How to Start an Online Counseling Practice
Whether you’re a seasoned therapist looking to expand your service delivery through the power of the internet, or you’re a neophyte entering the field fresh and eager to help as many people as possible, having an online counseling practice is quickly becoming a favorite way between therapists and clients to provide counseling services.
Ready to build your online practice? Here are a few things to consider as you take the next step.
Know Your “Why”
Before you even launch into your private practice, it’s essential to examine your “why” for providing online counseling, also known as telemental health counseling. Do you want location independence? Are you interested in having more flexibility in your schedule? Is there a particular population of people you most want to serve, such as busy executives, individuals struggling with agoraphobia, or people who might otherwise not access therapy because of location?
By determining your own “why,” you have more clarity when speaking and writing about your practice, and your choice to provide telemental health services, so don’t be averse to digging deeper into your purpose.
Once you understand clearly your motivation for having an online practice, be sure to get the appropriate training and follow your state laws. Here’s a list to see the telemental health laws by state.
Many training providers can help you understand how to ethically and clinically deliver online therapy. You can become board certified through the CCE training as a telemental health counselor, which I highly recommend if you can.
Understand Your Focus—And It’s Not Online Counseling
As you begin to create your online practice, become clear about what it is you provide. It’s generally a good idea to have a niche, and understand that your niche, in and of itself, is not the delivery of online counseling. Online counseling is merely a benefit to your clients. It is a nice offering. But online counseling is not the actual service you provide.
Your service is based on your clinical approach, the population you work with best, and the techniques you’re trained in. This is called your niche.
Your niche, whom you serve and how you serve them, is your actual service.
While clients will appreciate the ease of online therapy, such as not having to travel to and from your office or leave work to access therapy services, again, this is a benefit you are providing.
What do you actually help clients overcome? What is their core problem? Is this to help individuals suffering from depression have more good days than bad days? Is this to repair damaged relationships with couples?
As you talk and write about your online practice, you’ll want to be able to communicate how you’re ready to help clients with their core issue, and that you offer the benefit of online counseling to make working with you more accessible.
After you’ve identified your reasons for having an online practice, and taken the right training to be able to deliver online counseling ethically and legally, and you understand the clinical focus of your work, it’s time to get the word out—to make potential clients aware of your practice. Now you must market.
Marketing Your Practice
When you’re first starting, it’s not necessary to try to serve a large area. A small, local area is sufficient enough, and you’ll want to develop a strategy to help as many local people know about your work, your services, and the opportunity to be seen online.
But you’ll also want to have an online marketing strategy.
If you only rely on local marketing to build your online practice, the task of growing your practice is going to be slow and cause a lot of unnecessary stress because you’ll have to rely on word of mouth and handing out a lot of business cards. That type of marketing takes a lot of time.
However, right now there are people on Facebook and Google trying to find resources for the exact help you can provide. By leveraging the power of the internet, you’ll quickly help potential clients find you. And that is exactly what it takes to build a successful online practice.