How To List Your Unlicensed Practice On Psychology Today

Why Advertise on Psychology Today’s Web Site?

creepy_psychology_today_coverPsychology Today is more than a just magazine with uber-creepy cover art, it’s the most prominent online therapy directory, and is always near the top of Google search results when people look for a therapist. Many therapists use it as their only form of advertising. While, as a marketing plan, this is inadequate (and does much to explain their struggling practices), it’s a start. Psychology Today does bring in some clients, and in my experience is worth the investment.

But Isn’t It Licensee-only?

The Psychology Today Web site likes to throw around the phrase “licensed professionals,” but they are not an exclusive, licensee-only club. Far from it.

This is inherent in the licensing system, which resembles a medieval crafts guild. Attention is focused on the master craftsmen (that is, licensees), but much of the work is actually done by the apprentices (“license-track” practitioners). Some of these apprentices are in private practice and need to advertise just like everyone else. This means that “license track” (that is, unlicensed) practitioners have to be accommodated even in the strictest closed guild.

Nor do many states allow this degree of trade restriction, with all therapeutic modalities buttoned up tight. Oregon certainly does not. Psychology Today bows to reality and allows a variety of unlicensed practitioners to advertise.  If your modality does not require a license in the jurisdiction where you’re practicing, neither does Psychology Today.

psychology_today_credentials_page_3You can see this during the signup process. When it asks you about credentials, there is a convenient “I do not have a license” box.

For example, the State of Oregon has chosen not to license hypnotherapy, so there’s no such thing as a hypnotherapy license. I checked the “I do not have a license” box on the Psychology Today registration form, and listed my hypnotherapy credential information instead (from my National Guild of Hypnotists hypnotherapy certification training). Also, at their request, I emailed them a scan of my certificate. My listing was quickly approved. And there are some additional ways to get listed, as I will discuss further on.

Who Can Join?

The Psychology Today  Web site has this to say:

Who can be included in the directory?

The Therapy Directory brings together–in a consumer friendly way–a number of professional and organizational groups from clinical social workers and psychiatrists to treatment facilities. It is impractical to draw a clear line determining who may or may not be included because of the considerable variance in US state and international licensing laws.

With this in mind, Psychology Today operates under an ‘inclusive’ approach, guided by three common sense principals which are:

  1. That the professional or organization provides legitimate mental health services to the public.
  2. That the information presented to the public regarding licensing and qualification is transparent, truthful and not intended to misrepresent.
  3. That the inclusion of one professional, or organization, does not impair the reputation of another.

So as long as you represent yourself truthfully and are using a modality that the State of Oregon has chosen not to license at all (such as yoga, hypnotherapy, neurolinguistic programming, somatic experiencing,  etc.), or are operating under a specific exemption (such as the educational or pastoral exemptions for counselors or marriage and family therapists), no problem.

“Do I Need Letters After My Name?”

People in the therapy biz often believe that letters after their name mean a lot. My impression is that they mean almost nothing, because consumers don’t know what they mean!

In some of my older work, I list “CHt” as the letters after my name, which means “certified hypnotherapist” or “clinical hypnotherapist” or something. I don’t do this anymore, because no one knows what it means. I’m also the holder of the coveted B.S. degree in Engineering from Oregon State University, but I don’t list that one, either.

So, no, you don’t need letters after your name. Omitting them — and using real words instead of cryptic abbreviations — helps you stand out. I think it makes you look more approachable.

Listing Your Modality

There is a list of modalities on the sign-up form. If you select one of these, such as “Counselor,” Psychology Today will list “Counselor” under your name on directory results. This is good! If your modality isn’t on Psychology Today’s main list, you’re stuck with “Other,” and nothing is listed under your name. Not good! For example, the main list does not include “Hypnotherapist.”

I want my listing to say “Hypnotherapist” (or at least “Hypnosis”), but don’t see any way to do this. However, the form allows me to list credentials, and I see that many people have used this to get creative.

I used to list “CHt” here, but since no one knows what this means, I want to say “Hypnotherapist.” Sadly, entries are clipped to seven characters, so now I’m listed as “HypnoTh,” as shown below. (Sigh. One more letter and I’d be able to say “Hypnosis.”) The result looks like this.

I have seen people use “Coach,” “Yoga,” “Somatic,” and so on in these fields, not just “letters after their name.” Sometimes these are combined with a category from the main list, like “Counselor” or “Psychologist,” and sometimes they stand alone.

No Credential?

I listed my hypnotherapy credential from the National Guild of Hypnotists, but there’s also an option to list a membership instead. And the online form will allow you to proceed without filling out the certification/membership section at all.

Psychology Today’s advertising department will reject your listing if they think you’re lying. I don’t know what the staff of Psychology Today’s advertising department will do if it seems too distant from the mental health/therapy line of work. I assume that if you tried to advertise a barber shop or an iron foundry, they’d reject your listing. But even if they didn’t, you’d get no clients. None at all. Zero.

Let’s face it: most advertising is unsuccessful and doesn’t pay for itself. Advertising in random places is a complete waste of time and money. The only reason to list your services with Psychology Today is if people who are looking for services like yours are looking for them in the Psychology Today directory.

Final Thoughts

At $29.95 per month, I only need 2-3 client sessions per year to pay for the listing, which means that if Psychology Today delivers a single client, it pays for itself. I get more than this, so it’s worth my time and effort. But I get most of my clients by other means.

4 thoughts on “How To List Your Unlicensed Practice On Psychology Today

  1. Hi, I’m an LCSW in VA. I’m interested in making a thorough Informed Consent form for non licensed people who practice EFT tapping. Are you aware of any resources, especially a list by state of restrictions on non licensed people? Thanks

    1. Jan,

      I personally don’t put the kind of faith in paperwork that’s fashionable at the moment. If people make a payment to Robert Plamondon Hypnosis, it would be really hard for them to argue that they were buying a Cadillac and not hypnosis sessions! But that’s just me. You might look at the National Guild of Hypnostists, which is obviously mostly for hypnotists, but just between us, EFT is a hyponotic technique using direct suggestion along with the tapping, so it’s at least a starting point.

  2. Fed up with Oregon Board of Licensed Professional Counselors and Therapists. I have 14 years as an LPC, 35 years with public schools (counselor/beg spec) MA Education//MA Counseling. May I practice in Oregon as alternative or?

    1. Linda,

      Good question. The answers are (a) I don’t know, and (b) the licensing board probably doesn’t know, either. The exemption is intended for people outside the whole licensure thing and I don’t know how much having held an Oregon license in the past enslaves you to the Board. A lawyer might be able to shed some light on this.

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