How To Market Therapy Services During A Pandemic (And Why You Should)

Covid-19, also known as the coronavirus, started late last year. With the cause of the flu-like pneumonia originally unknown, the cause was discovered to be from a novel virus that causes a severe respiratory syndrome. 

Today, 25 March 2020, the global spread of Covid-19 has already been declared a pandemic by the WHO. While reliable data is not totally possible to collect, the WHO states that 80% of people with Covid-19 recover without treatment. The other 20% who contract the virus develop a more serious illness which requires treatment and in some cases, is not treatable and people have died with the unfortunate outlook of more deaths to come.  

Governments and societies worldwide have implemented what are called “social distancing” recommendations. In many cases, it means that non-essential businesses and schools have temporarily shut down, events have been cancelled, some companies are sending workers to work from home, people not leaving their homes except for essential reasons like shopping for food or visiting a doctor.

This global crisis will have social and economic implications but also mental health implications that will be felt now and for years to come. 

Clients May Be In Crisis

Due to the pandemic, your therapy clients may be experiencing increased levels of emotional dysregulation. They may be

  • Unable to stop reading the news compulsively
  • Worried constantly about their job security
  • Uncertainty about basic survival needs like food and shelter
  • Grief over cancellations on major life events like weddings, travel, graduations
  • Health concerns about themselves and others
  • Catastrophizing about what’s coming next
  • Or in some cases, illness and death in the family or community from the virus itself or related health issues like lack of medical care as the health care system gets stretched beyond capacity

There is a lot to be worried about. Legitimately. So how can they cope? Where can they turn to for support? 

Changing Up How You Do Therapy May Be Required

Although many therapists are noticing that clients are cancelling or not calling in, clients still need you – desperately – but perhaps in a different way than before.

Pre-pandemic, you likely were doing one-to-one, face-to-face sessions. That is the “therapy tradition.”

But during this pandemic, and especially during a time when we need to practice social distancing, you may need to discover a new way to practice therapy.

While most therapists have already started practicing therapy virtually, there are some considerations even beyond offering therapy via video that may be wise to consider.

  • With the economic impact of the pandemic, can you make therapy more affordable? Perhaps offer online therapy groups? Or offer a course or ebook?
  • With the inconveniences of being home in close quarters with family or needing to take care of kids, can you offer shorter sessions? Like a weekly 20 or 30 minute check in? 
  • Can you offer both phone and video options for telehealth? Perhaps clients can do “walk and talk” with you on the phone more comfortably than sitting so close to their family to talk about personal stuff
  • Can you offer your free 15 minute phone consultation via video so that clients can try it out with no pressure before committing?  

Find what feels good for you and fits within your private practice and clinical boundaries. Being flexible on how you help during this time is vital. 

Being Realistic About Marketing Results: Clients May Not Need You Right Now

With everything that is uncertain right now, one thing is absolutely clear…

Your help is needed, now and ongoing. Those that need your help, need to be able to find you.

Although your help is needed, a lot of therapists are confused as to how clients can be so stressed out with the pandemic and also not calling them for help.

I’m not a therapist but my untrained opinion is that some people are in too much of a crisis to prioritize their own mental health. They may be more concerned about how they are going to get food when all the shelves are bare in their local supermarket or are suddenly searching for work because they find themselves unemployed. 

Basic survival will always come first before therapy, and some clients are totally there right now, living in their actual survival mode.

But what that also means is this: if clients are cancelling and new clients are not even reaching out, the pandemic is causing a lot of pain. 

The toll this is taking will lead to MORE people needing your help in the near long term and long term. It might not be today, it might not be tomorrow, but if you continue to make yourself seen, you’ll be first in line to assist when people are ready.

Two Reasons You Should Be Marketing Right Now

If you feel hesitant to market during a pandemic, I get it, but also hope to inspire you to continue to market yourself if you can. And actually, a time of crisis like the one we are currently in is the best time to ramp up your marketing efforts. Here are two reasons why.

1. The COVID-19 Pandemic Is A Mental Health Crisis Too

Most people are grasping the physical health implications of the pandemic. Many, many people are getting sick and some people are dying. With the overflow at hospitals, it’s making caring for everyone physically impossible in some areas of the world.

But what a lot of people aren’t seeing is that this is a mental health crisis too.

YOU ARE ALSO ON THE FRONT LINE. Continuing to market means that people can find your help.

The care that people need now, and ongoing, from the impact of this pandemic highly include mental health needs.

Things like trauma, grief, loss, anxiety, are all on the rise. Interpersonal abuse among partners and families will be made worse. And there is an entire generation of abused kids that are in the worst of positions with schools closed and having to stay in with their abusive families.

You are part of the force of humans that is uniquely qualified to help with our mental health. Keep marketing. Keep putting yourself out there, getting found, and helping.

2. Marketing Itself Helps People

Marketing has always been, and continues to be, a radical act of generosity if you want it to be. When done well, marketing can inspire hope that help is out there.

Marketing can reduce feelings of isolation. By helping people feel acknowledged in what they are going through, know that marketing helps people start feeling more ok. That is a gift and also the path to more helping more clients.

Instead of thinking of your marketing and your clinical practice as separate, shift your mindset to seeing that they are both key parts of your clinical practice. You already help people in your therapy room so how can you extend that help beyond? You can, and it’s called marketing.

Exactly How To Market Therapy Services During A Pandemic

1. Get Clear On What You Are Offering

What kind of help are you offering given the social distancing best practices? Are you offering one-to-one teletherapy? Or phone? 

With some insurances covering teletherapy, and some not, has the pandemic changed anything about taking insurance? Can you only offer private pay? Are some insurance panels off the menu?

Are you adding any new pandemic-related services like groups?

2. Get Clear On Any New Types Of Challenges You Help With

People are facing new and unprecedented challenges, are you a good fit to help? 

For example, if you typically work with highly anxious people, perhaps you are a good fit for people who are highly anxious about covid. 

Or, if you are familiar with grief and loss, you may be uniquely qualified to work with those suffering grief and loss related to covid (on all levels and areas of life – so much grief and loss right now).

3. Update Your Messaging To Be Pandemic-Sensitive

If you’re not offering any new help with new challenges, you may want to update your messaging to be more pandemic-sensitive.

For example, if you help childhood sexual trauma survivors, take some time to explore if the pandemic has brought anything up for them. Are they feeling like they are in constant danger – similar to as they were as a kid?

Or if you help couples, are there pandemic-related challenges that they now face? For instance, many couples are working from home together for the first time or trying to navigate the roles and responsibilities of domestic life and kids. How can you include speaking to these challenges and meeting these couples where they are?

Knowing who it is you help and with what types of services will help you move forward with communicating and being seen in how you are available to help. 

4. Update Your Website, Social Profiles, Directories

While it’s possible to market yourself without marketing materials that speak to your pandemic-related services, updating your website and other digital marketing assets may make things easier for you to communicate and easier for your referrals to refer to.

Ideally, you’ll want to update your website, social profiles, and directory listings with the discoveries you made about 1 and 2 above (any new services and new types of challenges you are qualified to help). Here’s a quick checklist of what to update:

  1. Update your website – how you are handling covid in the topbar, create a specialization page for online therapy services, including FAQs to handle objections or hesitations many may have to doing therapy online, and more – step-by-step directions on how to update your website.
  2. Update your social media – make sure new service offerings, like online therapy, are highly visible
  3. Update your directory profile listings – make sure new service offerings, like online therapy, are highly visible
  4. Update any other digital material that lists your service offerings with consistent updates

5. Reach Out To Referral Sources

If you are in a place in your practice building where you have existing referral sources, reaching out to them is really the first step in marketing right now.

How long has it been since you were in direct contact with them? Even if you talked with them a couple weeks ago, things may have changed in the meantime. With your newfound clarity on your service offerings and who you can help, communicate who you help and how you help so they can continue to refer good-fit clients. 

Especially if you are able to help with covid-related stress, make it known. Every referral source you have has also been impacted themselves and will appreciate, in their own experience and  feelings, how needed your help truly is right now.

6. Build New Relationships

You might shy away from trying to build new relationships in a time of crisis but I assure you, many people would love to know that you are here and helping.

There is an artform to building relationships completely online. It’s 110% possible to do. Given the topic of “how to network online” could be it’s own blog post, or even an entire book, I’ll simply provide some beginner pointers here to get you moving in the right direction.

As with any type of relationship-building campaign, start with research, discover who it is that you’d most likely want to get referrals from. Include therapists, doctors, healing professionals, and more depending on your niche. Who are the influencers in your niche space? Who are the people who have existing audiences?

Before you try to reach out to people who don’t know you at all, step back from your discoveries of who you’d like to meet and ask yourself if you might already know of someone directly who is from the types of people you listed. 

For example, maybe your sister has an amazing physical therapist that you met a few times when you accompanied your sister to a few sessions. Could this physical therapist be a good relationship to build?

You also might discover that you know of people who know of people – right? Two degrees of separation. Who do you already know that could introduce you to the people that they know of who could be good referral sources? And in an online way – perhaps via social media or email?

If you only do what I’ve mentioned so far, you’ll be doing a lot. Beyond this, you’ll want to build relationships by identifying people, engaging with them on social media, or simply emailing them or calling them directly. 

Show them that you are interested in learning more about who they are and seeing how you can help them. Invite them to have a virtual coffee with you sometime and see how it goes. 

Bonus Ideas For Getting Yourself Out There

Bonus 1. Create & Distribute Content

In the midst of a pandemic where many people are stuck at home, content marketing is even more important. Content could give people some emotional resources to help them feel more ok and gives both potential clients and referral sources a preview into how you can help.

In addition to your typical blog posts, you may want to consider creating content such as webinars, ebooks, online courses, infographics, or even podcasts. 

While your typical mental health content is still highly valuable, it makes sense to create content specific to managing our experiences of the pandemic. Not sure what you could write? Here are 18 content ideas (many of them created with our blog post idea generator):

  1. Feeling Fear Over Corona? What To Do About It
  2. What No One Is Talking About When It Comes To The Stress Of COVID
  3. 3 Ways to Feel OK During Crisis
  4. Tough Times: When It Feels Like The World Is Ending
  5. Feeling Overwhelmed and Exhausted Due To Corona Stress? Here’s How To Cope
  6. The 5 Best Resources for Easing COVID-Related Stress
  7. 10 Ways Therapy Can Help You Manage Corona Anxiety
  8. How To Tell If Therapy Is Right For You Right Now
  9. 3 Signs You Might Be Struggling With COVID Stress
  10. This Mindset Shift Could Help You Feel OK In Crisis Times
  11. Everyone Is Feeling Scared & Anxious. How To Cope 
  12. How To Find Support During Corona Crisis
  13. Creative Ideas For Feeling Less Isolated During Shelter-In-Place
  14. 10 Best Blog Posts To Help You Manage COVID Anxiety
  15. An Open Letter To The Friends and Family of People Grieving A Loss From Corona Virus
  16. 8 Books All People Should Read To Help With Crisis Anxiety
  17. How To Protect Yourself From The Collective Fear And Anxiety Over Covid
  18. A Simple Therapy Exercise To Ease Corona Fear

Note that some of the BEST content ideas ought to be coming from your clients directly. What are they struggling with? What are they saying is bothering them? How can you create content to help?

Once you have created content, note that you will also want to get the content seen. My top recommendation is to integrate your content into your relationship building so that referral sources, both ones you have already nurtured and ones you are reaching out to for the first time, might get a sense of how helpful you are. 

In addition to direct outreach with your content, you also have the typical distribution channels like your website, your blog, your social media profiles, and your email list. 

Getting this helpful content out there is part of your help helping.

Bonus 2: Get In The Media

If you already have been featured in the media before, reach out to the journalists and let them know that you are available for being quoted. Or, if you haven’t been featured before, now would be a great time to research journalists who are writing about COVID and mental health and building a relationship with them (twitter would be perfect for this!) or reaching directly out. 

Also, if you haven’t already, now is a good time to sign up for HARO and scan it for opportunities regularly.

There is also an ongoing need for guest blogging. So if you create content, consider getting that content published – but on someone else’s blog. Preferably a larger publication like Huffington Post or Mind Body Green.  

There are also quite a number of podcasts you could pitch yourself to if you’re good at speaking and prepared to speak about mental health and covid. You are an expert and many podcasts would jump at the chance to have a well-spoken expert guest during a high-anxiety time.

Marketing In Times Like These Is Part Of How You Help

Inspiring hope. Connecting with people. Letting others know that there is a way through this. The smallest of movements could make a huge impact for someone. So I encourage you to continue to get yourself out there and explore how you can best be of service.

Using your listening skills will ultimately be the most important skill of all. I’ve outlined what I believe to be some of the best-fit marketing tactics for the time we are in but your unique market will know best. 

Staying open to hearing how your clients need you and how they want to be marketed to are the ultimate guides to what to do next. Luckily, I’ve heard that you are an excellent listener. Put your therapy skills to work for your marketing and the world will benefit.

Important: Put Your Oxygen Mask On First

Using a familiar analogy: please make sure you put your oxygen mask on before you try to help others. 

Therapists are not immune to what’s going on and may feel both personally and professionally impacted by the pandemic too.  

In addition to fielding the increased pandemic-related anxieties of your clients, you may also have to care for your family and friends more now than ever. Likely as the “strong one” – many will be looking to you for comfort in what is a very scary time. 

Your own mental health may be in need of additional care. Like many humans right now, you may need to take things one day at a time and practice your best self-care.

It would be extremely easy to self-sacrifice in a time of crisis. If you feel like you are at risk of overextending yourself in any way or are already feeling burnt out, please consider taking care of you before putting together a crisis marketing strategy.

Your care of you is more important than caring for others.

Move forward carefully. Check in with yourself often. Love and accept wherever it is that you are – because wherever you are, whatever it is you are able to do, it is ok.

  • If you are unable to bring yourself to do marketing at this time because it’s simply too much for you, that is ok.
  • If you want to put yourself out there and show up in new ways to help, that is ok. 
  • If you start down a path and decide that you’ve over-committed and need to scale back, that is ok.

You are enough and whatever you are able to do is enough. 

Reach Out For Support As Needed

Just as you would encourage your clients to reach out for support when needed, I am about to recommend the same for you:

If you need help, find help, and reach out for it.

It could be joining a Facebook group, forming an online mastermind group with other therapists, or getting professional support from your therapist or business coach who can help keep you healthy, healed, and on track. 

I, personally, Kat Love am also here with you. If you feel there is a way I can help you, please do not hesitate to directly reach out anytime.

Kat Love

Hi, I'm Kat! I'm the founder and lead designer here at Empathysites. Therapists helped me heal from childhood sexual abuse so now I help therapists with creating their websites. I write on topics like website design, strategy, and turning website visitors into clients. Reach out anytime if you'd like to say hi. Pronouns: they/them/their