How to Write a Powerful Therapist Profile

Film still: The China Syndrome

Today we're traveling back to the 1970's for some lessons in how to get your message across even when you're having a meltdown. Ok, it's better not to have a meltdown as a therapist, but these examples are great for dramatic effect.

How to talk so people will want to listen

The 1976 movie Network shows us a laid off TV newscaster cracking under stress. His message, however, is not lost on the audience. This man knows how to talk to people -- he feels their pain and expresses it. He knows how to resonate.

"My life has value... I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore."

Now that's a message that digs in deep to the core of human feelings about fairness.

Avoid jargon

On a similar note, the movie The China Syndrome presents a nuclear engineer charged with exposing a dangerous cover-up at a nuclear power plant. Unfortunately, his message is lost as soon as he gets caught up recounting  the technical details of the reactor failure.

I can't find a good clip of the control room scene (a good indicator of it's lack of resonance 30 years later) but here is the trailer.

When you write your profile remember:

  • Your clients needs are more important than your accomplishments. Speak to them, not about you.
  • That said, if you've been in their shoes, tell them you've been there.
  • Speak simply and highlight the benefits of therapy.
  • Mirror your clients phraseology to create better tone
  • Check out popular non-therapy "About" pages
  • Educate in pace with your clients curiosity, save the jargon for later

And finally, writing online is like addressing a TV audience -- it's easy for anyone to "change the channel" and ignore you. To counter that you must be more performative than you would be in your office. Your statements must be simpler and your gestures must be larger.

Be bold.

Your Turn: What do you find compelling in a profile? Do you like to read or do you rely on photos and video? How much is too much? What turns you off and makes you want to look elsewhere?



I agree that keeping it simple is a nice approach; I think a profile or service description should be like a cover letter: a basic, well-written overview that covers the highlights and leaves you wanting to know more.

As for the first video, I think what was so compelling about that guy was that he was able to capture and reflect how the general population was feeling at that particular moment. I think any time you can create something that makes people feel that it's speaking specifically to their own needs or experiences, you've struck gold.

OK; You're mad as hell, and you aren't going to take it anymore! Great. Now - what ARE you going to do? If I am searching for a therapist (psychological or physiological) what I want to know - after I've ascertained that they "get it", is what is he/she going to do to help me "not take it anymore". What weapons do you have in YOUR arsenal? Which would you choose for my particular type of combat; and why? Basically, what do you know (or have) that I do not? So, when you write your profile; brief is good. However, not at the expense of omitting compelling information. Because, let's fact it - if we want to vent; we can call our friends for free. If we want our sore back just rubbed down a little bit; well - we can probably get a friend or family member to do that, too. BUT, if we want new information, new tools to cope, new ways to move our bodies so that we don't hurt ourselves - THAT we need a therapist for - so, you tell me; what ya got?

leigh's picture

I think that's where the pacing comes in. It's hard when you're writing for a general audience to go into too much detail -- but for those who've been around the therapy block and or are already educated on the options it's too general.

This is where knowing your audience and speaking only to them comes in. If you're working with lower income/lower education groups you might need to ease into into the nitty-gritty theory more slowly. If, on the other hand you specialize in anxious, debt riddled associate professors contemplating a career change... you can go right to the meat of the fun and interesting stuff.

Ask yourself, do my clients enjoy thinking? Do they read for pleasure? And adjust your prose accordingly.

It's also important to note that the average online reading level is between 6th and 8th grade level. Here is a handy dandy free online document readability tester:

To give you an idea of how it works I ran the content of this blog and came up with a readability score of 69.36 and a grade level range between 7 th and 9th grade.

Also, remember it is exceedingly rare for anyone, even the most educated peeps to read all the way to the end of an article online -- most people skim.

Jakob Nielsen has a great article on how low-literacy users process information online. It's a must read if this is your demographic:

These are the great practical tools (weapons in the arsenal) that I was speaking about; and indeed - I intend to make use of the resources quoted in your comment above as I go through the process of re-vamping my marketing/networking strategies. Thanks for the practical, useful advice provided on your blog. I'm sure it is helping many to better their businesses.

I second that.

I've always liked watching these two movies, not only for their dramatic effect, but for the love of the actors themselves, and let's face it, Michael D. is quite the hottie in Syndrome!
But to get back to the business of business, I think that in order to reach all educational and income levels, you have to start out with your basic precepts and 'tools of the trade' in the first paragraph. Then in the second and third paragraphs, you can begin to get meatier and more theoretical and analytical and deeper. When the material gets to 'heavy' for your target audience, they will automatically stop reading, because it is beyond their comprehension or interest level.
However, for those who are more into your material, or are more educated in this field, or are more intelligent or well versed, then they will continue reading, understanding, and hopefully applying the message in you present.
I wouldn't go farther than 5 well-crafted paragraphs, with some photos showing men, women, children and even a pet who benefits from massage therapy due to arthritis for example. People can understand these pictorials, because as the saying goes, "a picture is worth 1,000 words".
Personally, when I'm reading online health articles, if there are pictures or drawings or diagrams, my eyes wander over to them and analyze them first, then I go back to the article, 'armed' with the pictorial knowledge that I garnered when I studied the graphic design.
Lately, I've been trying to grasp the fundamentals of Wordfast, a translating tool, for my translating business. It has a not-so-easy way of describing how it works, even with their crappy tutorials. And they want 650 Euros for it to boot. So they may lose my business if I don't get through their basic instructions for this CAT tool!

Personally, I like the tri-fold brochure, which because of it's folding divisions, allows the service provider to explain all of her or his therapies, benefits, customer raves, photos, contact information, payment options, referral coupons, etc. in a very understandable and easy to read format.

And of course, make sure these colorful brochures are available at your front desk in a clear lexan holder for all to see. Make sure the referral coupon inside is explained to your client so s/he will feel motivated to give that brochure to a friend, which will contain a hefty discount (or even free visit) to the giver.

It's a marketing world, and those who understand the strategies will get ahead faster. Coupled of course, first and foremost, with the ability to bring relief to all sufferers who come to get some TLC at the hands of their favorite therapist of massage provider.

I wonder if there is an online course for marketing strategies directed at therapists in particular?
In Ohio, if you are over 50 years old, you can attend any state university, and take any courses you wish for FREE. I'm not sure if that is the case in all states. But if you're younger, you might want to take just one course for a fee, in the advertising/marketing field.
I' m always telling my husband he should do this with a business course, since he is a self-employed engineer, and his business sense is waaay low, even though his engineering abilities are waaay high. He finally made a budget after 35 years in business, so finally realized how much we need to make ends meet. Way to go, hubby!

I'm safe, he doesn't read this blog!

leigh's picture

Hey andrea - wow! who knew Ohio was so supportive of senior education? That's great. I'm sure there are plenty of online marketing courses but I would be wary of them over all - unless it's industry specific course you're going to get a lot of unhelpful and poss. bad information. Better to create your own reading list and learn that way.

I'm not a big fan of brochures as they are too costly for most new businesses - I'm more into standard 4"x6" postcard take-aways - you can order a 1,000 of those for less than $100 delivered. But everyone who has a business wants a brochure ;)

Maybe I'll go through my library and make a therapist marketing reading list. I have some new posts on business models and marketing coming up - so stayed tuned!

Sorry, Leigh - I am with Dr. Drea on this one. The old-fashioned, tactile, tri-fold brochure has it's place - especially if what one has to offer in the way of services in varied, complicated, or unique. However, you have a very valid point in the cost-benefit ratio question. So, what to do? Well, if you are just starting out - don't order 1000 - order less, even tough you may pay more per brochure. Check out how your target audience responds to the brochures you make available. And yes, pictorials are good. Any time we can use all the learning channels (visual, auditory and kinesthetic being the big 3), the better our chances of actually reaching our audience and keeping them engaged. As for five paragraphs - well, it would work for me, but most of the men I know would get lost or bored by the middle of the second. So, they have to be REALLY well-crafted; and humor definitely helps, too. The hardest thing about a brochure (for me) is translating the design in my head to what I want to see on the paper - and then getting it into a format that a mass printer/copier place could replicate and duplicate easily. Which is why I STILL don't have mine finished yet! In the meantime, though - the postcard idea carries through. As for continued education - another choice (in some instances) is to "audit" a course - often for a lesser fee (since the prof is not grading your papers, looking over your projects, or advising you on specifics) and yet you get the benefit of the prof's knowledge, as well as those of your classmates, if you are willing to talk to them a little bit. I, too, am leery of "online learning", though I know there are many fine and reputable institutions out there that are either all online; or offer online learning options. To my mind, no matter how high your IQ, or how many post-doctorates you have, there is no education comparable to self-education. Just my two cents.

leigh's picture

Yes, but with the way printing costs are if you 100 you might as well but 1,000 for $10 more.

Like said, I know this a loosing battle - every new businesses wants their brochures :) Just wait till we do the cost per acquisition math (up coming post) and then decide.

I did not realize that the difference in price was so little for so much more; like I said - I'm a long way from the printer - unfortunately. Or maybe not. If you're right; and I don't really need brochures - I'd be interested in how to explain my particular "a little bit of everything" services and products business adequately on a 4-6 postcard. Always open to new ideas.

Therapists must be thoughtful souls... and that may be why they get bogged down in the details. As in producing a quality brochure for a low price, say $0.10 per unit. As much as a stick of gum or perhaps a sucker.
What I meant as 'brochure' was a single page of heavier bond paper, not quite as thick as cardstock, maybe 24# or a little heavier, just so it won't crumple in someone's hands, and so it will have a nice feel to it, and this alone will keep it in a purse or on the counter at home.
You would choose a soft pastel color, such as peach or light teal (the paper color choice is wide so you have a good selection) and you go to your local college and find the students who are studying computer design or graphic design, or VCD-- visual communication design, and ask one of them who does artwork on the side, to place the items you have selected on the piece of lightweight cardstock you have selected. In other words, you have a "paste up" using post-it notes for the text you have written, and the artwork or photos temporarily taped to this trifold pre-brochure piece of paper. You can work with a legal-sized paper, to make your brochure slightly wider if you prefer.
This way you both can move around your bits of information to make it fit just right. When you have decided what looks best, your 'assistant' will type it into his computer and 'drag' those graphics or photos just where you want them. Coupons, contact info, testimonials, can be added towards the end, on the back side of the paper. It can be two sided, it just has to go through the copier twice. He can burn you a CD, and you take it to Kinkos or Staples, and they print out as many copies as you want, and it will look professional enough, but not to 'slick' or 'gimmicky'.
At Kent State University here in northeast Ohio, my daughter revived the advertising club, and they went around campus and beyond offering their services to advertise any department, function, or business for free. They would only have to pay for the materials, not the actual artwork/computer time. It was such a hit with everyone around town-- from menus to T-shirts to event posters, you name it. This sort of helped Gina get an internship at a large Ad agency, as it was 'volunteer work' which counts for a lot in these parts.
So, if you're not to savvy on the computer, find some college kid who is, or if you have $200 to spare, pay an advertising intern at a local Ad agency or an Assistant Account rep to help you enter the info you have in the computer and print it out there, or burn it to disc and take it to Kinkos for reproduction.
Think of it as a fun project you've been dying to do, and it will get done faster than you can imagine. Mind over matter they say!
And, of course, in addition to the tri-fold single sheet brochure, those 4X6" postcards can be placed in a similar holder, and they would have a synopsis of the main information, for those who just want to read the basic benefits of their beloved therapist.
After this task, you will need to polish your website, just as Miss Leigh is doing, streamlining operation, adding graphics, getting the 'bugs' out, and making a blog place where ideas can be exchanged to expand our horizons and learn new ideas aimed at supporting the therapists and their work.
And lets not forget the little tray containing our business cards, of which one gets handed to each client when s/he leaves the office, saying "Please visit our website, we just added...." .
You can get FREE business cards made at VISTA PRINT.COM. I got one hundred for totally gratis, just had to pay for shipping and handling. You design them online with their templates, VERY EASY to create by the way, like child's play. Many designs to chose from to suit every taste.
Good luck with your next project!

Dr. Drea - thanks much for the advice; I will peruse it again and "take what I need and leave the rest" as I believe that is the best advice anyone ever gave me. I do already have business cards (some from Vista - as you mentioned - and a few more "more professional" ones from the Staples Copy and Print center. I could probably easily find help in adding graphics to the brochure once I figure out what I want (Miss Leigh AND her business partner are both artists - real artists with degrees and experience - and connections. I am currently (and temporarily I hope) "stuck" in finding the graphics I want - and quite frankly the time an energy at the same time to go forward on the project. But I have the card stock, the text, etc. - you and I are on the same wavelength - I do believe; just not at the same point on that wavelength. As of yet - no website. Then again, MY target audience is the one nobody else wants - limited financial resources, limited educations, but truly NEEDING the help I offer more than your average "middle-class"citizen (whom I have also worked for; and successfully, I will take on anyone who cause is right and matches my skills or need for my specially-made products). My case is little different as I am not technically a therapist (though tell that to some of my clients/friends!) and I have no initials after my name (because I have not earned them). Things for me move at a slower pace; especially right now with the challenges of integrating a difficult personal life with an emerging service business concept. Your advice, however, is well-taken - and as we both know that there is a time and place for all things (I'll spare you the scripture quote; as I'm sure YOU already know it!) - it's just a matter of keeping the faith. Thanks for your input.

Well I think you're on the right track, because your devotion as a 'therapist of sorts' is aimed at the ever-growing humble population. Are there any "Free Clinics" in your area? They charge on a 'donation basis' or based on annual income, so anyone can afford to go there and get their treatment. I would go to a couple of them, and offer to provide your much needed services to their clientele. They probably don't have any therapists to speak of, and would welcome your soothing hands and/or exercises, that you could provide to those needing your loving ministrations. Why, even the doctors who volunteer their services will be standing in line to get your form of TLC!! I would even go to churches and provide a Saturday Clinic for the women to attend, where you charge a small fee, but you get a lot of ladies to work on. You could also visit Spas, and offer your services there, and since you don't have 'the initials' after your name, you could still do some form of therapy/exercises for those who need them. I'm praying a ton of work comes your way, and also that you'll get those 'initials' like Miss Leigh does, so that you can charge lots at a Spa or Salon, and still provide some time at the lower end clinics where they can only pay you a stipend.
Good luck, and God bless,
Dr Drea

OK Denise and other valuable Therapists,
Just saw on the news that there is a Therapist out there who totally 'gets in the buff' to better serve her clients, as she's found it helps them to open up and bare their soul better (I guess since she's baring it all, this helps them come clean easier). Some say she's using this tactic as a 'marketing tool' in order to drum up business! Nooo, really?
To my mind, thongs and pasties aren't appropriate either, ladies--- so let's suit up, one and all! Plus, you won't catch cold either!
Here I thought the patient was supposed to disrobe, not the doctor!

(FOX news, Friday)

Dr. Drea: Thanks so much for both the advice and the laugh (really - thongs and pasties? I'm no prude, but......). Anyway, I fear I have misrepresented myself on this blog; and of course I want to clear that right up. What I "do" isn't really any type of definable "therapy" - perhaps some form of "talk therapy" does come into play, but mostly - it's Advocacy (and any other sort of legitimate assistance one may need: research, errands, hand-holding, writing/editing, admin. asst. tasks, very basic accounting tasks - help people set up a budget; for example) and also provide, on request, some specially-designed "green products" for people with allergies, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, or just plain environmentally-conscious to the point of desiring alternatives to what is out there for some very real needs (and some wants) too. Whatever "therapy" I give comes into play in the assessment phase - where I am interviewing a client to discover exactly what they are hoping to get from enlisting my services - a better classroom placement for their struggling child in school? A complete copy of their medical records - translated into "laymen's" terms, so they can make appropriate decisions about their care? A letter to the vendor who did them wrong; or the local consumer advocacy program if that doesn't resolve the problem? Or do they just need an hour of someone's (mine) time to help them focus on multiple issues at once and create an outline and schedule for attaining their goals? See what I mean about no real "box" to put me in? Most of those who come to me do so by word of mouth - and for where I am right this minute in my life - that is fine. There will come a time, though, when I will want to implement some of your suggestions (which could still work for me, by the way-and actually gave me another tangent idea or two). And for that, I thank you. As for those missing initials after my name; someday I may try to fix that - I don't deny that I would get a certain satisfaction (other than being able to charge more money) from having a "formal" education. However, today, there are people out there - right now - in their business and personal lives - who could benefit from my services- as is; and that will be where I go looking to serve my higher purpose first, when I get some of my own personal issues out of the way. So again, I thank you kindly for your thoughtful suggestions and your well wishes. And the same to you!

Mercy, Denise...
Back in the day, before initials graced the names of therapists, you would have been the go-to-sage, and everyone's best friend, for all the knowledge and comfort you were willing to impart! Like a Jack of all trades, who could help with most of life's daily problems, as well as knowing the theory of a well-placed leech! I bet you're busy fro dawn til dusk, giving every one a hand, in a variety of practical and useful ways.
God bless you for an extraordinary calling, and glad we got to meet online, in Miss Leigh's parlor!