Uniting Marriage Therapists to Serve More Couples
Millions of couples, right now, are in pain.
If lucky these couples will stumble into a really good marriage therapists office with training and expertise specifically in couples therapy. Most couples won't be so fortunate, especially if they’re in a lot of pain that requires a therapist to hold an attitude of hope and optimism.
Based on a survey, the majority of self identifying couples therapists are neutral to pro-divorce.
Only 33% of marriage therapists report a hopeful stance towards marriage. Many individual therapists morph into couples work without any couples training at all which most often spells disaster for the couple unknowingly in well intended, but highly inexperienced hands.
The Marriage Marketplace Today Is Not Serving Couples Well
Nowhere do people spend so much money than on marriage and relationships. But as you’ve likely noticed, it’s all equalized – a random person can be a best seller sharing “marriage wisdom” with nothing more than their personal life story. A highly trained, masterful marriage therapist has no better chances selling her book simply by having the credentials.
It’s a dog eat dog industry, with the winners being the person who can sell the best. Actual knowledge, skill, research or training in helping couples is entirely unnecessary.
In plain English we're in a billion plus dollar market and we know almost nothing about what couples really want and how to attract them. But self help gurus are making millions off couples while we cower in our offices, believing our credential alone should garner attention and sales of our books.
8 Reasons Marriage Therapists Don’t Own the Marriage Marketplace
We have no organizing body of insider therapists with a focus exclusively on marketing and client attraction for married couples.
Marketing coaches are generalists in client attraction. The amount of time and expense to learn enough advanced marketing, healthy budgets to do experiments and see what works exclusively for couples and couples therapists is beyond what any marketing coach would focus on.
Marriage therapy is a local service, capped by 20-30 weekly clients. Most big marketers and industries make serious money online, not through in person, local, hours for dollars’ services. Thus these giants, unencumbered by ethical considerations and localized in person services are free to sell any idea to anyone.
We professionals divide by religion, model or political beliefs about marriage. If we look online, the primary leader is the conservative Christian market reaching out to couples in an evangelical voice with very few clinicians participating. The most active groups of therapists tend to circle around particular therapy models but none are focused on what works to attract the couples. Models primarily are about research and expanding the number of trained therapists.
Therapists are skittish about marketing. Many of us are so paranoid about ethical considerations we are frozen in a tragic, false belief that couples are not already seeking really awful advice, products and self proclaimed gurus. We have a history seeped in academia and medicine where you don't put yourself out there – people come to you! This legacy is still strong in our minds. “If we get the license and training, they will come because they will know we're the best.” It just ain't so! When we aren’t making the money we want, we feel ashamed, vulnerable and don’t want to appear weak to colleagues so we hide.
Lack of time providing our services with closed office clients means we tend to avoid the creative hubs where a lot of learning, growing, sharing and support takes place among entrepreneurs. We tend to stay busy inside our profession and not seek outside help to understand other business ideas (like the entire industry of e-learning, business models, pricing of materials, marketing, sales, blogging, etc.) Many marketplaces gather together focusing exclusively on their growth. Our “growth” marketplaces are simply our professional organizations wanting to grow their member rolls.
Marriage education is usually us blogging in the hopes of helping readers, or housed in non-profits, hindered by grants and restrictions on how they can help couples. Marriage events are great (we put them on through something called Marital First Responders), but it's not going to be scaled enough for us to have an entire marketing marketplace devoted to exactly how to fill low dollar (or free) live workshops. It goes without saying, money will always be the driver to trade time. Where’s the money, even if not to pay staff but to market to find the couples to fill the classes?
Competitive, fear based mindset pervades the therapy culture. Many of us didn't go into the field to be wealthy but it's hard to imagine how to grow our own practices if we're all learning the same techniques or writing the same books about strengthening your marriage. If our practices are not currently full it can seem like there is just not enough demand for our services rather than understanding it is up to us as an industry to prove our worth and create the demand. Competition can make us feel small and unworthy, too vulnerable to ask for support.
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What Exactly Are We Missing Today to Become the Leaders in the Marriage Marketplace?
We were at a big conference, hearing about the exciting expansion of the Give An Hour program where military families are given free therapy to honor their sacrifice. The program is expanding to elderly and other under resourced populations.. The goal is admirable, but it had Elizabeth screaming because the problem today for most people in urban areas is not lack of therapists. It’s lack of understanding why more people don’t seek the services already available and what exactly it would take to increase participation of people in their own mental health.
The following questions are the tip of the ice berg on how little we know but when we do, will make us the leaders in the marriage space for therapy and other information products.
In a marketing conference once, Elizabeth texted Bill and said, “What research do we have on what couples want?” He wrote back a funny response, essentially “phsaw, we tell couples what they need to hear. We never ASK!” And the light bulb went off. We’re talking AT couples and need to pivot to listening. All industries succeed when they first listen.
- What exactly convinces a married person to seek couples therapy? Is it an event, a slow simmer, an epiphany of some sort?
- What does that spouse say to their partner when bringing up the idea of couples therapy?
- What moves a spouse to agree to couples therapy?
- What is the journey like to find a couples therapist and how may conversations do couples have in seeking the best expert for them based on all the variables like scheduling, money, location?
- What is the lag time between those conversations and the first intake?
- What messages impact the thoughts or beliefs of married people to seek therapy or not seek therapy?
- What messages improve their likelihood of seeking therapy specifically?
- What happens if the spouse says no to therapy? Does the individual go to therapy, fester, read books, or bring it up again a few months later?
- How much does a married person read before making a purchase towards improving their marriage? What is the money spent on (a book, workshop, a vacation they hope resets their marriage?)
- What methods are best to attract couples within the online sphere of options: therapy directories, showing up on Google, email marketing, paid ads, Facebook business page posts, Google paid ads, Twitter, You Tube, or any other online hang out?
- What are the demographics of marriage seekers online and what are their patterns broken down by age, gender and what their pain point is?
- How many would prefer solid, high quality informational products before seeking therapy?
- How much do married people consume of material they buy? (Industry wide, regardless of the price of the product, 90% of buyers will never actually open the program to read/listen/watch!)
- What do couples do on a website, literally where do they click, why, how long do they stay, what do they do next?
- What exactly do the most effective therapy websites do or say that helps couples seek that therapist?
On and on the questions go.
So what do we do about it?
Well, here at The Doherty Relationship Institute, we have a very unique team. Bill Doherty is one of the most highly respected marriage therapists (by a multitude of third party endorsements from associations, organizations, journalists) but he also has a unique research, writing and public lens that has created powerful collaborations with unlikely bedfellows (he can work with conservative religious groups and secular, far liberal groups.) His tenure and perspective in the field are invaluable as we consider this huge feat of actually serving couples online and in our offices, with our professional identities (not dropping our licenses to go into coaching.)
Elizabeth Doherty Thomas, a pre-licensed couples therapist brings all the learned wisdom from growing up in the field with an insatiable desire to always be asking, “why, what and how.” Instead of taking what we know for granted, she’s dove deep into sales, marketing, human persuasion, e-learning, business models, and all the ways highly successful people ignite their audience into action. Afterall, who cares if you sell a lot of e-books or online material if it doesn’t create action.
Action for us is married couples lives improve. Simple as that.
Bill and Elizabeth are big, bold thinkers with enormous energy and creativity. We are looking for therapists like you, motivated to serve couples in their time of pain and to make their lives better as a result of the work you do.
This is our lifes work.
We can’t wait to get married couples back on track. Will you join us today? Membership is free with a LOT of perks including a public directory listing. (Yes, we’re ripping apart the pay to list directory model.) The experiments and offers will always have a “done for you” or “done with you component” so that you are moving into a strength position, reaching as many couples as possible.