Direct mailing allows you to speak directly to potential clients. Some therapists also use these communications to reach out to former clients, offer resources and guides that sharpen their brand image, and position themselves as experts in their chosen field. While mental health awareness is at an all-time high, psychotherapy utilization actually declined between 1998 and 2007. This suggests that therapists can do a better job educating the public about the unique benefits of therapy, and in so doing, expand their potential client base.
Benefits of Direct Mail for Therapists
Direct mailers come in many forms. You can send fliers talking generally about your practice, or more detailed guides that offer consumers practical help. For example, therapists who specialize in supporting clients with dementia may send out dementia guides and information. Some therapists opt also to contact clients individually via letters. This last strategy offers a more personal touch and is ideal for former or current clients. Therapists must, however, be mindful of privacy and ethical laws when sending personalized communications.
Some benefits of direct mailing include:
- Reaching a wider audience. Direct mailers can be particularly useful for contacting clients who are suspicious of social media or who don’t use email.
- A more personal touch. Most people get dozens of emails each day, and may never open, or even see, an advertisement. Direct mailers are harder to ignore and give you a chance to speak to the issues clients care about.
- Psychoeducation. Educating the general public about mental health issues is a valuable public service. It may also encourage people to seek therapy when they need it, which increases your base of potential clients.
- Brand image. Even when advertising recipients do not contact you for an appointment, seeing your name on credible, useful mailers can help cultivate a valuable brand while positioning you as an expert. Recipients may remember your name and refer friends and family to you.
Drawbacks of Direct Mailing
As with any advertising strategy, direct mailing presents some drawbacks, including:
- Cost. Sending paper in the mail is more expensive than many other advertisement strategies, so it’s important to ensure that your message is well-targeted and effective.
- Privacy concerns. When you send personalized mailers, you must ensure you send them to the correct address and that you do not reveal sensitive health information.
- Ethical and legal concerns. Each state’s licensing board regulates therapist direct marketing. You must check your state’s rules before sending mailers. In some cases, direct mailers may be severely limited, or even illegal. Consult with a lawyer to better understand your options.
- Choosing an audience. As more people turn to social media and blogs, it can be difficult to target the right audience via direct mailers. Many people will throw away any mail that appears to be an advertisement. You will need to know your audience and understand whether they are inclined to read mail advertisements.
Developing an Effective Direct Mail Marketing Strategy
Try these strategies to make therapist marketing efforts more effective:
- Identify the persona to whom you are speaking. General marketing efforts that attempt to target everyone may not work with anyone. Instead, try to target a specific demographic group, such as young parents, lonely seniors, or stressed college students.
- Provide something useful and interesting. No one wants to read advertisements. But a quiz for depression, tips for surviving new parenthood, or a link to a useful free ebook may attract a client’s attention.
- Ensure the mailer is readable and attractive. Ask someone to edit it for spelling and grammar. Check fonts and formatting for clarity and consistency.
- Put your contact information somewhere visible. A phone number in a tiny font could mean you lose a client with a mild vision impairment.
- Do not make assumptions or promote stereotypes. Avoid using scare tactics and other strategies that could offend or alienate potential clients.
- Be transparent. Clarify that the mailer is an advertisement.
- Get permission. If you plan on sending a personal letter to a former or current client, make sure you have reason to believe the client wants to hear from you.
- Provide opt-out information. If recipients no longer want your mailers, you may be required to stop sending them. Allowing recipients to opt out also ensures you don’t lose money on people who are uninterested in your practice.
While every state has its own rules governing therapist advertisements, some general principles apply:
- Advertisements must not violate clients’ privacy or reveal protected health information. Sending a postcard that contains information about a recent diagnosis, for example, is not allowed.
- Advertisements should not play on client insecurities or trigger mental health issues. They should not make clients think you are treating them or have diagnosed them with a mental health issue.
- Dishonest advertising is usually illegal. You cannot use a stock picture and imply it is your photo. Nor can you claim that you are qualified to treat conditions which you cannot treat. Offering discounts that you do not intend to honor and other deceptive claims may subject you to professional discipline.
- Your direct mailers may need to contain a disclaimer statement indicating that the communication is an advertisement and that there is no therapist-client relationship.
- Offering gifts or other incentives may be illegal.
- Advertisements must not overstate your credentials. A psychologist should not present themselves as a medical doctor, and unlicensed therapists should not indicate that they are prepared to treat clients without supervision.
Direct emailing is a newer form of direct mailing that can reach a wider audience, often at little or no cost. Therapists who find success with traditional direct mailers may want to put the same techniques to use with direct emailing. Clinicians should apply the same privacy and ethical rules, while remaining mindful that email is vulnerable to data breaches and interference by third parties.
GoodTherapy works with therapists to provide ethical, effective therapy. Whether you’re just starting out or building a multi-location practice, we offer continuing education seminars, educational blogs, and much more to help you grow your client base. Our therapist directory is highly popular and can help the right clients find you. Get listed by joining today!
- Olfson, M., & Marcus, S. (2010). National trends in outpatient psychotherapy. American Journal of Psychiatry, 167(12), 1456-1463. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.2010.10040570
- Power, C. (n.d.). Counselling directories: 10 tips for effectively marketing your therapy practice. Retrieved from https://julietaustin.com/counselling-directories-10-tips-for-effectively-marketing-your-private-practice