Ok, you’ve set up a blog page on your therapy practice website. You’ve set aside an hour or two in your day for writing and you’ve cleared a calm, distraction-free work zone in your office. Now to write, letting the dazzling ideas flow from your therapy-expert brain onto the digital page.
Except, you have no idea how to get started. You thought this would be easier!
Writing and publishing blog content is a great way to market your private practice, show your voice and personality to potential clients, and establish yourself as an authority in your particular niche of psychotherapy. But blogging doesn’t come easy to anyone — not at first, anyway.
Writing a blog post is not like writing the formal papers you were assigned in school. The format, tone, and objectives are all different.
Here, we’ll walk you through your first blog post. But keep in mind, there’s no seven-step formula to blogging brilliance. Successful bloggers get that way through trial and error and a lot of practice.
The best advice we can give you is, stick with it. As you blog regularly, the words will come more easily and the format will start to feel more natural. Eventually, you won’t be intimidated by the blinking cursor and blank page at all.
Step 1: Think About Your Audience
Who will be reading your blog posts? What do you know about them? How can you choose your words, adapt your tone, and structure your posts to connect with them?
Many first-time bloggers make the mistake of assuming their readers are pretty much the same as them. They have the same interests, the same education, and the same vocabulary. This isn’t always — or even often — true.
Think about the new clients you’re hoping to attract to your therapy practice. (If you’re still looking for your niche, start by considering these “4 Profitable, In-Demand Niches for Your New Psychotherapy Practice.”) What are they looking for in a blog post?
If you’re targeting busy professionals or harried parents, for example, you’ll want to keep your posts short and to the point, so as not to demand too much of their precious time. If you’re targeting a younger generation, slang and casual language might resonate. Older folks might prefer a more formal tone.
And everyone is turned off by jargon and needlessly technical language. Remember, your goal is to build relationships through helpful content, not impress people with how many big words you know.
Online marketers build written personas describing the characteristics and needs of their target buyers. It may sound like a lot of work, but you only have to do it once. After you build your persona, refer back to it each time you write a new blog post. It will help you remember that — like therapy — blogging isn’t about you; it’s about helping others.
Step 2: Choose a Focused, Problem-Centered Topic
“What should I write about?” is probably the question on which the most beginning bloggers get hung up.
You have an immense knowledge of mental health issues and treatment styles and tons of experience helping clients. How can you narrow it all down into bite-sized blog posts?
Start by solving problems. The very top of the online marketing funnel is occupied by people looking for solutions to specific problems. Most of them aren’t ready to dig into broad, general topics.
So, for example, instead of taking on a topic like, “How to Overcome Depression” (You could write a book about that!), zero in on a very specific aspect of living with depression your target audience might be struggling with:
- “How to Get Through a Business Meeting When You’re Depressed”
- “How to Explain Depression to Your Kids”
- “5 Breakfast Foods That Help With Depression”
By breaking gargantuan topics down into tiny actionable chunks, you’ll find your writing tasks to be a lot less overwhelming. Readers will respond better, too.
Step 3: Craft a Title
When potential readers find your post through a Google search, its title will be the first (and possibly only) thing they read. Make it count.
Creativity can help your title stand out, but resist the urge to get so creative that your title obscures the topic of your blog post. As we said in step two, readers are coming to your content in search of solutions. The title of a blog post should clearly identify the problem it will solve.
For example, the blog post you’re reading now is titled, “A 7-Step Guide to Writing the First Post for Your Psychotherapy Blog.”
Maybe it’s not the most exciting title, but the problem it solves (“how to write your first psychotherapy blog post”) is unmistakable. If we had gone with, “A 7-Step Guide to Unleashing Your Inner Literary Genius,” you might not have clicked on it.
Step 4: Structure Your Post and Outline It
We hate to be the bearers of bad news, but most people who click on your blog posts won’t read them in their entirety. They’ll skim and skip.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, says online marketing guru Neil Patel:
“Skimmers are often the best readers. Here’s why: When they skim the key points in your content and become convinced, they’ll go back and read more slowly.”
But it does mean that formatting is even more important in blogging than it is in other forms of content.
Your blog post should be broken down into readable sections, with subheaders and lots of paragraph breaks. Your main points should be easy to identify. Use bullets and numbered lists liberally.
To make sure your blog post is well structured and not a blocky, stream-of-consciousness mess, outline it before you write. Here, marketing software maker CoSchedule offers a 10-minute process for outlining a blog post.
Step 5: Pay Special Attention to Your Introduction
The first few sentences of your blog post are the most important. A captivating introduction will make your post irresistible to readers. A boring, confusing, or sloppy one will send them right back to their Google search results.
What makes an introduction enticing? Just as in your title, your introduction should identify the problem your blog post will solve. But because you have a few more words to work with, it can go farther.
One of the most resonant ways to begin a blog post is with a story. We don’t necessarily mean a “once upon a time” story. Rather, set the stage by describing a specific experience with which your readers can identify.
We began this blog post with a story about sitting down to blog for a therapy website and realizing you don’t know where to start. Our plan was to connect with you, the reader, by showing we understand what you’re going through and what it feels like.
Did it work?
Step 6: Bang Out a Rough First Draft
This is a piece of writing advice you’ll hear from professional writers of all stripes, from Nobel winners and best sellers.
Your first draft won’t be perfect. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you’ll get through it. Most great works of writing emerged from a painstaking process of writing, editing, and rewriting. Your therapy blog post is not exempt.
Step 7: Find a Trusted Editor
Having almost anyone read your blog post before you publish it is better than having no one. In the course of writing a post, you can become so close to it that you’ll fail to notice minor mistakes, awkward phrasing, or unsupported facts. All good writers rely on a second (and third, and fourth…) pair of eyes to point out errors and make suggestions for improvement.
If you work with other therapists in your practice, set up an exchange through which you all read and comment (supportively) on each others’ work. If you’re a solo practitioner, a spouse or friend might be willing to pitch in. If you truly can’t find anyone you trust, sites like Fiverr and UpWork are affordable sources of professional talent.
Enough reading. It’s time to get started on the first post for your psychotherapy blog. Once you publish it, you can maximize its reach by promoting it on social media or featuring it on an attractive new professional website. Learn how in our complete guide for therapists, “Marketing Your Private Practice.”