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Acting for Practice

Running start … to a great career: Developing your brand

Decide what you want your practice to be known for, then take the steps to spread the word.

Clay, R. A. (2020, January 23). Running start … to a great career: Developing your brand.

When Daniel José Gaztambide, PsyD, took his New York City private practice full-time in 2017, he knew he had to establish a brand for his business. He pored over online articles and other resources in an effort to “basically teach myself the equivalent of an MBA.” The result? Paralysis. 

The abundance of branding-related tips he found on business websites was just too overwhelming, he remembers.

“Not having had any business background at all, it was just an extremely confusing deluge of information,” says Gaztambide, who is also an assistant professor of psychology at the New School for Social Research.

To help himself focus on what really mattered, Gaztambide decided to enroll in an online class on setting up a practice taught by a therapist turned business consultant, then worked one on one with another consultant to hone a brand that suited his skills and his personality. He also read the 2017 book “Building a Story Brand.” As a result, Gaztambide developed a brand that expresses his quirky personality, his social justice values and his mission of serving young people and his fellow people of color. His logo, for example, consists of an image of his real-life eyeglasses, with “Dr.” written on one lens and “G” on the other as a way of showing his distinctive style but also his down-to-earth, approachable personality. The goal of these efforts, he says, is to persuade potential patients — even before they first contact him — that “I get you.”

How can you develop a brand of your own? Gaztambide and other psychologists recommend that you:

  • Outline your core values. Think about why you’re doing what you do as a practicing psychologist, says Watertown, Massachusetts, private practitioner Charmain F. Jackman, PhD. “What do you want people to say about you? What do you want clients to experience when they’re with you?” asks Jackman, who also has a consulting business focused on helping early career psychologists of color develop their brands. When Jackman rebranded her own practice, her first step was to develop a mood board — a collage of images and text she felt reflected the values that underlie her brand.
  • Decide who your ideal client is. For Vanessa Scaringi, PhD, who co-owns the Austin, Texas, practice CALM Counseling, young women with eating disorders are her ideal clients. “Having an eating disorder is a very chaotic experience for folks,” says Scaringi. “We want people to associate us with being able to work on something in a calm way, of getting more calm in their lives.” In addition to the name CALM, which stands for “Cultivate Awareness, Live Mindfully,” the practice uses a soothing blue and green color palette and nature imagery. in both its office décor and website design.
  • Tap some experts. “I tried to do everything myself and got burned out,” says Gaztambide. “I realized I needed help, and I was willing to invest in that help.” For him, that has meant hiring a writing service to outline blog content that he can flesh out in his own voice, plus a virtual assistant who posts his blog on his social media accounts and will promote his forthcoming book. Gaztambide also contracts with a company that creates Google ads for his practice. “That has worked really well to drive traffic to my site,” he says.
  • Ditch the jargon. Ask the average therapist to describe what they do, and most won’t be able to explain it in a way that resonates with potential clients, says Gaztambide. “Most will give some version of ‘I’m an empathetic therapist who helps people meet their goals by building a therapeutic alliance,’ but that’s shop talk,” he says. Similarly, many psychologists will fill their websites with big blocks of jargon-heavy text, Gaztambide says. “Most psychologists talk about where they went to school and the different therapies they use — things we think patients care about, but really only we and other therapists care about.” Instead, he says, focus on the patient and what you can do for them.
  • Create your own focus group. Get help developing your brand and sharing it with others by creating your own focus group, suggests Scaringi. She tried out her practice name and her elevator speech — a two-minute synopsis of who she is and what she does — on friends, family members and therapist friends. “At first, it was hard to say, “CALM Counseling” with a straight face,” she admits. “But just practicing it aloud and hearing people say it back to me made it feel more valid: I have a group practice and this is its name.”

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