Today we have a fantastic guest post from Michael J Formica. I first met Michael on Facebook and have continued to be impressed not only by his expertise in some of the things that shut my brain down (hello, tech!) but also his generosity and willingness to help. He has this magical situation where he gets the left brain AND the right brain stuff, walking me through a snafu with my WordPress site (and dumbing it down so that I could actually identify some of the words he used) while also coaching people on how to write blogs to boost referrals.
Michael moderates two awesome Facebook Groups that have been extremely helpful to me: Online Marketing for Counselors and Therapists, where you can get info about best practices, ask questions about WordPress plugins or how to build SEO among other things and Social Networking for Helping and Healing Professionals which exists to help build social proof by increasing your social media platforms’ likes, follows, & shares. He’s also one of the go-to tech folks in the Abundance Practice-Builders FB Group.
In case you aren’t totally on board with blogging yet, Michael makes a strong argument for all the ways that it can really build your reputation, connection, credibility, and thus your business. So without further ado…
10 Reasons You Need to Blog
It’s easy to feel like an imposter, which can often lead to not owning your expertise. That feeling is probably second only to the struggle of therapists and counselors to think of what they do as a business. In fact, a little poking around would likely lead to the realization that there’s a certain amount of interplay between the two conflicts. Each informs the other, and creates a dynamic as frustrating as it is paralyzing.
What if there was a way to address each of these obstacles, supporting you in re-envisioning yourself both as an entrepreneur and as an expert voice in your niche? Great news! There is, and the answer is right in front of you. Blogging is one of the most powerful tools you have available to you for both creating professional presence and enhancing professional development.
Developing and Cataloguing Your Unique Perspective
You spent a lot of time in school learning your craft. As you gained experience in the field, it’s very likely you began asking questions and started to develop your own interpretation of the more staid and classic models of psychodynamics and their application. In other words, you started developing your own unique professional perspective.
A blog is a platform for you to not only begin developing your ideas in a fluid space, but to solidify those ideas and make them your own. It’s no accident that Dan Goleman, Noam Chomsky and Martin Seligman became thought leaders in the field. They didn’t just think great thoughts; they wrote them down and shared them. Taking that same path can lead you to places you never imagined possible.
Establishing Your Practice Platform
One of the first steps in this process is establishing your practice platform. This is much like a political platform. Some of the planks in your platform will be practical, others will be more theoretical. All are interrelated and support you in defining your overall vision. Blogging gives you the opportunity to catalogue, organize and find relationships among the various elements of that vision, providing you with clarity and direction.
On the practical side, your platform encompasses the populations and sub-populations you want to work with. For instance, if the population you’re choosing to work with is women, your sub-population may be new mothers or newly divorced women re-entering the workforce. This focus then establishes your context—women in transition—and, by association, your niche(s) within that context.
On the theoretical side you want to consider what kind of model you subscribe to—wellness,illness, medical, holistic, secular, spiritual, etc. This is interrelated with your practice approach—depth, CBT, ACT, humanistic, etc. All of these elements come together to form an overview of your practice platform, which, in turn, becomes the point from which you can launch the development and application of your vision.
Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader and Expert Voice
Never considered yourself a thought leader, or expert voice, huh? Surprise! As soon as you start cataloguing, organizing and sharing your ideas about your practice platform and the vision for your work through your blog, that’s exactly what you become. Goleman, Chomsky, Seligman and the rest started somewhere, and, for you, establishing a clear vision of the work you’re doing and its application establishes your own unique starting point.
As you write and publish blog posts, you put yourself out there as someone who has a clear vision of process, practical application and potential outcomes. In other words, you establish yourself as a credible agent for change and evolution, not only at the individual level, but for the profession, as a whole. That sounds fairly grand, but, if you think about it, you follow the people you follow—and allow them to inform your thinking—for exactly that reason. Again, there are no accidents.
Building Authority in Your Niche
To that point, as you continue to catalogue, codify and organize your thoughts through your blog, you become increasingly established as an authority in your niche(s). This builds credibility for you as a professional among your peers, and as a service provider in your marketplace. You are creating a unique, specialized forum where people, whether peers or potential clients, go for information, inspiration and to seek you out.
Think about your own experience. When you refer to someone specific, why do you do it? You do it because, “He or she knows about this aspect of treatment.” How did you come to that conclusion? You read about it, or you heard about it because someone else wrote about it, whether in a blog post, a professional forum, a Facebook post or a newsletter, you recognized that person’s expertise and filed it away for future reference. That’s niche authority driven by content.
Establishing Authority and Credibility with Your Peers
Your blog establishes a shareable library of content associated with you, specifically, as an expert voice and authority in your niche(s). Social media is an amazing resource that provides an almost limitless professional resource for your peers. In establishing your reference library, you create an information funnel that both supports engagement and provides a means for social proof. With this in hand, you set yourself up to not only engage with your peers in a meaningful way, but provide them with a credible point of reference for that engagement. This, in turn, establishes you as an authoritative resource, thought leader, expert voice and, dare we say, influencer.
Raising Your Visibility and the Visibility of Your Practice
This intention is all well and good, but it doesn’t necessarily put food on the table. Ultimately, your goal is to bring clients through your door. The challenge with that is, try as you might, you can’t make the phone ring. Potential clients need a reason to contact you that extends beyond the immediate need of addressing their pain points. Blogging provides you with an avenue for that contact on two fronts.
First, it’s no secret that a fair portion of private practice custom comes through referrals and word of mouth. When you hear a recommendation about something or someone, what’s the first thing you do? You look it up online. A blog provides those who are referring to you a way to source your expertise and possibly even some front-loaded reference material for the potential client whom he or she is referring.
Secondly, when a potential client is seeking counsel and looking online, a credible, authoritative blog provides an opportunity for pre-sessioning—creating a welcoming, contextual relationship before a social relationship is even established. That’s how you get the phone to ring.
Building and Maintaining Trust with Your Current and Prospective Clients
We all know psychotherapy doesn’t work. What does work is the relationship. No matter what modality you use, it’s the underlying relationship—the established rapport—that moves the process forward.
A blog is an opportunity to pre-establish that relationship by providing potential clients with a point of reference for your voice, your approach and how you can help by addressing specific pain points. It also provides sustenance to current clients on an ongoing basis, confirming for them your commitment to your path and their journey.
Sharing Your Vision
Let’s face it, when you blog, you are sharing in a big way; literally on a global scale. That can be scary, but it also sets you up to be that credible, authoritative voice. Sharing your vision as it evolves and develops—as you evolve and develop—is a powerful means for leveling up your practice, and scaling your business.
Gathering Valuable Feedback
We are all familiar with a call-to- action: “Call me!” or “Contact Me Today!” What about a call-to-engagement? That’s when you ask your readers to comment on what you’ve put out there, generating engagement among the members of your tribe. OK—red flag—yes, this is where we talk about the part of your social media policy where you inform clients they can read your blog posts, but they are restricted from public comment. That aside, gathering this kind of unfiltered feedback can be an invaluable resource for shaping your thinking and getting a sense of how your perspective is being received. Is it always going to be pretty—no, but then a lotus grows in mud.
BONUS TIDBIT: If you want to expand your engagement footprint, you can set up your blog to use Facebook Comments, which gives commentators the option to post their comments to their news feed with a link that points back to your website.
Mentoring and Inspiring the Next Generation of Clinicians
The feminine archetype has three aspects—the maiden, the mother and the crone, or wise woman—and this is a perfect metaphor for how the work you do developing your ideas through blogging can support and influence clinicians who are just coming up. Let’s be honest, there’s a whole lot of stuff you wish you knew the first time a client walked into your office. What if you could set yourself up as a repository and resource for that kind of information to support newer clinicians hungry for a mentor, even if that mentor is virtual? After all, life is short, pain is long and we’re all just here to help each other out.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how you think blogging might help you and your practice, as well as what obstacles you might be facing in your thinking, writing, or just getting started. Drop a comment below and let me know! (Psst…this is a call-to-engagement.)
Michael J. Formica is a counselor, coach and writer who has been part of the helping and healing professions for more than 25 years. In addition to serving clients locally, as well as nationally and internationally online, he blogs for both Psychology Today, where his award-winning blog has more than 4 million unique page views, and The Huffington Post. Michael offers online workshops on blogging and content creation, as well as online course development. Registration for his upcoming workshop, The Blogging Blueprint, will be opening soon.
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.