Making A Compelling Case for Psychology

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It’s inevitable.  Once someone catches wind of your profession he/she begins to fire off a series of endless questions.

“So I hear you’re a therapist?”

Me: “Well, yes.  I’m in the mental health profession and I do a lot of different things.”

“Do you analyze what is going on with people all of the time?  Are you diagnosing everyone whenever you’re in a social setting?  That must be fascinating.”

Sound familiar?  It’s not uncommon and probably more of a nuisance than anything else.  However, in my mind, this kind of interaction reveals one of the main challenges within our field today.  It offers us insight into how people in our communities understand and define the world of psychology.  And if we look at this type of interaction more closely we find that it has a significant impact on how our profession is viewed in the marketplace and how we impress upon people the value of our services.  It is, in many respects, a marketing problem.

One of the main reasons why we experience these kinds of interactions has to do with the history of psychology as a whole.  Our roots are grounded in a disease-based model, and while this approach may have been essential to the development of psychology as a science, its growth within this model has also left us with some significant challenges.  Not surprisingly, one of these challenges is the fact that our profession has an image problem.

Ironically, when people think of the mental health profession they aren’t usually focusing on the “health” component.  If you were to conduct a free association experiment and offered the terms “mental health” and “psychology”, chances are those terms would conjure up images of psychiatric wards much more so than health and wellness initiatives.  Our emphasis on diagnostics contributes mightily to this image as it is presumed we are looking to identify what is “wrong” with someone more than anything else.  The scenario above is an excellent example of this negative image.  It may be disguised or couched as “fascination”, but the person in the above scenario is most likely suspicious or anxious about your intent.  They may be asking themselves, “Are you diagnosing what is wrong with me?”

You and I know that the field of psychology is about much more than diagnostics, disease and the treatment of the severely ill.  It’s also about personal growth and creating more meaningful and happier lives.  So how do we get this message across to others?  How do we create a compelling message that will excite people and get them to seek out our services?

Take a look at this video clip from Dr. Martin Seligman, past president of the APA.  It’s a compelling message about the field of psychology whether you agree with him or not.  More importantly, it’s a great marketing template.

Dr. Seligman Video on The State of Psychology

I also suggest you take a look at a fascinating organization known as TED. TED is a small nonprofit organization devoted to “Ideas Worth Spreading”.  It started out in 1984 as a conference bringing together people from three worlds:  Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  Go to their website ( and download other free video clips from some rather inspiring individuals. Listen to what they have to say, pay attention to how they say it, and then think about how you might craft your own compelling message with passion and energy – a message that others will not be able to ignore.


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