Having the skills needed to conduct a counseling practice is one thing, but having the skills to make that practice a financial success is another thing entirely. Making money in a private counseling practice requires successful efforts at marketing and self-promotion, topics that are rarely covered in graduate training programs. It also helps to be able to serve not only the general public, but also one or more specialty populations.
Prime Referral Sources
Make yourself known to important referral sources. When most people have a counseling or therapeutic concern, the first person they approach is a member of the clergy or a general medical practitioner. Market your services to these prime referral sources, as well as to college and university counseling centers, which often have limits on the number of sessions they offer an individual client, and so need practitioners to whom to refer clients who need more care.
List your practice and specialty areas in your marketing materials. Many clients have no idea how prevalent depression and anxiety are, so in your marketing materials mention your professional experience working with these concerns. Beyond this, if you have training and experience in specialty areas -- such as career development or couples counseling -- or with special populations -- such as LGBT, ethnic populations or religious populations -- mention this in your marketing materials. Such materials include the letters you send to referral sources.
Offer yourself as a public speaker. Many civic, religious and social organizations -- the PTA, Mensa, the local fraternal lodge -- would be glad to have a speaker on counseling-related topics at their meetings. Consult with the leaders of the group to determine what topics are of special interest to them. Such occasions are prime opportunities to establish a reputation in the community. Take business cards to your talks to give to potential clients.
Create a website for your practice, which will market you around the clock, every day. At the least, this website should feature your photograph, training, experience and the nature of your practice, including specialty areas. You may also include a blog, links to online articles that you write for the site and links to articles you have published elsewhere.
Every professional association specifies what is ethical to mention in your marketing materials; follow these guidelines scrupulously. Do not claim expertise on the basis of a very light training experience, such as a two-hour seminar.
Based in New York City, Mark Koltko-Rivera has been writing psychology-related articles since 1987. His articles have appeared in such journals as “Psychotherapy” and “Journal of Humanistic Psychology.” Koltko-Rivera is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in counseling psychology from New York University.