Therapist directories are one of the most common marketing tools that counselors use to attract new clients. Because they’re so popular, it’s difficult for your directory entry to stand out. I wrote this guide to help.
What Directory To Use?
For paid therapist directories, the 800 pound gorilla is Psychology Today, and the up-and-coming underdog is Goodtherapy. There are other paid directories out there which you can try if you want, but I’d usually suggest starting with the big two. They both cost $30 per month, which means they’re probably worthwhile if they send you a handful of clients each year. Between the two, there’s not a clearly superior option. I would try both for a few months and see what kind of results you get.
Another paid option that’s worth considering is Therapist Search Made Simple. It was designed by a therapist, and it attempts to solve some of the issues that bog down Psychology Today and Good Therapy. Plus, it’s only $10 per month. This is definitely an up-and-coming option, but could be worth checking out and supporting.
There are also some free or freemium alternatives to the paid therapist directories. These are almost always worth signing up for because hey, they’re free – and even if they don’t generate clients themselves, you can get some SEO juice through linking to your website from your profile.
My favorite free option is probably the Open Path Collective. You can sign up for Open Path for free, but Open Path requires that you see clients referred by them at a reduced rate (between $30 and $60 per session). The nice thing is that you have total flexibility – you can always temporarily pause your Open Path profile or decline new clients, so you have control over how many sliding scale clients you see. I think Open Path is an ideal choice if you’re still working to build your caseload ($30 – $60 per session is better than $0 from an empty spot on your calendar), and even for established therapists it’s an easy way to give back to the community.
Another option that is worth considering is Caredash. CareDash is a newer player in the directory space, but they’re growing fast – with over a million potential clients visiting the site every month. They’ve also invested in technology to help weed out fake reviews, so if you’re a good therapist, you can have higher confidence that your reviews will reflect that. Plus, their algorithm is set up to reward the effort that you place in your profile, so if you take the time to fully complete your profile and add a good headshot — all tips I suggest — you’re more likely to be shown to potential clients. This is a big improvement compared to some of the other directories where you have no control over where you show up in the search results.
While many clients search for therapists on therapist-specific directories, plenty of clients hunt for a therapist the same places they look for a plumber or a new favorite restaurant. So it’s generally a wise decision to establish a presence on the local directories, too.
Your best options are definitely Google My Business and Bing Places, since that helps you show up anytime someone searches on Google or Bing or uses a mapping service like Google Maps. It can also be a good idea to sign up for Yelp, although managing reviews can be really difficult without crossing ethical lines (if a client leaves you a scathing review, you can’t respond and defend yourself in a way that indicates you know the client, since that would break confidentiality.) I think you should weigh Yelp depending on the type of clients you typically work with – managing negative reviews is going to be a bigger risk if you work with personality disorders or court-mandated clients, for instance.
Healthgrades and Yellow Pages are also worth considering – they’re definitely not as popular, but hey – they’re free so why not?
Note that most of these free directories will encourage you to try advertising to boost your profile’s visibility. You can certainly try it if you like, but generally I find that therapists get the best ROI with Google Ads, so you may want to try that out before putting dollars into your Yelp profile.
How To Stand Out?
Just signing up for these profiles is not enough – you want to make sure your profiles are optimized. “Optimized” is a fancy term that just means you want to make sure your profiles are written and filled out in a way that makes them as compelling to your potential clients as possible.
Here’s a few easy ways to get started with optimizing your profiles:
Research Your Competition
Before your build out your profile, go on the directory and search for your own zip code. See what everyone else is doing. Imagine that you are a client, and figure out which profiles would attract you and which you would ignore. Don’t go in blind — look at the other therapists who will be competing for your clients’ attention.
You can even look at my profile. Feel free to take any ideas or inspiration you’d like to use for your own.
Get A Good Photo (& Video)
Seriously. If your photo is low-res, blurry, or you’ve got a weird expression on your face, clients won’t click on you. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — invest in a quality headshot from a professional photographer. (In a pinch any Gen Zer with a phone will also do a good job.)
Many directories also allow you to upload a short video. In this case, you don’t need a professional to take it for you (any modern smartphone will be fine.) But make sure that you have good lighting and a professional background.
Don’t just repeat your profile information in the video. Focus on making a connection and showing your warmth, empathy, and expertise. If in doubt, imagine you’re meeting an actual therapy client for the first time – what might you say to them so they could know they’re in good hands?
Optimize your first 2-3 lines
Both Goodtherapy and Psychology Today pull the first few lines from your profile to use in the search results. Goodtherapy uses your first line and a half (about 150 characters) while Psychology Today uses your first three lines (about 200 characters) That means that you should write those first few lines to grab the attention of someone who is scrolling through the directory.
In other words, if you start your profile by defining therapy, listing your educational background, or blasting people with a bunch of psychobabble, that’s the content that will end up in your search result — and probably, nobody will click on it.
Instead, try to write your first 2-3 lines to grab people’s attention. Some ideas:
- Give concrete examples of your expertise. Anyone can say “I specialize in depression” but not everyone can say “I have treated depression for over 25 years” or “I have given over a dozen lectures on depression.”
- If you have a unique specialty, put that front and center. It’s okay to mention that you do other things too, but most of your description should be about your specialty.
- Consider using questions — almost nobody is using questions at the beginning of their profile, and that can help you stand out. For instance, “What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow and everything was better? As a therapist, I love to help people imagine that answer.”
Optimize your last 2-3 lines
Many directory profiles just…trail off at the end. Don’t let that happen to you. Close with a clear and specific call to action, and perhaps a final reminder of why a client should feel confident about choosing you.
Try For A Conversational Tone
If you look at most of the profiles on Psychology Today or Good Therapy, they’re overtly formal and full of technical jargon. If you’re able to write with an authentic friendly and conversational tone, it will make your profile stand out.
So here’s what I recommend. Sit down with a good friend, and maybe a glass of wine (or whatever helps you relax.) Then have your friend ask you questions about your practice. Why do you like being a therapist? What is your hope for your clients? What’s the number one thing you’d want a prospective client to know about you? Etc. Answer their questions in an unfiltered way, and have a camera record the conversation.
Then go back and review the video. When you find a great answer, write it down word-for-word. Then put it into your profile, and edit it to clean up the rough edges. This will make sure that your heart gets communicated into your profile.
Oh, and one more thing — after you’ve done this, have the same friend look at the profile. Make sure they agree that the profile reflects your real self, and that it’s sufficiently professional. You want to be genuine, but you want to balance that with professionalism.
Track Your Results
How do you know if a directory is worth the money? See how many clients it brings you.
Both directories give you some information about people who have visited your site or contacted you through the directory. But you should go one step beyond that and actually track how many customers found you through the directory. The high-tech way is to look at your website’s analytics data, and see how many visitors from a directory ended up filling out your contact form and booking a session. The low-tech way is to have an optional box on your intake form asking people how they found out about you.
Either option will give you some valuable insight into how many clients are actually coming your way from these directories. If you find that a directory isn’t bringing you enough clients to justify the price you’re paying, take another look at your profile to see if there are any ways you can improve or optimize it.
If you’ve already done everything you can do to the profile and you’re still not getting enough business, it’s probably time to cancel your membership and focus your marketing attempts elsewhere. You can always try again in a year or two, after some of your competition might have moved away or stopped paying for their directory profile. Remember, therapy directories should only be a small piece of your overall marketing efforts, so it’s okay if they don’t work for you.