MARKETING, PUBLIC RELATIONS AND WEARING WHITE COATS
By Hans TenDam
How should we present ourselves? To whom? And what for?
We would like that people who could benefit from our services, would find their way to us. So they should know what we do and trust what we do. And it would be nice if doctors and other therapists would refer suitable cases to us. May be it would also be nice if reimbursement possibilities that other therapies have, would be extended to us. It would bring in many more clients, though also less motivated clients than the ones we are getting now. Usually, at least.
How do doctors advertise their trade? How do regular psychologists do it? Doctors have a track record, at least the last 150 years. They are authorities. They graduate from universities, they are generally known and respected and they wear white coats. Nobody doubts them. Individual doctors may be criticized or disliked, but the profession inspires trust. Many people think that medicine should be approached in a different fashion, like less pills or less vaccinations or less surgery, but few people indeed would like to see less doctors.
Psychologists have less standing, but they are pretty well accepted. People are afraid of endless analysis, of listening without helping or of getting advice by young and inexperienced people who read a lot of books. Like there has been a time that a real man didn’t go to see a doctor, still many men don’t see psychologists as it is seen as a sign of weakness. Some men need a full-blown burnout before even considering to see a “shrink.” The main doubt about psychologists and psychotherapists is if they are really effective. Few people consider them as quacks.
Now regression therapists or worse: past-life therapists, are a different story. They seem to work with hypnosis, to induce trance. Maybe it is all suggestions. And if it really works, it is something spooky. And past-lives smack of weird beliefs and fairytales. People in such a field must be strange and possibly gullible. Why should you go there? Half of them or more are discovering incest in early childhood and many start to talk of karma and other intangible stuff.
What should we do about such ideas? Probably not too much. There are very few things we can do. But we should do them, and do them seriously.
First, we should work as well as we can. Many of us have had many satisfied clients. However strange or unorthodox what we do, we have real results. Not rarely, spectacular results. All clients with a problem solved are ambassadors. Tiny, unremarkable ambassadors representing nobody except themselves. If our field is to grow, each successful session is one cell in that body.
Working as good as we can, seems simple, but implies a lot. It implies professional exchange of experiences and methods, shopping around with colleagues. It implies avoiding clients who cannot be expected to benefit from the therapy. It implies not to overreach ourselves and avoid overselling to prospective clients.
Second, we should signal to clients and prospective clients that we are responsible and as professional as any other type of therapists. Maybe we should overdo this a bit, given the doubts many people have. A professional association that looks into training and experience, with a code of conduct and a complaint procedure do not guarantee that, but greatly help.
Third, we should document our work, analyze and research it and publish the results, whether we like them or not. And as academic institutes and journals will generally avoid us, to present our findings ourselves, in as rigorous and scientific a fashion as we can afford, given lack of research budgets. And whenever we are invited in more academic environments to present our work in a grounded, clear and responsible way. We are not seeking converts. We are neither demonstrating inferiority nor superiority. We are neither ashamed nor overly proud of our work. We try to be as factual as we can, neither understating or overstating what we do.
The third aspect is on the long run by far the most important, though it is slow and expensive. As EARTh we are still in the middle of shaping the first two aspects, but in the year 2008-2009 we will start, however modest with fostering research and publication.
And what about the usual marketing and public relations? Should we advertise? Should we send out press releases? Should we be on television as often as possible? Probably not, but the internet opens up possibilities. We can make podcasts and small films and put them on YouTube and the like. We may participate in forums. Maybe we can contribute to Wikipedia, though that seems for now firmly in the hands of the disbelievers. We could make a website with material about regressions and regression therapy for the general public. Or we could contribute to sites that are already up and running.
And what about formal recognition? I am not too optimistic about that. Anyway, whatever our chances are, doing good work, professionalizing ourselves and publishing research will all help that.