Do therapists in private practice really need websites? Many of them have asked us, “do I need to make a website for my private practice” or “do I need a website as a therapist?”
Between the pressure from colleagues and practice building experts to have a website and the lack of clear information on what it really takes to build and grow a practice – knowing if you need a website can be a tough question to answer.
Is the investment of time, money, and energy into creating and maintaining a website necessary? Worth it?
This post is here to help.
Do Therapists Need Websites? No, Not To Fill Their Practices
I do realize it may be surprising that the founder of Empathycopy, a popular tool for helping therapists write their websites, is saying that a website is not a must. Like I ought to be biased towards every therapist having to have a website or something.
But the truth is, after helping therapists with websites and marketing for over 6 years, I can say definitively that a website is not a requirement to filling a private practice or getting a steady stream of clients.
What’s the alternative to having a website? Well. You will still need to learn marketing and likely ought to have at least a basic web presence (consisting of a directory profile, a google my business listing, and maybe a handful of posts or presentations on other people’s websites).
There are effective marketing strategies that are not dependent on having a website and, if you invest into learning those marketing strategies, you can use them to get full and attract clients.
While A Therapist Website Isn’t Required To Fill A Practice, A Website Can Make Things Easier
A website is a marketing enhancement and a helpful tool to have in the process of building and growing a practice.
Like if I wanted to sew a shirt, I would need materials and tools to help me. For materials, I would need fabrics and thread. For tools I would need needles and an iron. Oh, and I might need to invest in learning too.
But some of the materials and tools of sewing a shirt are optional. I don’t “have to” get sequins. I don’t “have to” even buy a sewing machine! I can totally sew a shirt by hand.
Yet if I did get sequins, it might make my shirt more fun. Or allow me to better express myself. And if I got a sewing machine, it would grow my sewing techniques and make the process easier and much faster.
The same goes for a therapist website. No, it’s not absolutely necessary but a therapist website can be an amazing tool in your marketing and practice toolkit.
That Said, Some Therapists Need Websites In Order To Build And Grow At All
If it’s possible to fill a practice with marketing know-how and no website, why would many therapists still benefit from having one? The short answer is: the “no website” approach doesn’t work for every therapist because for some therapists, having a website can meet critical human needs.
Critical because if these needs are not fulfilled it would hold them back from growing a practice at all.
So think of websites potentially playing a part in caring for two important sets of needs:
- Private Practice Needs: What the private practice needs to get built, get full, sustain, and grow
- Human Needs: What the human running the practice needs in order to care for what the private practice needs
A practice will fail if the essential private practice needs are not cared for but those needs can only be cared for by the human running the practice. So in order to take care of a practice, the scope of care must include the human too.
The Human In the Business Is Not Separate From The Business
I learned this myself the hard way. When I first started doing website design and marketing for therapists, I thought my business would be like a totally separate entity from me and my life. But time and time again, I’d notice two phenomenons:
One, if I was experiencing distress in my personal life, it would often influence my business. For example, when one of my closest life friends started being transphobic I felt a lot of anger and sadness about her views and a lot of grief and loss over having to end a friendship. These strong feelings influenced my ability to fully show up for my business.
The second phenomenon is that things in my business can also cause me emotional distress and influence my life. Like that one time when half of the websites I manage went down due to unforeseen technical issues… and on a Sunday morning.
I certainly felt activation within the parts of me that feel like things are out of control, that I’m not safe, and even that everything was my fault (even though it was a fault of the website host and not me).
So not only has my business been totally affected by my personal life, but my business has been affecting my personal life back. The human in the business is not separate from the business so they key to a healthy business is a healthy, functioning human.
Some Therapists May Feel Held Back In Their Ability To Grow A Practice Without A Website
Beyond fulfilling some of the needs a private practice may have, a website can also assist with fulfilling human needs that the therapist running the practice may have.
In some cases, these needs if they are not fulfilled would hold a therapist back from growing a practice at all.
Without a website, a therapist may feel:
- Uncertain around who they are or how they help
- Unsure of how to express what they offer
- Doubts about their worth or professionalism
- Like they don’t belong among their colleges
- Bored like they aren’t growing their skills or doing things they are excited about
- Voiceless unable to express themselves
- Isolated from the world, not connected
And these feelings are not stemming from private practice needs, they are human ones.
Once a therapist is aware of these feelings and needs, they may also be aware that there are multiple ways to care for them. It’s my belief that a website can be used as a way to care for these types of feelings and needs. There is no shame in identifying what it is you need as a human to show up and work in your private practice and caring for those needs.
In fact, I believe we should normalize it being ok to do things in your business because you need it as a human.
Let’s discuss the needs that can be met through having a therapist website for the practice and for the human. How could a website fulfill practice and human needs? What needs can websites help with? And ultimately, why would therapists want to consider having one?
As you move through the lists of needs below, take a second to breathe into them and see what resonates for you.
Private Practice Needs A Website Can Meet
Every practice has needs. They could be in areas like attracting clients or practice management and they could be needs for the short term or the long term. Here are how websites can meet practice needs:
My practice needs online marketing materials that can help with getting clients
A website simply existing doesn’t get clients but you can use a website as a tool in your marketing to make your marketing faster, clearer, and more effective.
My practice needs online marketing materials that can help with getting referrals
A website can help increase your authority and credibility, make it easy for referrals to know what you do and share with those they wish to refer your way.
My practice needs to have a reduction in administrative tasks
A website can answer annoying pre-sales questions like, “do you take insurance?” or, “do you offer online therapy?” filtering poor-fit-for-you clients out. Additionally, your website can provide important info for incoming clients like:
- Your contact information
- Access link to a client portal – pay or schedule online
- Information about your hours and location
- Access to forms
- Information about new services
- Helpful resources that you’d like to grant your client’s access to like downloadable media, pdfs, etc
Having a website care for these tasks on your behalf can cut phone calls and emails way down and increase therefore increase the ease you experience.
My practice needs to support incoming and current clients
A website can integrate client onboarding, feedback, offboarding tasks through software like schedulers, client portals, forms, and more. Another way to reduce admin but also provide a more pleasant experience for your clients too.
My practice needs to build relationships over time (related to getting clients and referrals)
Email marketing is a powerful feature you can implement on a website that can help you build relationships with potential clients and referrals over time.
My practice needs to grow from one-on-one to one-to-many therapy services (related to getting clients)
A website can help you start capturing interest in therapy groups, therapy workshops, therapy retreats and make the process of advertising and marketing your one-to-many offerings more easeful for you.
Human Needs A Website Can Meet
As the human running your private practice, your needs as a human matter. While we may want to believe that we can just stick to some magical blueprint on how to grow a private practice – the truth is, there is no blueprint.
What will be effective in your practice is determined by who you are and how you operate best. You are the one that powers your practice. What needs do you have that could be fulfilled with the creation of a website? If any of these needs were not fulfilled, would they hold you back from fully showing up and growing your practice?
I need to be confident
A website can help you get a really big boost in your legitimacy as a professional. This confidence can propel you forward in other marketing activities – like actually wanting people to visit and read your website.
I need to know myself & feel more clear about what I do
Sometimes the process of creating a website helps force you to be more clear on who you help and with what services. The task of explaining what you offer can get you more clear too.
I need to belong
If our peers all have websites, we may feel a sense of being excluded from the community if we don’t have one as well. Creating a website can help meet a need for belonging, participation, and acceptance among our colleagues.
I need personal growth
Being seen online and as a professional can challenge us in our personal growth. Would it be healing for you to publicly state that you are worthy and have something of value to offer the world?
I need to grow my skills
Creating a website can challenge us to grow new practical skills like writing, design, practice management, and more. You may already be interested in learning a website-related skill and use the process of creating a website to dive in.
I need play and excitement
A website can be fun for people who have a creative streak. Would you experience joy, fun, and flow in the process of creating and maintaining a website? If so, a website could totally fulfill that need.
I need to express myself
A therapist that creates a website will have full control of how they show up online. Unlike directory listings and social media profiles, when you create a website you get to choose what it looks like, feels like, how it reflects you, and craft the emotional experience that your visitor has.
I need to contribute
Websites can meet a need for contributing to the lives of others. A website can provide a safe, helpful online space by sharing free insights and resources like blog content, video content, ebooks, and more. In addition, content can improve marketing by helping website visitors understand your point-of-view and demonstrating how you help.
As an example of this, I can’t tell you how grateful I have been over the years for the blog of Kali Munro. Time and time again, Kali’s blogs and resources for sexual abuse survivors have risen up in my searches. (Additionally, because of the high ranking of Kali’s content, I’m sure they are not struggling with getting a full practice).
(This Should Be Obvious But) You’ll Need A Website For Online Ads or SEO
There are a couple of specific tactics that, if a therapist was interested in using them, would necessitate having a website.
These tactics would be either running online ads or doing SEO – neither are requirements in private practice marketing.
So things like Facebook ads, Instagram ads, google ads, or showing up on the first page of google search results organically: these are all things that are website dependent.
(I ought to write a whole separate post on this but: note that SEO, the set of best practices to implement to increase your website’s chances of getting on that first page of google, is best thought of as a long term strategy for practices that are already successful and looking to reinvest profits into the ongoing strength and sustainability of their brand. SEO is difficult, slow, and expensive and therefore not justifiable for most private practices. The two exceptions being (1) you’re a nerd who wants to DIY or (2) you reside in a suburban or rural area with low or no competition).
But in cases where a private practice owner has identified that they’ll need to wield these tactics in their marketing, they would need to have a website to run them with success.
Getting Clear On Your Practice and Human Needs Will Help You Determine If You Need A Therapist Website
Every therapist is different. They have different skills, different interests, different ways of thinking and feeling and being in the world.
While one may find it thrilling to dive into website creation, another may find it overwhelming.
And while many may tell you that, “you have to have a website” in order to be in private practice. It’s simply not true.
Instead, it depends on what you need as a business and as a human.
I’d love it if this post could help release you from the “musts” and the “shoulds” of websites and move you into considering you – you don’t need to abandon yourself to follow someone else’s strategy.
Perhaps the question isn’t, “do therapists need a website” but rather, “do I need a website?” Like do you need a website specifically given all of who you are, how you want to show up, and what you want to spend your time on?
For most therapists, there are business and human-needs-based benefits to creating a website. Did any discussed in this post resonate with you?
And if you discover that creating a website is in alignment with what you need, Empathycopy is here to help with getting your website written. We’re here to help.