
If your goals are getting you stressed then loosen them up to broader goals (“I want to have a good practice, making reasonable money, helping people”) – specific goals are juicier but can get us stressed. So, if you are feeling stressed, back off from the specific vision and go back to broader goals (“I would really love to have my own practice, and other people have done that, and I can too.”).
Overwhelm and low self-belief: it’s easy to get overwhelmed with the list of things “that I must do” – and then when we don’t feel confident about one item (“I don’t know how to verify my business listing in Google local”) – suddenly, like a virus (!) that low confidence about one task spreads onto everything on our list and our vision.
One thing at a time.
Remember you are good at some things, other people are good at other things.
Ask yourself – if someone else figured out how to do that is there ANY reason why, in the end, I couldn’t figure that out too, even if I don’t know how to do that now.
This high self-efficacy problem-solving attitude is the key!
Ok – enough rambling. Here’s the list. There are lots more ideas but this is a good solid start.
How to build your practice
Work at least a full 40 hour week (minimum) every week on your business.
If you aren’t seeing clients then get busy marketing or honing your skills. (And don’t use honing your skills as an excuse to avoid marketing!) If you aren’t working 40 hours a week on your therapy business then you’ve retired early, I’m afraid!
Some of the best and most realistic advice I got was from a hypnotherapist called David Botsford: he said that for the first few months he spent 8 hours marketing for every hour he spent doing hypnotherapy with clients. That’s tough news to hear at the beginning. But be prepared for that and you will succeed.
Be constantly marketing
Coca-cola has never stopped advertising. As a hypnotherapist you will always be marketing. You won’t be seeing the same client for 2 years (unlike a lot of counsellors or psychotherapists). Typically you’ll see a client for 3-6 sessions – so you need to have a constant stream of new clients. You want to be doing that because you help people change and fulfil their potential!
(In this approach we want our clients independent of us – rather than dependent on us. )
So why wouldn’t you be comfortable marketing and letting people know about your services?
Answer: shyness and failing to value what you offer.
Shyness is a key problem that must be overcome. Use what you know to address it strongly and repeatedly. Lifelong habits of shyness will take a while to change but they CAN be changed. Ultimately shyness is a type of avoidance, as if something terrible would happen if we spoke up.
The best book written on becoming free of shyness is Conditioned Reflex Therapy by Andrew Salter. This is the book that blazed the trail which became cognitive behavioural therapy. I just worked with Andrew Salter’s son and Watkins Publishing, in London, to get the new edition published. Get it. Read it. Implement it.
Probably no book will change your life more than CRT (if you actually put it into action).
Value what you offer.
Remember what you offer is priceless in terms of how it can empower people and improve their quality of life. Never forget that.
Develop a Creative, Resilient, Problem-Solving Mindset
Building a successful therapy business is about solving problems. Building any business is about solving problems. Finding a therapy room. Getting clients. Getting referrals. Improving your website Google ranking. Re-building confidence after a set-back. Working out how to get more clients again.
These are all problems to be solved – and they are all solvable problems.
Be determined that you can and will solve these problems – any problems that arise. It’s not about your innate qualities – it is about acquirable skills and knowledge.
Charge the right amount.
Find out how much your competitors are charging and price yourself in the top 30%.
Do not compete on price. Compete on quality, professionalism and service.
Network your contacts when starting out
Offer treatments at nominal rates to get started (a sort of “soft launch”). Message your entire network and tell them you have developed a new treatment approach and want some people to work with, who can also give you some feedback – and that you are just charging nominal rates for the first two months. Ask them to spread the word.
(This gets the word out and gets you clients – and reduces pressure on you.)
If you rent a room in a yoga or therapy centre then offer free tasters to all staff, therapists and teachers – and then ask for referrals.
Teach a self-hypnosis workshop (or mindfulness or stress management) online or in person.
If you can teach a client self-hypnosis then you can teach a group.
Get a proper website built. Invest to succeed. (see below for some more quick tips on websites)
Make sure you know how to change the content.
Invest in learning the technology (it will pay huge dividends).
Get a professional designer to do the design.
Hire a copy-writer to help with your copy (writing your own copy about yourself is worse than pulling out your fingernails!).
Join professional registers
You get a logo for your website and a valuable link to your website (Google will consider those links as particularly valuable), plus you should get some referrals. Just one client will pay for that registration. You don’t have to join every register.
Set up your profile in therapist directories:
Hypnotherapy-directory.org.uk is the most important. If you’ve signed up with a directory, take the time to set up a professional profile with photos, description and other information.
Sign up with several business directories.
Freeindex, Yell, 192.com, ThomsonLocal, Scoot
– make sure they have the correct business information (the same details as on the footer of your website)
Setup Social Media profiles on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Instagram
Ensure they have the correct information and link to your website.
If things are going well then consider offering peak and off-peak prices (so that you aren’t working every evening).
Get a telephone answering service.
We use Answer4u – it costs about £1 per call. When my mobile or office number is not answered it rolls over to them and they answer on our behalf and then text and email me the message and contact details.
Contact capture and follow-up!
Make sure you capture all your enquiries and add them to your contact management system. Ideally set up a form on your website that captures all the details and saves it in an email marketing system.
Then send out an email newsletter once a month to all your contacts!
Send out a brief, helpful email newsletter once a month. Make sure it is at least 60% helpful content and no more than 40% promotional.
Make a series of at least three standard recordings/CDs/MP3s
- Deep Relaxation
- Self Hypnosis Ego-Strengthening/Confidence Building
- Simple Mindfulness
I recorded all of the scripts from the course and then had a library of about 15 standard recordings that I can give clients to use between sessions or sell at workshops.
Put a free recording on your website.
Require a name and email to download it. Have those names and emails go directly into your email newsletter and customer contact systems.
Write a very personal bio on your website.
Reveal who you are. Don’t hide behind professionalism. Clients want to know you are professional AND a warm, real human-being.
Record a video for your website.
There is no way better to lower the doubts and questions of a prospective client than to have them watch a video of you welcoming them to your website and answering some basic questions. They get to see you, sense you, hear you and know you.
It goes without saying that this needs to be done in a relaxed, natural manner – not awkward and stiff!
Stay away from advertising on GP appointment cards
It is a well-known waste of money.
Use your methods ON YOURSELF!!
If you aren’t totally confident about marketing and being a therapist then use the techniques you have learned on yourself.
- Daily Self-Hypnosis
- Tension Release Breathing
- De-catasphrosise (what is the worst that could happen? Would it be so bad)….. then when anxiety is lowered start to get into Problem Solving.
- Visualise your goals.
- Clarify your values
- Identify inhibition and hesitancy – and address it strongly.
When starting up offer 30 minute free consultations.
When busier you can change this to a free 15 minute phone consultation.
Put together treatment packages
Social Confidence – six sessions for the price of 5
Fear of Flying – 2 x 1.5 hour sessions for £195
IBS – six sessions over 12 weeks – for the price of 5.
End of treatment offer
Give or email clients a brochure or flier and explain all the other things you help with. Offer them a check-in booster session or consultation session for a new issue at 50% off.
Ask for Referrals, ask for Referrals, ask for Referrals
During a session when a client says how something has improved…
- a) write it down
- b) at the end of the session ask if, as they’ve experienced this improvement would they forward on a email you’re sending them to 2 people who are struggling with anxiety or health issues and could benefit
- c) Send them a nice short email they can forward on.
d) Make sure to also give them a couple of business cards or a couple of brochures about your professional services.
Remember that print advertising is one of the fastest ways to burn money.
In general don’t do it.
Free taster sessions will tend to attract people who want free treatment. A free consultation is different. However, free taster sessions online or in person work great for people who can spread the word (e.g. other therapists in a therapy clinic, hairdressers, beauticians etc)
Read “Marketing Your Services: A Step-by-step Guide for Small Businesses and Professionals” by Anthony Putman.
This is a great marketing book – that will really help you develop the right mindset. It’s from the pre-internet era – but that does not matter. Beg, borrow or steal a copy.
Develop your 30 second elevator pitch/introduction/answer to the question “What do you do?”
Make it enticing, engaging and accessible.
Just WOW your clients with your service. Over-deliver.
Then ask for testimonials and referrals.
Set-up a follow-up system and agreement with clients.
Follow-up at 3 month, 6 month and 12 month intervals to see if they have maintained their improvements.
Introduce this right at the beginning of therapy.
- a) Let’s you track your results
- b) Keeps you in touch with clients and let’s you offer help for additional problems your client is facing
Consider getting a contact management and follow-up system.
i.e. all enquiries are captured into the address book, book appointments for clients, track all email conversations, schedule automated follow-ups at 3, 6 & 12 months.
When business is quiet – contact old clients and offer them a booster session
(could be offered online/Zoom/Facetime)
It’s great to connect with previous clients. Even if you treated them in person you can reconnect with a booster session online. It will boost confidence and nurture your core values (the reasons you chose this business).
You can easily pick up some new business with these clients (another issue to work on?) – and get referrals.
Make your website clearer.
Then do that again.
Then review it and do it again.
And again. (I work on the ukhypnosis.com website every week for at least an hour when I’m not teaching).
Specialise – don’t be a generalist.
It’s not that you will only see clients for that specialist issue – but it will give you a focused market, a special confidence and a reputation.
Get testimonials – also known as social proof.
If you set up your client feedback properly then you will be capturing relevant, real and juicy feedback that can (with client permission) be turned into testimonials and case studies.
Give talks/ webinars online.
If you can talk to your client you can talk to a group.
Most people know very little about hypnosis – but are really interested!
Give talks on hypnosis, pain control, relaxation and stress, mindfulness and much much more.
Read and study marketing and sales
If you aren’t comfortable selling what you are offering then find a good hypnotherapist to work with to help you with this – or just go and do something else!
You must love and believe in what you are doing, see and know it is of value, and be prepared and excited to let people know about it and charge a good price for your service.
If you are uncomfortable about any of this then:
- a) Use the methods you know to help yourself
- b) Get help from others.
Website SEO or Facebook or Google PPC ads or offline marketing?
Here’s my opinion.
- Create a clear and helpful professional website with great content (and YOU in there)
- 5 “issue” pages: dedicated to each of the main issues you help with (issues treated) + 5 “Location” pages dedicated to each local area/town you work in or people can commute from.
- Make sure your business address and contact details are on each page (in the footer).
- Citations – make sure all directories (therapist, business, local, national) have the SAME address and contact details as the footer on the website
- Use a local phone number in the footer (as well as a mobile) – that’s going to help with local search results
- Register your location with Google Local (Google Business Pages)
- Optimised for natural search results in Google (it’s a whole topic – but make sure your page title tag and H1 and H2 tags contain the main phrase you want to rank for in Google e.g. “hypnotherapy in barnet”)
- Build links to the website (see section)
- Register with professional organisations and directories
- Email capture (free offer) and marketing (email newsletter)
- Social media activity (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) –
- Review all the above – constantly and tweak
- Invest in Google PPC ads while your website climbs up the ranks.
- Track website ranking in Google and website visits (analytics)
- Keep reviewing the above steps.
Get your Admin in place!
- Set or review your prices
- Get clear on the appointment booking and confirmation process
- Set and write your contract & cancellation policy
- Decide on phone and email address
- Prepare Intake Form (sent before appointment)
- Prepare Assessment Forms
- Prepare other Therapy Forms
- Gather Scripts in one easy location
- Buy a diary or use online diary
- Get a business bank account
- Learn some basic accounting processes (track income, track expenses)
- Register as self-employed with HMRC
- Make some basic recordings for clients
- Develop standard email responses to the 6 main enquiry types – save them (eg. in Gmail as Canned Responses) – always customise the response to each client.
- Get supervision sorted out. A good supervisor will also help with advice on building your practice.
PLANNING PLANNING PLANNING!
- Make a business plan (finances and number of clients per week)
- Make a marketing plan (how you will get the clients)
- Make a personal-professional development plan
- Make supervision a critical part of personal-professional development and a critical part of marketing support.
- Budget for regular supervision.
- Get a great supervisor
- Form a peer group – meet online
- Get some interesting CPD.
- Call your colleagues and have a chat
- Invest in a coach or mentor
- Join a coaching or mentoring club or group.
Get together with peers and colleagues and brainstorm your marketing
Here is the product of a 20-minute group brainstorm in one of our courses. The bold points are those related to online marketing or delivering therapy online:
- Make a Marketing Plan
- Network Existing Contacts
- Build a great website
- Create a handout/leaflet
- Use social media
- Give a Free talk or Demo
- Offer a free talk at local church
- Offer a free talk to GPs (which they can use as CPD)
- Give a talk in a well-being centre
- Rent a room in a well-being centre
- Give out referral vouchers
- Have an offer on Groupon
- Get press coverage – write an article/issue a press release
- Approach local GP practices
- Approach specialist clinics
- Outreach and network with Dentists! Physios! Podiatrists! Sports Clubs! Online parenting forums!
- network with local mothers (school gates, mother-toddler groups, Women’s Institute, mums net)
- Volunteer your services to local charities (hospice, cancer care etc)
- Have a stand at a local Health Show (CAM show)
- Wedding Shows (confidence, weight loss, stop smoking, public speaking, fear of flying, habit change, fear of xyz!)
- Performers as a market (singers, dances, actors etc – websites? training schools? Offer talks, workshops, trainings as well as one-to-one)
- Flyer Distribution – Waitrose/M&S, local shops, beauty therapists, coffee shops, library, community centre
- Engage on discussion forums and answer questions
- Corporate work!
- Target Students! (exam stress)
- Offer free talks and trainings to the local police
- that list took just 20 minutes… and there is lots more to add to that!
Get more training?
If you trained with us you really shouldn’t need it, because you’ve learned a huge range of techniques and – importantly – how to think like a therapist. If you trained somewhere else then really consider if you have a sufficient range of techniques and approaches.
Here’s a link to our Hypno-CBT® Toolbox of 35 techniques you learn on our Diploma
Unfortunately many schools teach a just few techniques – and virtually NOTHING about how to a proper clinical assessment, agree treatment goals, develop a working model of the client’s problem and collaboratively agree a treatment plan. That’s called learning how to think like a therapist.
Too many schools teach either “paint by numbers therapy” (a script for this and a script for that) OR “power techniques therapy” – (“if this powerful technique doesn’t work then try this one”).
That’s not really how to do good therapy. Your choice of interventions needs to be more considered. If you only know 3-4 ‘power’ techniques then how can you choose?
So consider if you need to retrain and learn a bigger range of techniques AND how to really think like an expert therapist.