“Do not let us despise the word. After all it is a powerful instrument; it is the means by which we convey our feelings to one another, our method of influencing other people. Words can do unspeakable good and cause terrible wounds.”—Sigmund Freud
Which is not to say that ALL psychotherapists should try their well-deserved credentials at blogging.
This article is for psychotherapists who wish to expand their private practice, promote an online business, and/or gain credibility. In addition to the headshrinkers, this guide can offer insight for the life coaches, yoginis, and fitness and wellness folks who have reached out over the years and asked, “So Linda, how DO I write for Huffington Post?” and “Can you help me get on Psychology Today?”
Here is a Q and A with caveats and advice, unique to me, and *not endorsed or supported by* HuffPost or PsychToday.
So get comfortable, grab a notepad, and pull up your big girl or big boy pants.
Snowflakes need not apply.
Q: How did you get on HuffPost?
A: The short answer: I emailed Arianna Huffington on a Tuesday and on Wednesday she said yes.
The long answer: *Nobody is really interested in that one…
Q: Should I get my feet wet with my own blog, first?
A: Depends. Are you a good writer? Nothing like experience to iron out the kinks, and find out if writing suits you. We all have our strengths and limitations. Take my clinical approach to counseling couples: you could offer me 3 times my hourly rate in cash, ply me with a spa day, and design a custom waiting area with Labrador pups bouncing off edible chocolate truffle walls, and my response would still be:
Just because others are doing it doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Or me, clearly. Awareness is everything. However, if you know the definition of ‘copy,’ you’re better off than someone who just opened a new tab to google it (I see you, homegirl!).
Mental health writing is not only spewing statistics, citing research, or selling self-care—that’s what grad school was for. Research-itis is an occupational hazard for many a well-intentioned clinician who blogs.
Second: Do you have the time, energy and tech know-how to devote to the rigors of weekly or monthly blogging? Consistency and quality content are king and queen. If you sell online products, blogging is a non-negotiable. People cannot buy from you if they cannot find you. Did I mention it’s a huge commitment? Honestly, website maintenance is like a full-time job. But don’t cry for yourself Argentina, learning the ins and outs of your WordPress dashboard is a huge confidence booster. Especially when your website’s theme goes MIA and takes six week’s of updates along for the ride into oblivion. Not that I know 😉
Third: Are you active on Facebook and Twitter? These platforms are ideal for article-sharing and promotion. Blogging on big media sites means ad revenue for them. Part of the deal is you help The Man make fat stacks by selling Invega Trinza, Chase Bank and Passages Malibu. As a general rule,the bigger your pre-existing audience, the better.
Q: Will I get more clients if I blog?
A: It can’t hurt. Posting content on the regular (as opposed to a static site where you’re not updating content) lets the search engines know you’re active. Everyone wants to land on the first page of Google. SEO (search engine optimization) is a highly regarded ranking strategy. For example, I practice in a town where you cannot walk to Urth Caffe on your lunch break without tripping over
seven hipsters six psychotherapists and an analyst. Blogging is a smart way of staying fresh, relevant and climbing the search engine ranks though link building and social shares.
Caveat: I don’t feature my blog on my private practice site. Though I highlight a few articles within the text of my about page, I send visitors off-site for wiredforhappy.com. Inefficient for most, I know, but I prefer to keep my online business separate from my private practice site. Also, I don’t offer an email opt-in for my practice site in order to keep it as distraction-free as possible (unlike here—open season, baby!). Alas, years of blogging means I’ve built a solid reputation with the Google Gods.
Caveat 2: If you are starting out or don’t yet have a lot of engagement on your blog, I recommend disabling comments and social media share counts. Nothing says, ‘meh’ more than low numbers and zero comments.
Q: How did you get on Psychology Today?
A: I did ALL the above, in addition to being featured on Tiny Buddha, mindbodygreen, and CNN.com, to namedrop a few. The vetting process for PT was more rigorous than HuffPost. I imagine this is due to the psychological nature of PT, while HuffPost has a more broad, current events-y and everything in-between feel. Most of the PT bloggers are PhDs and PsyDs, as well as college professors and published authors. In contrast, HuffPost is like the U.N., but cooler and with grabby headlines and biting bylines.
“So what are the editors looking for?” Hmm, great question, but hard to say since I’ve never been invited to NYC for the monthly staff meeting. Strange, I know. Color me optimistic, but I believe there’s an audience and a need for every mental health issue, big or small. My PT blog is called From Anxiety to Zen.
Because that’s not a saturated niche.
Q: What are the pros and cons of PsychToday versus HuffPost?
A:Professional edge-wise, I’m going with PschToday. A lot has changed since Arianna Huffington left HuffPost to pursue other projects. A few years back, HuffPost was everything in the blogging world, now some say it’s lost its cache. The majority of my media interviews have contacted me via PT.
Be that as it may, if you’re serious about getting your name out there, why not appeal to both? Social proof matters when you are trying to build a business.
Payment: HuffPost does not pay, while PT does (provided you follow their publishing schedule). I’m not sure of the remittance formula, but increased views of your library’s content over time translates to higher quarterly revenue. PT requires bloggers to post at least three times per quarter, while HuffPost does not have a limit.
Editors: PT assigns an editor to you, HuffPost does not. Writing for HuffPost does not guarantee your post will go live. I’ve had several submissions end up in the ‘thanks, but no thanks’ category.
The editors are supportive and available, especially when they show up in the blogger forums to clarify editorial decisions or other feedback. Your work may be edited by others, even though you have your personal editor (that you are advised not to use as customer service, btw. You can imagine the queries, what with all the techy scholars, and all).
Analytics: I began blogging on PT in February 2014. To date, I’ve published 50+ articles and my all-time views at present are around 2,750,000. HuffPost does not provide analytics. Both sites publish multiple articles daily, and some say HuffPost features hundreds.
Promotion: Writing on big forums does not necessarily translate to eyeballs on your articles, or increased traffic or subscribes to your website. Promotion of published posts is largely up to you.
Topic-wise, PT favors relationships, sex and narcissists, while parenting and esoteric topics don’t resonate as much. HuffPost is more varied and includes lots of different pages for submission consideration. Both allow you to cross-promote. For example, I posted this parenting article to PT and…crickets. Shortly thereafter, HuffPost published it and it got huge numbers.
This PT juggernaut (I just wanted to write that word) has nearly 500,000 views at present. It’s also the bane of my mental health and emotional well-being. I cannot count the number of times I’ve received long, and by long I mean detailed-autobiographical-TMI, email correspondence. Then there’s the Facebook direct messages (now disabled), the heart-breaking, and the mean-spirited commentary (PT lets you admin your blog comments. Thank.You.Sweet.Jesus), and that one time, wait, I have to pause to catch my breath.
Inhale the good. Exhale the bad.
Okay, I’m good to go.
Wait. One more point wp themes before the juggernaut party. Because I’m 12.
When PT promotes your article to their Facebook page, views and social shares skyrocket. It’s also common for the editors to change your title, image, and content. I love when this happens because I sound so much smarter than I am. One drawback to editing your title is losing all previous social media shares. A bummer when you’ve amassed big numbers and worked hard to promote a certain article.
In the case of “Forget Coparenting With A Narcissist…” or “Forget Coparenting With That Guy I’m About To Reference Below,” I lost 22k Facebook likes in an instant. I also gained 22 pounds of stress due to the inherent characterological issues of the dynamic involved.
Cue the juggernaut.
So I’m sitting home one Saturday night, utterly engrossed in re-watching Breaking Bad on Netflix when my phone rings at close to 10 pm. *Heart in throat* OMG! Why is Gus Fring calling me?
…while I’m in the PST zone, the caller ID reads Michigan or some faraway from Los Angeles, cold place. Naturally I don’t answer, but later retrieve this message:
“Hi Linda. My name is _________. My girlfriend just emailed me your narcissism article. I want to talk with you because I don’t think I’m narcissistic, and I would like you to clarify a few things about the article. Call me soon. I’m awaiting your response. Thanks, ________.”
Good. Gawd. Almighty.
One thing I will clarify is your responsibility toward engaging with the platform’s audience (just not that guy). And you will get hit up a lot.
And if the tale of the non-narcissist stalker has you feeling all the icky feels, stick to benign subject matter.
Q: *Whew! This sounds like a lot of work. I’m finishing up my post-doc program, I’m a parent and I work full-time. Is there an easier way?
The short answer: Not that I’m aware of.
The long answer: You’re right. Blogging is a fuckton of work. Blogging done right, that is.
Q: What are additional benefits to writing for HuffPost and PsychToday?
A: The opportunities are endless! Namely—reaching a vast audience of mostly grateful, lovely individuals looking for insight; cultivating relationships with esteemed colleagues; revenue; media interviews, speaking gigs, and book offers.
The part where I admit that yes, I am that dumbass who decided against a possible book deal with New Harbinger Publishing. A couple years ago I was approached by an acquisitions editor after this literary masterpiece went live. We started the proposal process and I…I don’t know…wasn’t into writing a book at the time. Big-time regret.
Q: But Linda, I gotta ask. You curse. Isn’t that unethical?
A: The two swear-averse people still reading this might say you have a point. The others clicked the back button on the first profanely stated point. And that’s a good thing. And it was methodical. Nothing against them, but if you can’t look beyond a swear word, you are sure-as-shit not someone I want on my website. And this is my blog, not a therapy office.
Also, I write how I talk. And how I talk is how I conduct myself in session. For those who work with anxious individuals, you’re familiar with the concrete, rigid, all-or-nothing mentality which keeps many a worried soul stuck in rumination. So yeah, occasional colorful language can be a conduit to breaking the ice, and modeling spontaneous, authentic, straight-shooting, decisive communication. Cotillion club graduates be damned.
To my next point. Just as screening is a critical tool to weed out clients who you aren’t qualified to serve in therapy, finding the right audience is crucial for your blog. Which leads to a most important lesson:
‘There is no everyone.’
Find your people and write for them. Believe me, once you gain exposure, the trollers will be a-trollin.’ Especially on PsychToday when you write about, well, anything, actually.
Lord, have mercy—the names, the allegations, the questioning of your credentials, your parenting practices, your typos, and every mishap since the day you boldly hit ‘publish,’ will be scrutinized. And if all this makes you cringe, uh…think I warned about that in the first part, hon. Rhymes with ‘blowcake.’
Q: Wow! This sounds great! Where do I begin?
A: That’s the spirit! Because there’s many ways to cut a cake, including my new favorite confection, the blowcake, do what sounds right for you. The following resources can help point you in the right direction. Of note: I don’t reference psychotherapists. And not to discredit their wonderful work, but I only promote businesses I have used personally. I started blogging in 2010 and the game has changed a lot since.
Laura Belgray is a popular and respected copywriter. An easy to understand and fun tool for copywriting is The Five Secrets to Non-Sucky Copy, which you get when you subscribe to Laura’s email list. I first read it in 2010 and I reread it at least once per year.
Naomi Dunford from ittybiz.com. She was huge back in the day, though a lot quieter now. I learned a ton about creative writing and marketing from Naomi. She’s toned down her delivery since the days of yore, but she’s still funny and smart AF.
Online business marketing:
Fizzle is the program I wish I had when I started. I swear, this resource would have saved me countless wasted hours of trying to figure out everything from email integration, to setting up e-commerce, to changing permalinks. The Fizzle team is fun, knowledgeable and experienced. I can’t say enough about Corbett Barr. Love that guy.
Tiny Buddha is a wellness juggernaut (last one, promise!). And Lori Deschene, the founder, is kind and gracious. Even when she rejects your submission. And reject, she will 😉 Don’t be daunted, though, persistence pays off, so long as you respond appropriately to her feedback.
MindBodyGreen is a favorite of yoginis, and all-things mind-body-spirit. Besides the exposure, there’s a good chance you’ll gain lots of shiny, new email subscribers. I think it’s relatively easy to write for them, too.
—Surround yourself with people who are more successful than you. Individuals who are smarter, more creative, and better skilled at writing and marketing. This will force you to up the bar and challenge your comfort zone.
—Write about topics you’re passionate about. Think of the common struggles of your clients and help them find a solution to their pain.
—Tell stories. Always protect client confidentiality and abide by the laws ethics of your licensing association, of course, but client composites are a wonderful workaround.
—Respect your audience. Don’t put up crap just because you were up until 4 am with a teething toddler. Better to wait and post quality content. Speaking of, I purposely suspended my RSS feed for this one. Why? It’s not nice to send an off-topic article to thousands of readers who signed up for anxiety-relief tips. Not to mention, risking dozens of unsubscribes.
—Remember, we buy services from people we know, like and trust.
—Have fun! As mental health professionals, we have an ethical imperative to spread the good mental health word. Best of all, there’s room for creative, unique voices of every background, niche and professional credential. Sure, there’s tons of competition, but the audience is infinite, curious and eager. And let’s be honest, needy, too. To borrow Psychology Today’s tagline, we provide ‘insight about everyone’s favorite subject: Ourselves.’
The therapeutic relationship forms the basis of our work, but our words support the foundation.
Word to your mother.
If you enjoyed this article, please share with your favorite human interested in writing about mental health and wellness. The social media buttons are down yonder.
Best of luck!
Yours in creative writing and colorful language,