These days, it’s common for therapy seekers to shop around before settling on a clinician to work with. They might be considering different kinds of therapy, or just looking for someone who feels like exactly the right fit before moving forward with ongoing sessions.
Empowering consumers is an important first step in getting them the mental health resources they need and deserve. But as a private practice therapist, you might also be worried. Is this (increasingly universal) habit of "therapist shopping" bad for your business?
The answer, it turns out, is yes and no.
While there are some downsides to therapist shopping, there are serious benefits as well. And simply staying informed of this trend can help you understand what it takes to stand out and connect with the right clients! Here are four pros and three cons to keep in mind about the effects of therapist shopping.
The pros: 4 benefits of therapy shopping
1. Clients who contact you are interested in your approach
Therapist shopping gives clients the chance to consider different kinds of therapy, and explore which modalities appeal most to them.
In other words, by the time a therapy seeker who's done a bit of shopping contacts you, there's a good chance the treatment style you highlighted in your professional statement (or your introductory video) is what propelled them to reach out.
They're entering sessions inspired to learn more about how they can apply the techniques or theories you recommend to their everyday lives.
2. Clients have already invested time into the possibility of working with you
If the initial phone call goes well, and the client determines that you’re someone they could work well with, they've already put a considerable amount of time in – and are excited to work with you specifically.
They've invested time and effort into their search, and are that much more likely to make the most of sessions, and have a positive experience overall.
3. Your most engaged clients will stick with their sessions
Clients who are benefiting from sessions are more likely to stick with their sessions longer and cancel appointments less often.
In turn, that consistency leads to less scheduling work and more income for you over time (not to mention, inspired and motivated clients!).
4. Engagement and trust make for more fulfilling and creative sessions
Having genuine engagement right off the bat often means that clients understand and trust your philosophy. They may even be more willing to try out new techniques and strategies with you down the line.
The cons: 3 downsides of therapy shopping
1. You might save appointment slots for clients who don’t end up staying
When done to an extensive degree, therapy shopping can lead to scheduling headaches. You might save appointments for clients who don’t end up continuing after their first session or phone consultation.
This can make it hard to manage your schedule, and for the average therapist, one open schedule slot can lead to losses ranging anywhere between $400 and $800 per month.
2. If you're one of several therapists a client is considering, they may be less invested in their initial appointment
Working with a client who is shopping around may shift expectations for both you and the client.
When you’re not sure whether a therapeutic relationship will continue past the first session or two, it can be harder to feel invested in the process. Those early sessions could also be less in-depth than they might otherwise be.
3. Clients who are overwhelmed with choices may take longer to actually start their search
Therapy shopping can be overwhelming for clients, especially when they’re working with large directories that take time to pick through.
Sometimes, the search for a therapist can leave clients so exhausted and frustrated that the process itself actually needs to be addressed in therapy. This need can delay work on the issues for which the client sought therapy in the first place.
The "therapist shopping" trend has great potential for your practice
When you're able to effectively communicate your specialties, you'll wind up with highly engaged, returning clients – who are getting the help they need, and whom you love working with.
For tips to make sure your practice stands out to therapist shoppers – especially would-be clients who are great fits – read our piece on how to address therapist shopping in your practice.