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with Julie Hanks, MSW, LCSW, BCD

Why Therapists Need An Elevator Speech

96th floorAn “elevator speech,” also called a basic practice message, is a brief statement of what you do. It should take no longer than it takes to ride a few floors on an elevator and is a crucial aspect of marketing your private practice.

Whenever you talk about or write about your practice, your elevator speech will help you to provide a cohesive and consistent message that attracts your ideal client and builds your private practice. Over time, your message will help you create enough awareness about your practice that people will know who you are and what you do.

The goal is to have people say, “Oh, he’s the one who helps couples create closer marriages.” or “She’s the therapist who helps kids with attention problems find ways to succeed in school.”

Unfortunately, most therapists don’t have an elevator speech. Ask a therapist the simple question, “What do you do?” you’ll likely get a long, jargon filled, tentative statement that might sound something like this:

“I’m a licensed professional counselor and LSAC and I work at at the Community Mental Health Center full-time in the day treatment center for A&D. Oh, and I have a private practice on the side, at night, where I see and I work with children…and some adults, to. I also like working with trauma and I’m trained in EMDR and I also use a lot of CBT. I’m on a lot of EAP panels and I see some CVR clients. I see some couples too…I like couples.

You really can’t tell who he wants to see in his practice, what he does, or why anyone would go to him for therapy, right? So, here’s what makes a great elevator speech.

Characteristics of an effective therapist “elevator speech”

  • A few short sentences about who you are and what you do
  • Uses layman’s terms (no psychobabble and professional acronyms)
  • Uses positive language
  • Focuses on the benefits of your services for your ideal clients (not the features of your practice or credentials your licenses, degrees, specialty areas)
  • Focuses on only one aspect of your work
  • Targets your ideal client
  • Is memorized so you can deliver it on the spot

How To Create Your Elevator Speech

Here’s a quick “fill in blank” formula to get you started on your effective elevator speech.

“I’m ___________________________________________.

I help ___________________________________________

do/understand/change/create/find ______________________

so they can  _______________________________________.”

Here are some examples of my elevator speeches.

I’m therapist Julie Hanks. I help overwhelmed women find a healthy balance between caring for themselves and their family relationships so they can live fulfilling and meaningful lives.

I’m a therapist turned business consultant. I inspire therapists to build successful practices by helping them identify their passions and develop basic business skills so they can make a good living doing what they love.

During my therapy clinic staff meetings I periodically ask my therapists on the spot to give their basic message/elevator speech. One day I surprised them by asking them to give their basic message on camera for a promotional video for our website. You can watch the video here to see how they did and maybe it will spark some ideas for you.

So, now it’s your turn. How do you answer the question, “So…what do you do?” Feel free to post your basic message below and I’ll give you feedback!

Creative Commons License photo credit: dfritzon

Why Therapists Need An Elevator Speech

Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW

Licensed therapist turned business consultant Dr. Julie Hanks, LCSW has over 20 years in the mental health field & 12 years in private practice as owner of Hanks consults with therapists all over the world to build a fulfilling and profitable therapy business and attract cash-pay clients through technology and social media. Follow Julie on Twitter & Facebook.


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APA Reference
Hanks, D. (2011). Why Therapists Need An Elevator Speech. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 10, 2020, from


Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 12 Aug 2011
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 12 Aug 2011
Published on All rights reserved.