magnifying glass and letter tiles spelling "keywords" to represent the importance of business owners doing extensive keyword research when working on SEO

Counseling Keywords: Search Terms to Target for Your Private Practice Website

Trends in the United States for Counseling Keywords

As an SEO Consultant, I get to spend a lot of time doing keyword research for therapists around the world (primarily the US, Canada & UK).  I personally use several different keyword research tools, including a couple of paid keyword research tools. Using these tools, I look at which counseling keywords are most common and easiest to rank for in my client’s local area.

Every geographic area is a little bit different, and it’s important to target the search phrases most likely to be used by ideal clients in your particular area.  However, there are some general trends I’ve noticed as to which counseling related search terms usually have the highest search volume.  Thus…I thought it might be fun to share some information with you about those numbers.

A graph showing improvement in SEO rankings for private practice small business owners. Learn about our expert SEO services for counselors!

General Counseling Keywords


Search per month in the US

Counseling 253,000
Therapy 264,000
Psychotherapy 75,600
Mental Health 144,000
Counseling Services 12,100
Counselor 253,000
Therapist 264,000
Psychologist 557,000
*According to on 7/23/2020

Above is the number of searches per month in the United States for more general counseling or mental health related keywords.  Again, keep in mind this varies greatly by region even within the United States. But, according to this data (and it has remained fairly consistent across my keyword research tools & at different points I’ve looked), therapy is searched for slightly more often than counseling, but psychologist is actually searched for more frequently than therapist or counselor.

Search Volume isn’t all that matters when choosing even your general keywords to target on a private practice website.

Therapy, counseling, psychotherapy, mental health treatment…I’ve noticed that most therapists or mental health professionals have one term they prefer.  And your preference does matter.  There are differences between those words.  Some private practice owners feel like it’s incorrect to use the word “counseling” to describe the in depth, therapeutic work that they do. Other therapists offer a variety of treatments and find that both words describe at least some of the work they do.

But if you’re on this page, you’re probably pretty interested in what will get the most visitors to your website, right?  The simple answer is that I usually recommend using both therapy and counseling on a psychotherapy private practice website and throwing the words “psychotherapy” and “mental health” in at least once or twice as well.

If you don’t have time or a paid SEO research tool to do in depth local keyword research, I would recommend targeting the term counseling.  There are certainly exceptions and I’ve worked with several SEO clients who we found lived in an area where the term “therapy” had a much higher search volume.  In those cases, we used “therapy” more frequently than “counseling” for their sites.

It’s also worth noting that when you as a mental health professional target the term “therapy” you might be competing with other types of therapists such as occupational therapists.

What if I don’t want to use the word counseling on my website?

If you’re one of the mental health professionals who prefers to only use the term therapy to describe your work, you can still do a couple of things to rank for the term counseling.  For instance, you could write a blog post explaining why the term therapy is more accurate for the services you provide.  You also could use the term counseling in less obvious places on your page such as in captions or alt text of photos, in meta descriptions, etc.

Targeting Keywords Related to a Therapy Niche

I generally recommend private practice owners (or really any small business owner in a helping profession) focus on more specific keywords.  See, a client searching for “counseling” is great. However, a client searching for the specific type of mental health service you most enjoy treating is more likely your ideal client.  Personally, I know someone searching for “trauma therapy” is much more likely to be my ideal client than someone search for “therapy.” Why? Because there’s a much better chance they’ll be really suited for the type of work I personally do.

Does keyword strategy change if I have a group practice?

Keyword strategy doesn’t change that much if you have a larger group practice. The main difference is that you’ll have more keywords to target. However, people searching for more specialized things are still more likely to be really ready to begin your services. At Simplified SEO Consulting, we have a very specific way we go about choosing pages and keywords to target for group practices, but I’ll save that for a future blog post.  For now, just know it’s still important to target keywords related to specific niches within your group practice.

Popular Keywords related to Telehealth/Online Counseling

Online mental health services have been around for a long time, and at Simplified SEO Consulting we’ve been optimizing Telehealth pages for a couple of months. However, the field got a lot more competitive when Covid-19 hit, because therapy practices that had never before marketed Telehealth services were now putting up Online Counseling pages.  So, which keywords should you target?  Here’s what the data for the United States looks like as of 7/23/2020 keeping in mind that keywords related to online counseling/telehealth/online therapy could easily look a little different even six months from now:

  • Telehealth (22,000)
  • Telemental health (2,400)
  • Online Therapy (52,300)
  • Online Counseling (20,100)
  • e-therapy (1,100)
  • e-counseling (810)
  • Online Psychotherapy (590)
  • Online Counseling Services (1,200)

Keywords for a Trauma Therapy Page

As a trauma therapist myself, this is an area near and dear to my heart.  Here are a few search phrases you might want to optimize your Trauma/PTSD service page to include with the average number of searches for that term per month in parentheses:

  • PTSD Treatment (22,200)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Treatment (1,000)
  • Trauma therapy (3,575)
  • PTSD Therapy (1,963)
  • PTSD Help (1,065)
  • Trauma Counseling (975)
  • Trauma Treatment (587)
  • PTSD Counseling (477)

Keywords for an Anxiety Treatment Page

I’ve heard several times that anxiety is the most common pain point people are looking to overcome when they search for a therapist.  Again, I’ll list some of the keyword phrases you might want to target on your website below. I’ll also include the average number of searches for each phrase per month.

  • Anxiety Treatment (18,164)
  • Anxiety Attack (110,000)
  • Counseling for Anxiety (1,267)
  • Anxiety Symptoms (134,899)
  • Anxiety Disorder (60,606)
  • Panic Attack (135,750)
  • Anxiety Medication (110,455)

Keywords for a Couples & Marriage Counseling Page

I don’t personally do couples counseling so my private practice website doesn’t have a couples page.  However, I’ve worked with several therapists now who do specialize in couples counseling and I’ve had fun helping them optimize their website.

  • Couples Counseling (18,128)
  • Marriage Counseling (60,545)
  • Couples Therapy (27,082)
  • Relationship Counseling (7,941)
  • Marriage Therapy (2,383)
  • Premarital Counseling (8,067)

Remember these numbers are the average search volume for the United States. I was actually a little surprised by this research, because several of my clients live in areas where couples counseling is the most common.

Reminder: Know Your Local Area & Ideal Clients

I want to be clear that reading this post does not replace good, quality keyword research.  I know, you’d like for it to, because doing all that research to choose the perfect keywords that will help your counseling website rank better on Google takes time.  But the truth is that markets can vary greatly.

I go into every single new SEO job trying not to make assumptions.  This is because I’ve learned how different various parts of the country can be.  I mentioned above a couple of those things.  For instance, for some of my clients we focus more on optimizing for “counseling” and others the focus is a little heavier on “therapy.”

Remember, the goal of SEO isn’t just to rank well on Google for the terms you target.  The goal is to actually convert people to paying clients.  To do that, it’s important to know what your clients are actually searching for.  If you rank really well for “couples therapy” but everyone in your area is searching for “marriage counseling,” it’s not going to do you much good.  You rank well, but your ideal clients are calling your competitor down the street who ranks better for the right search term.

Search Volume of a Keyword Isn’t Everything

Ok, this might sound a little contradictory to what I said above, BUT search volume doesn’t tell the whole story. Sometimes I target search terms hardly anyone’s searching for. Why? Because the few people looking for that term are my ideal client.

As an example….I love working with survivors of sexual assault.  So, I target “counseling for rape survivors.”  This is a term very few people probably search for, but if they do, I want to show up at the top of their results.  I’ve had several sexual assault survivors call my practice saying they found us on Google.  I’ve helped another client target “Veterans with PTSD” in their area.  Again, not a high volume search term.  But if 10 people in their area search for that term every month, I want my client to show up at the top.

So…it’s a balancing act.  Pay attention to search volume, but pay even more attention to what search terms really match the clients you want to hear from.

Where to put keywords on your private practice website

Once you’ve identified which keywords you want to target, it’s important to figure out where to place them on your website.  Many small business owners don’t place keywords frequently enough on their websites.  However, a few people will put them TOO often on their website and it feels cheesy or can even get triggered by Google as being too “stuffed” with keywords.  Here’s another blog post I wrote on where/how to use keywords on your website.

SEO Services to Help You Rank for Your Counseling Keywords

Are you ready to get the website for your counseling practice ranking better on Google? If so, our team would love to help!  At Simplified SEO Consulting we help private practice owners (and those in related fields) get their mental health website ranking well on search engines.  As a mental health professional myself, I am passionate about helping connect people with quality counseling services and that means helping potential mental health consumers around the country find the right therapists through SEO.

At Simplified SEO Consulting, we offer Done For You monthly SEO packages if you’re a busy practice owner wanting to outsource. These SEO services mean we worry about your SEO for you while you sit back and focus on what you do best: counseling & running your business. On the other hand, if you’re the DIY type we offer SEO Training services so you can learn to optimize your own private practice website.

Are you ready to get your counseling practice to the first page of Google and in front of more potential clients? If so, you can schedule your free 30 minute pre SEO consulting call.  Let’s get your site ranking!


***All data updated based on KWFinder on 7/23/2020***


8 replies
  1. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    I work in a similar niche with some local mental health professionals. I think you also make sure that the keywords you use has the right intent from the searchers perspective. For example the keyword therapist might mean physical therapist or speech therapist also so I make sure I remind my clients and students to use mental health therapist to be more on target with that keyword.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      Absolutely! Great point Bruce. I find that this varies based on area, which is why it’s so important to think about search intent within the context of where the practice is located. My own practice is based in Missouri and if I tell someone in town I’m a “therapist” they want to know if I mean speech, occupational or physical. So, I named my practice “Aspire Counseling” and typically refer to myself as a “mental health therapist” or more often just a “counselor” when in fact I’m an LCSW providing psychotherapy. But in many other parts of the US mental health clinicians share that they’re almost always referred to as a “therapist” and when it’s without another qualifier it’s understood that’s referencing mental health. So I think it comes back to knowing who you’re targeting and thinking through user intent in that location.

    • Jessica
      Jessica says:

      So glad you found it helpful! Let us know if you have other questions you’d love to see answered in a blog post. Our staff love writing these and are always asking business owners what content would be the most useful for us to create & share.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.