The Beauty of Graduate School
When pursuing a graduate degree to provide mental health services, you learn a crazy amount of information. Often, so much information that retaining it initially seems like an impossible task. We learn to how to diagnose mental disorders to DSM-5 diagnostic criteria. We cover and practice appropriate clinical interventions to provide clients, given their experiences and goals. We’re taught what research design to implement depending on the purpose of the study and when to reject the null hypothesis. We’re encouraged to advocate for vulnerable populations at the local, state, and national level. We push ourselves to critically assess the consequences of policy implementation on the people who are pushed to the margins of society. We internalize that our client, whoever they might be, is the expert of their story.
What we didn’t learn, however, is how to write for Google.
Perhaps I’m speaking from my own experience, but I have a strong feeling that I’m not alone. Actually, I know I’m not alone. My academic writing skills are not complimentary for SEO. In my academic writing, I feel the pressure to use big SAT words with an obnoxious number of syllables. When explaining a concept related to my profession or coursework, I use a definition that requires subsequent internet searches to decipher what I’m saying. The worst part? I beam at the content I have created feeling as proud as a parent feels after their kiddo wins their first t-ball game.
And guess what? Google does not share my level of satisfaction. Rather, Google feels as disappointed as that same parent after they find out that their child slipped the umpire $10 to make calls in their favor.
What does Google like?
Instead, Google likes when you create content that your clients will actually understand. At first, this concept was really difficult for me and was completely foreign. I’m paying for higher education; it should be clear in everything I create. Right?
I need to consider my role. I need to relate to the people who I am trying to get help. I have to put content on a page of a website for anxiety treatment in a way that someone who just had the worst anxiety attack to date can read and understand. The content I put on a depression counseling page should reassure someone that despite feeling isolated and unhappy, they’re not alone. My goal should be to make it clear that healing is not linear. Sometimes, life is really tough and we don’t always have the tools we need to get through it. After my reading what I put on a trauma page, someone should know there is no timeline of when they “shouldn’t” be affected by their previous trauma.
Optimizing a website for SEO, working on readability….these things are in line with our values.
This is why we do what we do: to provide our services to someone who really needs it. Our clients want to feel understood by the person their sharing the most intimate details of their life with. In this time, they’re probably not worried about understanding the intricate ins and outs of your approach when treating personality disorders. They aren’t preoccupied with your uncanny ability to include every academic term you can pull out of your memory.
Because, in reality, do your clients care about how academic and convoluted your website sounds? Not really. Instead, they want to know that you know what you’re doing, you care, and that you’re here to help.
Bringing It All Together
To be clear, I think higher education is a wonderful investment and an absolute necessity to provide quality services to your clients. Without it, you likely wouldn’t be half the practitioner you are today. There is tremendous value in being an educated, well-informed service provider. AND, we don’t have to flex our intellectual bicep when the opportunity presents itself.
This important lesson has shaped the way that I perceive my role in getting my SEO client’s website to the first page of Google. Additionally, this has uncovered a deeper level of empathy and validation I didn’t know that I could reach. I challenge you to consider this the next time you put something on the internet with the hopes of getting new clients. Consider what could be going on in their life in that moment. Think about where they are, not where you would like them to be. Talk to them, not at them.