In terms of online marketing, email marketing is thought of as a must but is email marketing necessary for a psychotherapy private practice?
The answer is, it depends.
In a Nutshell: Why Email Lists Are Awesome
Research shows that website visitors may not be ready to take you up on your services during their first visit to your website.
People are on the internet to do research, I mean, even to find a silly piglet video to watch, you have to research to find it. When people are online seeking a therapist, it’s not an exception to the rule. And there’s a very good chance that they’re looking at more than one therapist’s website at a time.
Even if you have amazing content that is engaging and wonderful service offerings, email lists allow website visitors to hear from therapists beyond the time they spend on their website.
Email lists also can help with marketing to referral sources to keep you top of mind and expose them to your expertise.
Even though there are many benefits to having an email list, do psychotherapy private practices really need to do email marketing?
Practices That Definitely Benefit From Building An Email List
What are the traits of a psychotherapy practice that definitely needs an email list?
- Your current or future business includes any of the following services
- Your current or future business includes any of the following products
- Products (example: mindfulness audio download pack)
- Books or E-Books
If you are a therapist who offers or is looking to expand your business into workshops, retreats, group sessions, products, or books, then you need an email list.
These business models benefit greatly from email marketing because as you build your list over time you can share value and sell your products and services over time.
Email lists help you build a waiting audience for the launch or offerings that you may be providing. Even if you are not offering these products or services at this time, if you ever plan to offer them, the time to start building your email list is now.
It’s Also a Matter Of Online Marketing Strategy
Content marketing greatly benefits from the ability to reach your audience through their inbox. You may want to more strongly consider having an email list if your current or future online marketing strategy includes any of the following marketing activities:
- Social media
- Guest blogging
- Authoring of a columns
- Or other forms of content marketing
If you are blogging, podcasting, or doing other forms of content marketing, an email list can help you keep your audience engaged with your content.
Unless there are direct subscription options, content marketing requires the audience seek the content out. In the case of an email list however, you’ve been given permission to show up in a potential client’s space, in their inbox, allowing you to share the value you are creating.
What About Email Lists And HIPAA?
HIPAA is of concern in digital spaces when you are handling PHI AND PII.
PHI: protected health information
PII: personally identifying information
Email list software will contain your subscribers’ PII, their name and their email address.
However, it will not also include their health information by default so email marketing and the software you use to collect and send emails to your subscribers is outside of the scope of HIPAA.
This means you do not need a BAA with your email marketing software company or to take any special HIPAA compliance steps.
That said, it’s still possible to use your email list or email marketing software in a HIPAA non-compliant way:
- Don’t use your email marketing software to store protected health information about anyone
- Don’t request that subscribers share or submit their protected health information to any forms or replies channeled through the software
As with almost everything, the software is not what is HIPAA compliant or not, it’s how you use it. You are responsible for keeping your email marketing software outside of HIPAA. That said, it’s easy to do! Simply keep the PHI out of it.
What About The Ethics Though?
Depending on your niche, services, and how you work, an email list could be ethically questionable.
It is 2019, and most computer-using-humans realize that subscribing to someone’s email list means they are agreeing to getting emails from you on an ongoing basis until they unsubscribe.
However, if you believe that people may sign up for your list without full awareness around how email lists work, then your specific niche may not be a good match for email marketing. An example of this may be working with the elderly, minors, or clients with struggles that require inpatient care in cases when their ability to consent to receiving email or understand email lists is impaired.
If something about your niche or services leads you to believe that the emails you’d send out could be triggering or somehow break confidentiality according to agreements that you make with your clients, then an email list also may not be right for your practice or for who you serve.
For instance, if you have a, “I will never email you” type-of-policy with your clients, it could be a bit odd to also invite them to sign up for an email list.
Many of the considerations to be made around ethics are highly specific to the practice and who the practice serves.
The Abuse of Your Email List Could Be The Unethical Part
A lot of the ethical questions and concerns around email lists depend on the following factors:
- How you communicate about your email list – are you clear and open about the type of content that will be in your emails and that they are recurring (a sign up that makes it clear they are subscribing to an email list not a one-time freebie)
- How you add people to your email list – it’s never ok to add people to your email list without asking their permission
- The content that you insert into the emails – not sharing details or stories from your clients, not writing very triggering content, not writing TMI/personal details about yourself
- If you share the information of subscribers with someone else – It’s a huge no-no to share or sell your email list with anyone outside of your practice.
Before writing off email marketing as something unethical or a poor fit for you, you may want to ask if email marketing itself is unethical or if the way that email marketing is abused that can be unethical?
If the abuse of an email list is what would make it unethical, then you can still consider email marketing as long as you follow common email marketing ethical guidelines.
Have An Email List? You Need A Media Policy
Any therapist doing any type of media needs to have a media policy as part of the private practice policies. A media policy would speak to not just email marketing, but also blogging, guest posts, commentary within articles, interviews, TV appearances, and media in general.
There are two spheres that any therapist in the media or creating their own media is in:
- Your therapy practice work – this is the work that you do direct with your clients including your intakes, appointments, between session communication
- Your media work – this is the work that you do with the media or producing and publishing your own media through any channel
Having an overlap between your therapy work and your media work is where there are ETHICAL problems.
To help with separation between the two spheres, have a clear media policy in your practice as well as a frank discussion with incoming clients.
This policy ought to include the boundaries that you’ll hold in media channels. For instance, that clients shouldn’t try to contact you through the comment section under an article you wrote. But perhaps it should also be said that clients can feel free to bring up a article-related-topic in session if it spoke to them.
Note: a media policy can also be an extension of your social media policy. If you already have a social media policy, you may simply be able to expand the scope of coverage to also include other types of media in addition to social media.
What If I Just Don’t Want To Have An Email List?
If you simply are not interested in, or dread, the idea of email marketing, starting an email list may not be for you.
The benefits of having an email list come from consistently connecting. If you’re going to promise your list that you will be emailing them, and then only email them once a year because you’re just not feeling it, the potential efficacy of having an email list is lost anyway.
Plus there are so so many marketing activities to choose from! Exciting ones! If you dread the idea of having an email list, try not having one, and going with a marketing plan full of the activities that you’re enthusiastic about.
Putting effort into the marketing activities that you feel passionate about will yield a better return because you’ll waste less time dreading the activities and spend more time doing the activities. Marketing that gets done is better than marketing that doesn’t.
Email Lists Might Be For You
If you believe that email list is something you’d like to start, there are a lot of great resources out there about email marketing and psychotherapy newsletter content ideas for what to put inside of your emails too.
This article is only one of many articles on email marketing for therapists, do some research into what people are saying and also how you are feeling. Does the idea of having an email list resonate with you?
I’m really curious about what you think! Is having an email list in your future? Do you already have one going strong? I’d love to hear from you on this through a note or a tweet. It’s great to hear from you.