I asked around to find out – my circle of friends are very comfortable visiting and discussing counsellors and psychologists.
Name, Address and Phone number (“NAP”) is about as basic as it gets. Make sure these are written the same way in all your online profiles, so that search engines will recognise it’s you. This helps your rankings in search engines ("SEO”). Make sure these and any email you give are centralised reception details, not individual – and actually monitor any addresses you give! If it's just you, pick one email address and stick to it everywhere to avoid missing emails. Every contact point should be something you check and respond to within a business day – so list fewer contact options if some won’t really be attended. Add your business hours and the basics are covered.
Also let’s assume you have a good designer or well chosen template for a “professional but friendly” look to the site.
About Each Practitioner
For solo practitioner this can be on the main page, but if you have several practitioners you might be better off putting common traits and values on the main page and listing your team on a separate page.
For each individual, you’ll need qualifications, a layperson’s explanation of who that means you can help, and any additional specialisations or abilities.
Here’s an example, including a range of information. Note how the main qualification is listed first, followed by who your main audience is. Next there’s “what can you actually do for me?” in terms that don’t assume the reader understood the qualification. After that we round things out with “extra skills” like techniques you can offer, languages and other skills unique to you.
Specialising in PTSD in sexual assault survivors
Can provide assessment for NDIS
Also hypnotherapy and EMDR
Sessions available in English or French
The goal is to help potential clients see whether you can help them or not, without assuming they understand all the different types of psychologist / counsellor / mental health worker.
It should be obvious how to make a booking. Make it clear what people need in order to book. If a doctor’s referral is needed, make it clear how to get that.
A good example might be a great big “book now” button leading to a booking form. Make sure if you use a form that it works well for everyone – many resent having to sign up to a third party, or switch from their phone to a laptop to complete the booking.
Describe what an appointment is like: how it is structured and how long it generally runs for. If clients are allowed to bring a support person or animal, and your services might make that helpful, say so. If you can, using a past client’s words can be a wonderful way to express what your service is like. Testimonials weren’t mentioned as something clients want, but they can definitely help your own goals for the website like getting clients to take a closer look.
If you’re a family therapist and need to see family members individually first, explain that.
Is there anything clients could be doing to prepare for their first appointment? Should they bring any documentation like past diagnoses or referrals?
Is there a waiting list? What is the process for joining it, and how will clients be contacted when they reach the top of the list?
What does a session cost, and is there a way to make the cost easier – for example, using a health fund, mental health plan or health care card? It’s fine to say these things aren’t available – clients who can afford not to use those will be more interested in what you can offer than the exact pricing.
Can you help clients with NDIS or other applications? It’d be great to list that!
Where are your rooms? Including a photo of your rooms and yourself can help some people feel at ease. Is there parking?
How much accommodation for people with a disability are you able to offer? Is there wheelchair access to the rooms? Disabled parking? ASD-friendly low sensory impact rooms?
What do you expect of clients? Punctuality? Payment in advance? Cancellation at least 24 hours prior to an appointment or they pay a fee? Listing a “late or missed appointments” policy can save a lot of trouble down the road.
Several respondents mentioned having had poor experiences with practitioners whose culture made it impossible for them to understand their clients’ needs.
For example, are you LGBTI+ friendly? Could you provide effective services to a deaf client?
If religion plays a major role in your life, that can make you better suited to help some people or unsuited to helping others. You can let people self-select by stating any affiliations that might be relevant or adding recognised symbols to your site (e.g., the rainbow flag).
Many practitioners don’t realise the assumptions they bring with them – ideally, a client shouldn’t have to teach you from scratch about major parts of their lives like belief structures, identities or their self-expression.
View your background as a positive – it is something to find good matches for not something to hide. An appropriate way to do this is to list the groups you feel confident about helping. There is no contradiction in saying that you are both “Christian AND LGBTI+ friendly” – that might help clients overcome their assumptions about you, and simultaneously feel safer that you’ll “get” them. People who identify with more than one disadvantaged group experience more discrimination in the world, so they are more often going to seek out services like yours.
Offer Immediate Assistance
Sadly, most clients wait until things are pretty dire before getting professional help. I’m sure you’ve experienced that. Other clients may take a long time to explore in private the issues that confront them, before they are ready to speak to someone about them.
You can help both groups by offering some guidance on your website, perhaps as a small set of resource pages covering the major themes you’re able to help with. Some common issues include Anxiety, Depression, and coping with distressing life events. The resources might might look like web articles or downloadable information PDFs on various topics. You could develop them yourself, hire a freelancer to develop them for you, and/or link to existing content from reputable sources such as the State health department or the Mayo Clinic.
The benefits are threefold:
- Clients are helped right away (aaah karma)
- The tone and style of your articles (or which organisations you endorse by linking to them) gives a taste of what working with you might be like
- Google LOVES information pages. It’ll help your search rankings considerably
How do people cancel an appointment? How late can they cancel?
What should people do if their need for help is urgent? Consider listing support services like Lifeline, the CAT team or 000 for people in crisis if you don’t offer emergency support.