By Whitney Owens
We all remember when fish decals on cars and WWJD bracelets on wrists were the fad. When we saw these items, we knew the users were Christians displaying their faith for the world to see. In some cases, this can be a powerful message. Yet, in other situations, it can send the wrong message, especially if the hand coming out of the car is giving you an unfriendly gesture.
First Impressions of a Therapist Matter
Often the first experience someone has of our business is our website. In the same way we notice one’s jewelry or decals on their car and create a judgement in our minds about that person, people will go to your website and make a decision about the nature of your business. Sometimes, the first impression of your private practice is positive. Other times it’s negative. But that first impression sticks.
The presentation of your website makes the single greatest impression on others about the work you do. It is vital that you dress it appropriately to display your faith and values. This can be a challenge for any counseling practice. However, it can be especially challenging for a Christian private practice owner. As a person of faith, you may or may not want to bring that into counseling sessions. In fact, many counselors hope to draw in believers who share their faith. Yet, you may not want to write your website in a way that would be a turn off for potential clients who don’t want a “religious” practice.
Step 1: Identify Your Ideal Client
As you begin to create your faith-based practice or maybe you are rebranding, it is important that you not rush the first and most important step. That first step involves identifying your ideal counseling clients. You want to consider your ideal clients’ age, gender, demographics, mental health concerns, and their faith.
As a counselor who is a Christian (or who identifies with any other faith system for that matter), you must decide if you want to work with solely faith-based clients or if you want to help all different types of clients in a variety of places in their faith journey. Some people identify their private practice as a “Christian Counseling Center.” Other Christian therapists serve primarily nonreligious clients who may not adhere to the same faith system. There is no right or wrong. The most important thing is to decide what kind of client you would like your own private practice to serve.
Step 2: Write Website Text Speaking to Your Ideal Client
Once you’ve identified your ideal client, you want to keep that person in mind when writing the text (also called copy) on your website. Visualize your ideal client and speak directly to them on your site. That said, the majority of clients that I work with prefer to write a website that speaks to Christians but also does not turn away those with no desire for faith discussion.
It’s possible to speak to both clients looking for a “Christian Counselor” and clients who have no desire to discuss spirituality.
Over the years I have found a way to do just that! I have new clients call with two very different perspectives of my practice’s website. One group says they called our practice because we are a Christian agency, even though nothing on the website says we are Christian practice. I have other people call who have been jaded by the church or would consider themselves nonreligious and want to schedule an appointment. They go through the counseling process never knowing that our counselors have a faith-background.
One way to subtly communicate your faith without turning away nonreligious persons…
I believe the key to being a faith-based practice that is not cheesy but speaks to the needs of all in your community is to speak in vague language that is religious but not overtly so. You can use imagery with Biblical references without rubbing it in someone’s face. For example, my practice has language speaking to renewal and risk-taking. It references jumping into water and finding freedom from the problems that entangle you. The Bible has multiple references to renewal and water, especially through baptism. The Bible also speaks to freedom from bondage and life in Christ. This language speaks to Christians when they view the website.
Another website I saw recently spoke to the idea of having encounters in counseling. The term encounter is often used in the church world as people speak of “encounters” with God. Many Christians see a practice of speaking about encounters as experiences referencing God. On the other hand, people without a faith background aren’t likely to be offended or upset by the content; they simply don’t notice the Christian reference. To give one more example of religious undertones, consider the idea of Chrysalis as a name or a butterfly as a logo for a counseling practice. The Christian community knows this as an analogy to death to self and growth in Christ. However, nonreligious people would more than likely not pick up on this idea.
If you are looking to write a website to draw in faith-based clients but also want to work with those hurt by the church, using religious imagery and concepts in your copy will help meet the needs of both of these groups.
Need Help Marketing a Faith-Based Counseling Practice?
If you would like help working on your faith-based practice and language for your website, I would be happy to help. I am a private practice consultant. As a Christian therapist myself, I specialize in offering consulting services to other therapists building faith-based practices. I have experience helping business owners market their Christian counseling services in a variety of settings, religious and secular. You can apply to work with me here or e-mail me directly at email@example.com. If you have a website that’s ready to go but want to work on Search Engine Optimization, I recommend speaking with the staff of Simplified SEO Consulting. In fact, many clients find the best results by participating in a mastermind and/or individual consulting while also working on website SEO!
About the Guest Author
Whitney Owens owns a group counseling practice in Savannah, GA. Her team of therapists offers a wide range of counseling services including working with children, teens, adults, families, college students & military counseling. Additionally, Whitney offers consulting services through Practice of the Practice. As a consultant, Whitney works with a wide range of private practice owners, including therapists building a faith-based practice. If you are interested in individual consulting with Whitney or participating in her Faith In Practice Mastermind group, you can apply to work with her here or e-mail her directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, she maintains an active Facebook group called Faith in Practice. I highly recommend working with Whitney if you are building a faith-based private practice!