Josephine Hughes (she/her) (00:01.038)

I know it’s difficult enough to write your directory profile, but when you’ve sat down in front of your laptop to start, have you ever considered what people do when they search through directories of therapists? How do they actually go about refining and choosing a counsellor? In today’s episode of Good Enough Counsellors, let’s think about people’s search behaviour, what it tells us and how we can use this knowledge to improve the likelihood of them choosing you.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (00:40.814)

Welcome back to the Good Enough Counsellors podcast. And today I’m continuing my series on writing your directory profile. If you’d like to catch up on what I’ve already said about this before, please do check out episode 14 called Directory Profiles Ditch the Jargon and episode three, How do Clients Choose Their Therapist. To start this episode, I’d love to ask you a question. What do you search for regularly on the internet?

Are you into travel or clothes or something else? Being as you’re a therapist, I think you may well be searching for new courses to study or books to read. I see you in your CPD. Don’t hide now. I hate to admit it, but I don’t actually spend much time researching new therapy approaches. I’m going to be honest and tell you about some of my evening doom scrolling. The first thing to say is that I’m on my sofa on my phone. 

Somewhere, like 50 to 60 % of people actually use their smartphones to access the internet. So it’s really important that whatever you publish is optimised for mobile usage. That might be something worth checking if you’ve got a website. When I’m scrolling, I might start with social media and then move on to the headlines. When I’ve had my fill of those, I might then turn to my Vinted app and see if there are any secondhand clothes I’d like to buy.

On other occasions, I might search the internet more purposefully. This might be to choose a holiday destination or a holiday cottage. Or I might be looking for a trader to do some work on the house. I don’t think I’m very unusual in what I search for on the internet or how I go about it. Let’s see if there are any lessons to draw from this. To me, what it says is that at any time the directories may be searched by people in very different ways. 

I’m sure there are people who search purposefully like me when I’m looking for a holiday cottage. I have some clear ideas about what I want and I’m trying to find the cottage that meets those needs. Other times, I know I want a holiday, but I’m not sure where. So I may spend more time looking at the options, but sometimes the task seems too big and I’ll go away

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (03:03.982)

because the choice is overwhelming. And still other times, I’m just looking for something to distract me. I have a vague idea about what I need clothing -wise. Go on to Vinted and just have a look. I might be lucky and find something I really like, or I might put the app down and go and do something else instead. 

Now, I think each of those different user behaviours can be realistically applied to people who are searching for counsellors and psychotherapists. Let’s start with what I’d like to call the Vinted search behaviour. It may not be very serious. Someone may have clicked through on a link from somewhere like the Happiful blog, just from the viewpoint of curiosity. They may be thinking, well, what’s counselling about then? They may idly pop something into the search box and scroll through to see what comes up. 

At this point, it’s worth noting that if you’re one of the therapists on that directory, you’re not only competing with other therapists, you’re also competing with a host of other distractions. This might be the TV, another app that’s sending notifications and interruptions from children and partners. The person may not be concentrating very hard on the search. So what can you do about what I’d like to call the idle scroller? Is it even worth thinking about them? 

If you listened to last week’s episode on social media, you’ll know that I talked about the contemplation stage of change. Your idle scroller is starting to contemplate therapy and if you stand out, they may notice you and return at a later date. They may have decided to take action. Have you ever done that? Looked at something, gone away to have a think about it and then come back later? I’ve certainly experienced that in my practice with my niche for unintended childlessness.

When clients have told me that they noticed me a year or so before they actually contacted me, but they weren’t ready to see me then, but they’ve come back to me at a later date. I think if you’re clear and consistent in your communication, your message will yield results over time. Here’s a few tips to help you write for our idle scrollers. Please remember that I offer a lot more help to people who choose to work with me.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (05:27.662)

either in my group coaching programme, Therapy Growth Group, or in a one -to -one session. It’s so much easier for me to help you when I can work with you to identify what will make you stand out personally. But for the purposes of the podcast, I’ll give you my top three tips for our distracted scroller. 

What I suggest you do is have headlines that catch the eye. This would be something like, feeling anxious? Therapy can help. Next, focus on how therapy can help rather than your modality and above all, make it easy to read scannable content. No long paragraphs, please. 

Let’s move on and imagine now the person who has decided they were like a therapist and let’s think about their search behaviour. They’ll probably land on a page that asks them for their location and their problem to be able to refine their search. And then they’ll be confronted by pages and pages of suitably qualified therapists. 

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has heard the directories described as Tinder for therapists. And just like Tinder, your photograph may be very important in helping someone to choose you. In the absence of any other clues, a therapist may get chosen because they look like someone the client feels they’ll be able to talk to.

Your photograph is so important. I’ll return to the subject in a future episode in this series. But just like me, when I’m confronted by a plethora of holiday destinations, your potential client may feel so overwhelmed by the choice, they walk away. Let’s see what you can do about it. 

The first few sentences of your profile are crucial. If you’re on Counselling Directory, consider using the search paragraph function. And if you’re on the BACP directory, take care with the start of the section called Me and My Practice, as this is where your sentences are drawn from. Just remember, I’m recording this episode in June, 2024. So if you’re listening at a later date, do check as it may have changed. 

Let’s go back to another of my internet searches. If I’m using CheckerTrader, I’ll be looking for a particular type of person. For example, a plumber or a decorator.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (07:50.734)

I won’t want an electrician to be clearing a blocked pipe. And the directories actually encourage clients to look for specialists. They’ll ask clients to name their problem, which implies that there are some people who can help with that problem and others who don’t. It can be confusing and frustrating for clients to name their problem and then be confronted with a list of people that don’t seem to fit. Let me give you an example and in passing tell you that when I told my daughter who edits the podcast what I was doing and how this exercise brought out my inner nerd, she said, aha, a Hughes episode for sure. We do love a bit of research. 

I’ve just done a quick search for baby loss on the BACP directory. And while I found someone who included pregnancy issues in their profile, I was also offered an addiction specialist and mysteriously,

someone with nothing written in their blurb at all. Presumably, they ticked a box with loss in it. The addiction specialist had talked about the inner child, so maybe that’s why the search engine thought it was relevant. Who knows? But if I’d been a client, I think I would have been quite discouraged. There seemed to be a lot of false positives. 

Therapists who were coming up that didn’t seem to meet my needs and there was hardly anything to go on to help me choose which ones to look at more closely. How much easier it would have been if someone had clearly stated that they work with this issue in their first sentence or two. I clicked through on the person who had included pregnancy loss, not because she’d said anything specific about stillbirth, but yes, you’ve guessed it, because she had a friendly face.

And then the next thing I did was to check out what she said about her experience so I could see if she’d be able to help me. If indeed she did work with baby loss. This is where I’d found she’d ticked the box on pregnancy issues. And if I were a real client, that might have been enough to make me contact her. Well, if I couldn’t find anyone else who was more specific. Honestly, this is what made my niche working with parents who had experienced baby loss or was struggling to conceive.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (10:08.27)

so successful. There was no one else advertising that they helped with this issue. Thankfully, there are now many more counsellors who are trained to work with this. And if that’s you, aren’t you making it obvious? Think about what you’re saying in your initial opening sentences. 

Think about what you’re saying about your type of work and the words you use to describe them and make sure you include a description of your experience and why you’re a good person for the client to choose. It’s also useful to think about if you have anything extra to offer that might make you stand out. This could be anything from an additional language skill to experience in working with a specific diverse population. 

Now let’s move on to think about another type of search behaviour that we haven’t considered yet. That’s the person who may be turning to the directories because they’re feeling upset and are looking for help. They may not be searching in the same logical way that I’ve just described. Their emotions will be involved and they may well be desperately looking for help that they can access as quickly as possible. If you’re someone who’s trying to attract clients who may be feeling quite emotional, here’s some tips on what to do to help them. 

First, they may have a limited attention span because they’re upset and their logical brain isn’t fully involved. Their primary focus may be to get help now, and this can lead to impulsivity. Ever checked your phone in the morning and found that someone’s tried to contact you at midnight? That could well be your very emotional client. Although I’ve also had emails from people on Christmas Day who wrote and said, I thought I’d get in touch now while I was thinking about it.

Potential clients with a limited attention span may scan your entry rather than read it in any depth. So to help them, don’t have long paragraphs with long sentences. This is too dense and they won’t bother. Keep it simple. They may be focused on their feelings. So it’s helpful to use keywords about their symptoms. For example, crying for no reason, feeling overwhelmed, panic attack. This can also help if they’re doing a Google search.

Josephine Hughes (she/her) (12:30.51)

If you have relevant keywords in your profile, Google may take them straight through to your entry. And in that case, the impulsivity may mean that they contact you straight away. However, they’re also susceptible to decision fatigue. You probably know how hard it is to make a decision when you’re feeling upset. So remember to use a call to action that will speak to them and their need for help, such as get help now.

Sadly, many people have become accustomed to long waiting lists and I’ve certainly experienced clients being quite surprised that I can fit them in quickly. So if you have space available now, tell them. In all of this talk of writing directories, what I’d like you to do most of all is to put yourself in the shoes of your potential client. Imagine what will they be looking for when they pick up their phone to search? What do they need and how can you?

It can be a whole lot easier to imagine this when you have a clear idea about the people you’d like to reach with your service. And this is something I’d love to help you discover. If you need help with writing your directory, please do get in touch with me to find out how I can help. And that means that more clients will get the therapy that they so desperately need. Thanks for listening.

do come and join my Facebook community, Good Enough Counsellors. And for more information about how I can help you develop your private practice, please visit my website, JosephineHughes .com. If you found this episode helpful, I’d love it if you could share it with a fellow therapist or leave a review on your podcast app. And in closing, I’d love to remind you that every single step you make gets you closer to your dream. I really believe you can do it.