The Luxury of Therapy

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The news is filled with stories of families making sacrifices because of a struggling economy.  Here’s a quote I’ve used on more than one occasion when I’m asked how things are going.  “Business is slow and I think a big reason for this has to do with the fact that people are having to make tough choices with their money.  Therapy is a luxury.”

Really?  The Apple store near my home doesn’t seem to be struggling.  College and NFL football games don’t seem to be suffering.  Are they essential items?

I’ve played the rationalization game many times and it’s a tricky and dangerous one to play.  Why is mental health treatment a luxury and an iPod a necessity?

When you look closely at the obstacles to selling you’ll find there are two main reasons why people aren’t buying what you have to offer.  Either they aren’t aware it exists or they simply don’t see the value.

The Awareness Issue

The process for building awareness has changed dramatically over the years.  You cannot simply buy exposure and expect business to come your way.  Markets today are about conversations and credibility.  Be a relevant contributor to a discussion and people begin to build trust and interest.

How do you accomplish this?  By implementing a permission-based marketing campaign, through the use of a sales progression model, by spreading your message and leading a community, by building strategic partnerships, and by identifying unique and powerful service offerings that people cannot ignore.  These are just a few ways in which you can do a better job of building awareness in your field.

Where’s the Value?

The second obstacle is the one I find to be the most elusive.

When I look closely at the idea of “value” from a marketing perspective, I find that it is closely linked to fear.  Fear of wasting time or money, fear of the unknown, fear of facing something that may be too painful to face, fear of going down the wrong path for help.

There are lots of people in emotional and psychological pain, and many are trying to find help.  These people don’t see relief from pain as a luxury.  Unfortunately, many of these folks have no idea what kind of help to seek.  As a result, they remain ambivalent about the treatment process altogether.  They fear what is out there, they fear the stigma, and they question the reality of their predicament.

I’m fascinated by this discussion, and am choosing to follow this line of questioning to its conclusion because I know it’ll pay off in spades.  And if you get there before I do please share what you’ve discovered!

Here are a few things I’m looking into as I work to solve the “Value Dilemma”.

  • Find ways to demystify the process.  How can I get my message across in a way that speaks to my target market?
  • Help people find what they need by removing any unnecessary barriers.  Give people every opportunity to take advantage of my services.
  • Find out if and why some self help gurus and self taught therapists are reaching people more effectively than I am. How can I learn form their successes without compromising the integrity and professionalism of my service offerings?
  • Stop marketing at people.  People will tune you out more often than not.  Find better ways to earn people’s attention.
  • How do I get beyond the initial and conditioned resistance response so people truly hear my message?


  1. Dr. Cynthia Giocomarra  October 22, 2009

    Hello David,
    You make some great points.
    The idea of mental health being a luxury while a new iPod or seats to a Broncos game is a necessity reveals how our society really values peace of mind vis a vis authentic methods of achieving that peace of mind. Now I am going to always cast my vote that a session with a therapist or coach is far more worthwhile in the quest for inner peace than say, a new pair of boots from Sak’s, but that is just me. There are people out there that value insight from the likes of mental health professionals. We just have to reach that audience. I think that you have tapped into a good way of doing that by using Twitter. You can draw from a large audience and hopefully someone that is in the market for what you are offering will connect with you. Twitter worked in terms of me being able to read your post and make this comment for you. You’re definitely on the right track. I’ll let you know when I figure it all out myself!

  2. David Diana  October 22, 2009

    Thanks for the input Cynthia. The challenge is figuring out the best way to reach that audience you speak of. And glad you found me on Twitter. I’ve found that the best way to leverage Twitter is by integrating it into other social media components like this blog. But I’d love to hear how you use Twitter and how it works for you. All the best!

  3. Dr. Cynthia Giocomarra  October 26, 2009

    To be honest, I have been using Twitter more for a learning resource than for a marketing tool. I have learned from our fellow Tweeple, and I enjoy getting to know people like yourself that are colleagues in the real world. An interesting idea was being bounced around concerning the notion of “Media Psychology”. This area of our field is certainly an evolving area of expertise, and since the APA view “internet therapy” as falling within the definition of Media Psychology, it seems appropriate and responsible to acquaint ourselves as much as possible with the arena. I guess the use of Twitter plays a role here, no? 🙂

  4. David Diana  October 31, 2009

    I think Media Psychology is a very interesting idea and field of study, and I have no doubt Twitter should be part of the discussion!

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