Professional Association for Therapists
By Sue Pash
Adapted for students of the School of Natural Health Sciences, this is an abridged extract of an article in the e-zine “Therapists Side by Side”, published March 2013. Please see the ‘Therapy Network Online’ for details and facebook link.
I have written a course on the subject of Holistic Dowsing, offered through the School of Natural Health Sciences, and I also mentor students. I regularly get asked about potential commercial problems for a therapist who isn’t a member of a professional association.
My personal view is that a professional association or federation is there to serve members. It is usually possible for therapists to take external courses, take separate insurance if necessary, and stay with their association. If association membership isn’t dependent on having an association’s insurance, the economics of it to individual therapists mean that some choose to insure all their therapies independently.
As complementary therapists in commercial practice it is our money and we can decide how we spend it! The marketplace currently has both association members and independent complementary therapists, and there is room for both. Therapists weigh up flexibility of training, any savings in training costs, insurance costs, association subscription, the value to a practice of any association magazine, and perhaps how much work a listing on any association’s website is likely to generate.
I am sometimes asked whether not having a professional association makes a difference commercially – i.e. if the competition is displaying logos, or wearing badges, or advising potential clients of association membership, will it hurt my practice if I am not?
Let’s assume that two therapists of equal ability are marketing themselves in competition locally. One is listed on the website of their professional association, the other on an independent therapist listing site. Both can be found online, and unless a professional association is well known, and be the place potential clients search for a therapist, both have an opportunity to represent themselves. Either can also have their own dedicated website, even a one page online “business card” website may be useful, as could using a facebook business page.
A potential client’s choice to make contact with either therapist may depend on how easily they found them online, the information provided about the therapy, what each has to offer, their pricing structure, how much experience they have or even how approachable or professional they look on any photograph!
What about leaflets?
Along with online marketing, a therapist’s leaflets represent their practice as a whole and their purpose is to generate work. If it is important to them, potential clients can always ask the therapist directly, or request a list of local members from a particular association, or find the information online on the association website.
Leaflets are usually restricted in space for getting a message across. At their simplest, a leaflet could be a “What, why, how” leaflet. What is a therapist offering? Why might it be beneficial or suitable? (But do your homework and check out the latest advertising rules on the Advertising Standards Authority website). How does the potential client get in touch for more information or to book? It might also include how much treatments cost, and a disclaimer.
Online and leaflet marketing can eventually be a small part of a therapist’s practice – therapist referral and word of mouth recommendations are usually much better at generating work, but if a therapist is recently qualified, or recently moved to the area or clinic, this takes time to build up. When a therapist is generating plenty of referral and word of mouth bookings, association or not, their work speaks for them. In the meantime a therapist can decide to promote themselves as an individual therapist, or as an association member therapist.
If marketing space is short, there is nothing wrong in using what available space there is to promote why the potential client might benefit from choosing you. Knowledge and experience, being approachable, being empathetic, and having common sense…. Is there any career history that might support what you are offering now? Are you a former nurse, did you spend 10 years working in a nursing home? Do you volunteer anywhere?
Association member or not, if you are not publishing any professional background or association membership information, it is a good idea to keep copies of training certificates, insurance document, and details of CPD training in a separate portfolio, either in your treatment room or briefcase if you work from more than one place. In this way the information can be presented in person, or by telephone if necessary, in the context of an appropriate exchange of information about the available service. Not being an association member doesn’t stop a therapist being able to present a professional image.
Some therapists belong to professional associations and gain benefit from them, but for those that don’t fit the association mould, there are alternatives. The marketplace has room for both, and it is the clients that matter. They will vote with their wallets – at the end of the day a good therapist is a good therapist!
‘Therapists Side by Side’ E-zine.
This is available to purchase at £2.95 from Sue’s Therapy Network website
The target market is ‘therapists in practice’, and students of complementary/holistic therapy.
The first issue has an article on nutrition and weight loss.