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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Why Therapist Directories Are A Waste Of Time

by Mike Langolis
Gamer Therapist
Psychotherapy Meets Web 2.0

This post is for all of you who have been considering or actively using listings in therapist directories.  I frequently get asked from consultees which directories they should list in.  I also frequently see colleagues debating on bulletin boards and listservs the merits and demerits of individual directories.  So I figure it’s time to offer you my perspective.  Please bear in mind that I am sharing my experience and opinions here, and if you’ve had a different one, hopefully you’ll mention it on the comments.  If you own a directory service, I hope you’ll disclose that as well.

When I started building my practice, I had a lot of time to spend filling out various online directories.  I literally spent hours filling out profiles that promised to make me visible to potential patients.  To be fair it gave me the opportunity to hone my bio and elevator speech, but other than that I now think that I was wasting my time.  But let’s talk a little about why directories may be a waste of your time, because I think it points to a larger misconception about marketing your practice online.

Billboard in a bottle.

Many therapists still approach the internet as if it was a giant Yellow Pages.  We often create static content, the equivalent of a business card, cover letter and resume, and then slap it up on a website, or a directory.  Then we sit back and wait for the phone to ring.  It’s like we imagine that we created a giant billboard and threw it into the world wide web.  But in reality, it’s more like a message in a bottle, thrown in a vast ocean.  We imagine that that will get us recognized.  It usually doesn’t, and here’s why.

If you google “find a therapist” you will literally find dozens of website directories guaranteed to help patients find the right provider.  If you’re ambitious you could spend hours and days finding all of them and entering your information.  Many of them are free, some charge money, and a few don’t let you know whether they will charge or not until you’ve entered all of your information.  One of the main problems with directories is exactly that there are so many of them.

One thing I’ve learned from starting up social networks for other companies is that you always need a critical mass of members as quickly as possible.  If you launch a site you have a few days to a week to achieve this in most cases.  Otherwise potential members will log in to your site, look around and see little activity, and leave.  So low enrollment of providers in a directory will drive little traffic to it.

On the other hand, if you take a directory like Psychology Today’s you will see that they did achieve a critical mass, and have more traffic.  But the problem here is that this is because every therapist and her maiden aunt is now listed there.  So the problem becomes how to set yourself apart from the rest.  If you are determined to spend time on listing yourself in a directory, I’d suggest that you pay for the PT one and try to distinguish yourself as best you can.  In fact, the Psychology Today site is the only directory I even try to keep current and pay for anymore.

The entire blog post can be found here.