Branding - How You Craft The Message of Who You Are

I wanted to go a little deeper into the concept of branding as a therapist, based on some of the questions I got last week.

There is actually a lot of debate about what is branding and what is marketing. A brand is really a living relationship between your business and consumers. A brand could say that they are the best cup of coffee you’ve ever had, but you could think it’s garbage coffee. Consumers decides if the brand’s message is true or not. Chris Do, who is a genius at helping creative entrepreneurs, says, “Marketing is what you say you are, Branding is what they say you are.”

I love this idea, and yet I do look at branding a little differently than he does (he knows a kajillion more things than I do about this, so decide for yourself!). I think of branding as crafting the message of who you are, and marketing as selling the message of who you are. While acknowledging that your end product needs be true and quality, or the brand will die. Once you have clarity on your message, it makes creating a website, logo, business cards, etc. so much easier, because you know what you’re trying to convey. So how do you craft the message of who you are as a therapist?

This is a very big question, and we won’t solve this in one blog post. There are brilliant professionals like Fabian Geyrhalter whose sole focus is helping entrepreneurs and companies get clarity on this answer (Fabian also has a very cool podcast called Hitting The Mark that I love, if you want to geek out on how creative companies brand themselves).

Here are the questions I would recommend you start out asking yourself as you’re thinking about your brand.

1) What do I think therapy is? What do I believe creates change?

Every therapy model subscribes to some sort of theory of change. Are you a CBT die-hard, and believe in thought changes and repeating positive thinking patterns? Do you love EMDR and BrainSpotting and think we need a neurological element stimulated for change? Do you see the benefit of DBT and people coaching themselves with hands-on worksheets? Many people who read this blog likely favor the Experiential approach and helping people experience something different in the room.

2) What does it feel like to work with me?

Are you calm and deep? Brisk and intellectual? Funny and jokey? Are you good at cheerleading, or do you take a more objective approach? Are you caring, or more distant? Do you swear a lot? There are clients who need your style, whatever it is, and who need what you do specifically. There are such fun and cool ways to express your personality through website words and visual design, social media, and writing. It’s one of my favorite things about the power of websites.

3) What population do I love working with, and think I’m the best with?

Ooooooo, this is often a very hard question for therapists, because what we’re really getting to is niche-ing. Many therapists do not like the idea of niche-ing to only see one type of client. Let me bring this alive for you in an example:

Therapist Website Example 1

I work with anxiety, depression, LGBTQ individuals, trauma, ADHD, and I see children, teens, adults, couples and families. I am trained in EFT, EMDR, DBT, and currently training in Trauma-Focused CBT.

Therapist Website Example 2

My mission is to help teens with ADHD feel confident navigating the world and embracing what makes them unique. Our culture is not set up to always celebrate the ADHD mind, and teens often take a big self-esteem hit when they don’t fit easily in the box. We will develop strategies for when they need to be in the box, and also find times when not fitting in the box is a huge advantage!

So, if you were a teen or parents of a teen with ADHD, which therapist would you choose?

Many therapists appreciate some variety of clients, and we can fear we will only see one type of client if we niche. We also know that one client can easily present with anxiety, depression, ADHD, relationship issues, and so on. However, every practice builder I’ve ever heard says that even though they have a specialized niche, it’s still only 60% of their caseload, because there’s always word of mouth referrals and “can you see my friend” referrals, etc.

If you’re struggling with the idea of niche-ing, or anything else in this post, comment below and let the community help you out! Do you know any therapists who you feel are crushing the branding game? Share their websites below!

You Guys, We Need to Talk About Your Websites and Headshots

Ok my lovely therapists, we need to have a talk.

It’s about your websites

… and headshots

Don’t worry! I am not trying to criticize or make anyone feel ashamed. I am coming to you with the genuine desire to help your business grow and help your current clients feel confident about sending your info to their friends.

I completely get that we’re therapists, so we’re not walking around with wads of cash falling out of our pockets, and technology can be intimidating. We spend our time learning the delicate inner workings of the human PSYCHE, who’s got time to learn technology? But we need it, we’re being tragically left behind. Our websites look like they were made in 2009 and our headshots look like a photo a friend took on a hike one day when our hair looked kind of nice. Don’t even get me started on the Psychology Today headshots … we can do better than this.

I’ve outlined some steps below that hopefully give you a place to start, and will link to some real website examples at the end plus some great resources along the way.

Websites

I know that the world of navigating websites and technology can be super overwhelming. Often times someone put up a website 10 years ago and was so relieved to get it over with that they have barely looked at it since then. Do you really need a great website? No, you’ll probably still get clients and referrals. But if you want more clients or you want a professional presence in your community, a modern and attractive website helps.

You have two options - either pay someone to build it for you, or build one yourself. It does take some time to learn how to do this stuff, but time is the price you’re paying versus money. If you would prefer to spend money, there are tons of great website designers, from solo designers trying to make a living, to giant companies built to design the website of your dreams.

Pay For Help

Humble Design Studio - if you’re looking for great quality but can’t spend tons of cash. She is offering so much value for very low cost.

Marks and Maker - if you’re ready to start taking your practice to the next level, and need some really on-point branding and strategy help, Melinda is your person. She works really well with people who are struggling to find clarity and direction with their branding. Super responsive and smart.

Nothing Design Studio or RADCAT Design - Oooo, look at you! Are you wanting to write a book or get known as a speaker? You’re ready for the big big dogs.

Creative Lady Directory - a great directory in you are looking for anything from logos to graphics to websites to knowing how those high profile instagram accounts got so dang good looking


If you pick build your own, and want to DIY some website action, here are some guides:

Platform

You will pick a website host and platform. Likely many of you are using Wordpress or GoDaddy because they’re on the cheaper side. I think Squarespace is far and away the best choice for a build-your-own website. They have a gorgeous platform, easy to learn, and it’s very well organized. Their templates to choose from are modern and lovely. They are only slightly more expensive, around $18/month.

The way to think about a build-your-own website is like being at a restaurant. You can choose something off the menu, and maybe ask them to tweak it a little, but you can’t edit everything. Like if you’re at an Italian restaurant, you can’t order sushi. I can make this heading blue, and this heading green, but I can’t make 5 different color headings. If you pay a web builder, it’s like hiring a private chef. You can have anything you want, but it will cost more.

Domain

A domain name is your website name. Like this site is www.becomingatherapist.org. You can buy a domain name from Squarespace SO easily, it’s like buying candy. If you bought a domain off of GoDaddy, or something similar, you can transfer the domain to a new web platform. I’m going to be honest, this is a pain in the ass. It’s possible, but I hate doing it. So just prepare for that. A domain off of a cheap website like GoDaddy is $8/year, at Squarespace it’s $20/year. Buy the more expensive option!!! It’s only $20/year for your SANITY.

Some people fear that if they get a new website and domain name, no one will find them easily. Here’s the harsh reality - unless you have a banging website, no one is finding you anyway. Just get the new domain. If you love your current domain name, just set aside some time and patience to figure this out, or pay someone to do it.

Content

I could spend a week talking about website content. There are several different approaches. Some take a polished, professional approach. Some take a more casual approach. I like a casual approach because that’s more who I am. Whatever your approach, it’s a good idea to write in client language, meaning words that will make sense to them. Here are words clients don’t use: interpersonal, relational, psychodynamic. I would even argue that clients don’t use words like healing, journey, path, embrace, or emotional intimacy when they are starting out on their healing emotional intimacy journey. They just know they’re frantic and upset.

Clients are looking at websites to see if you get them, not so that they can get you. Repeat this to yourself. I don’t think any of my clients even care about my education background or why I use EFT. They don’t care that I love dogs and the outdoors. They just want to know if I understand their pain and anger and confusion. An exception to this is if your pain journey relates to their pain journey. I’ve seen people artfully describe some of their own history in a professional way, so clients can connect with them.

Where this conversation really goes is towards branding and marketing, which are topics so deep and wide that there are hundreds of books written on each. It depends how far into this world you want to go. Your visuals and written content on your website are essentially communicating your branding. This is the point where some of you might be feeling really overwhelmed. DON’T PANIC.

I happen to be totally fascinated by branding and marketing so I spend a lot of free time learning about it. But you’ll do just fine if you couldn’t care less about all that stuff and just build a basic, attractive website.

Headshots

I’ve been relatively chill and flexible up to this point, right? Here is where I get demanding - you need to have an updated, professionally done, high-resolution photo on your website. Your headshot should be updated every 2-5 years. It drives me crazy when I see pictures that were clearly not taken by a professional, or are low-resolution (WHYYY?????). To me it just sends the message - I don’t care about this. Oh wait, you’re a relaxed free-spirit who doesn’t want to look like a stuffy attorney? You still need a professional photo! You can TOTALLY get a picture that captures your free-spirit - and it will look like you put some thought into it. I particularly love Katie K. May’s photos on her website The Group Guru. I also think she’s doing some badass therapy stuff, but besides this point. She’s got cool purple hair! She’s got tattoos! She likes crystals! And she’s got some really nicely done images to show that.

I’d plan to spend $100 - $300 on some photos depending where you live. The hard part is that you won’t know if you like them beforehand. So it is a little gamble. If you google or look on instagram for photographers in your area, you can generally get an idea of what styles you like. I knew I didn’t want anything cheezy or soft-focused-maternity-style, so I found someone whose photos I loved even though he didn’t have much portrait stuff on his page, and reached out.

Ok, I will concede - if you are totally broke and queasy at the idea of spending money on this, get a friend with an iPhone who can take a photo in Portrait mode, and see how those turn out. It might be fine. But if you run your own practice and are making a living, this is a worthy investment.

I know I’m asking you to take in a lot with this. I’ve been learning about website building and branding for a long time now, so pace yourself. My hope is that this post helps you get started, and help it feel more do-able.

Here are some websites to check out:

www.wesleyannelittle.com - this is mine. I’m doing a total website overhaul and re-brand in a couple weeks, but I still love this version. When I designed this, I wanted it to convey the words: Happy, Approachable, Inclusive

www.georgfaller.com - I designed and built this website. I think this is an example of a more professional tone. The words I thought of were Professional, Dynamic, Expert

www.suntiasmith.com - I’m obsessed with her main photo (called a Banner Image in the website world). It’s joyful, beautiful, professional, and seems totally welcoming.

www.wilkmazz.com - This is an example of when you pay the big bucks for something truly exceptional. Also a great example of how to write content and how to brand. I saw this website and immediately wanted to hire them. Why aren’t all lawyers doing this??


If all this feels overwhelming, but you also feel a tug that says you want to get clearer on how to present and brand yourself, I’ve got an offer for you. I’m going to offer a free 50 minute consultation for any reader who wants some website and branding guidance, or any other questions you want to ask me on this topic. Just email me and the first person to email me back (and wants this) will win!

Give me some feedback - is this helpful? Did I totally overwhelm you? Is there anything you want to know more about on this topic? Comment below!


When Clients Are Sick of Hearing "The Cycle"

I got a great email from a reader last week asking for a post on this tough topic. I love getting requests for topics - it helps me, too! This one’s for you, SRC!

Every now and then we do get clients who get sick of us using “the cycle” in our language as we help track what happens. This puts us in a tough spot, since so much of the work in Stage 1 is about helping them realize they are getting caught in this cycle of reactivity. The cycle is also a way we try to lift blame off of the couple. It’s not that you’re a jerk or she’s a jerk, it’s that this unhelpful cycle is created out of your interpretations, feelings, and actions.

If we zoom all the way out, I wonder if a couple who gets annoyed hearing “the cycle” is also stuck seeing the other person as the main problem. I find that such a hard part of Stage 1, where with some couples you’ve really got a long road to help them see what’s happening as co-reactivity.

If you have a couple who is giving you death glares or rolling their eyes every time you drop “the cycle” into a sentence, I’d start with this path:

Conceptualization

Ask yourself why you think they hate it.

  • Is it because one is adamant that the other person is to blame, and gets reactive around the idea it’s mutual?

  • Is it because they feel too boxed in, and see themselves as unique and not like other couples?

  • Is because there is a glaring issue, like alcohol abuse, or cheating, and “the cycle” feels invalidating or mismatched to their experience?

Experiential (In the Room)

I’ve tried the following interventions with some success:

Asking them. “It seems like it’s bugging you when I say ‘the cycle’ - what am I missing? Where is that hitting you funny?”

Joking around about it. “I know, you guys are so sick of hearing me say ‘the cycle’! I am doing it to help you guys see that neither one of you are jerks, but you get caught in this dance that neither one of you want to be in.”

Simply not using the phrase ‘the cycle.’ I will unpack each side and do enactments as I usually would, and say things instead like, “here’s where you get caught,” or “here’s where you guys get knocked off balance,” or “here’s the place no one wants to be, but our emotions are understandably strong.”

With all of this, what you’re really looking for is alliance and attunement. Is there a way to understand and validate what they hate about it, to get you back into a place of alliance and attunement. Sometimes joking works, but you’ve got to feel out if it’s working based on their reactions.

Share any helpful things you’ve tried in the comments below! Man, this is endurance work, isn’t it?

When Clients Don't Remember

Every now and then we get clients who have memory loss specifically about their action tendency in the cycle. Their partner describes what they said or did, and they say, “I don’t remember saying/doing that,” with kind of a shrug.

It’s a pretty effective coping, isn’t it? If I don’t remember, I don’t have to keep talking about this. I don’t have to feel bad. I don’t have to hear how much this hurt you. BUT they also don’t get their pain attended to, that caused them to lash out in the first place.

Sometimes I think they are bullshitting me a little here, the other part of me knows that their brain likely is protecting them from feeling shame and also that they were flooded and overwhelmed in these moments. They reasonably could be dissociating, or getting foggy, even if there isn’t a lot of escalated conflict.

The interventions I’ve had some success with are:

1) Validation

“We often don’t remember things when we’re flooded and when we feel kind of bad about how we acted. Our brains have good reason to protect us. Sometimes we are more overwhelmed in those moments than we realize, does that sound right for what was happening for you?”

2) Look for the trigger

“Do you remember what was happening right before you lashed out? What was going on?”

Sometimes bringing in the context of the situation helps them access more memory around what they did or how they felt.

3) Parts Work

I love Internal Family Systems (IFS) for parts work in these moments. I might say, “I totally get that there is a part that’s protecting you from remembering in these moments, and for good reason. I’m worried it’s also blocking us from seeing how you get hurt in these moments, or what is upsetting for you. Do you think this part might move over a little and let you remember more of what happened?”

See if any of this works, or share interventions that have worked for you in the comments!

Don’t forget to sign up at www.GeorgeFaller.com for videos and training news. He’s going to release a free 45 minute video on Enactments this week - don’t miss it!

New Blog New You

Welcome to the blog 2.0! I’ve been writing the blog for over two years now, which I can hardly believe, and I’ve been growing and changing and you have been growing and changing.

I feel like my focus has … focused. And I also feel like we’re so busy that we don’t always have time to read long blog posts regularly. Going forward, here are the changes you can expect:

  • Continued focus on how hard this work is, and how you aren’t a failure for having a hard time

  • Pulling in advice from outside EFT. I’ve gotten clearer that my values in this work are about taking in as much information as I can and not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I want to encourage us as critical consumers. Take what resonates, ignore what doesn’t!

  • Mostly shorter posts, with clearer messaging

What I’ve been loving this week:

Anabelle’s talk with Ryan Rana. Ryan Rana! Who is this sleeper hit? I watched this and for the first time in my life had the thought, “I should get a ticket to Arkansas.” Ryan Rana is the wise and gentle big brother I never knew I needed.

The Client Experiencing Cafe starting on Wednesday. I cannot freaking WAIT. I am working with so many clients who are not curious about themselves and resistant to the therapeutic process, I really need this guidance.