I launched a local online mental health directory, Portland Therapy Center, in January of 2014. At the beginning of 2016, I launched an alternative healthcare directory, Wellpdx and started a new project, the Practice Academy, that helps health and wellness workers improve their digital brands and attract more clients online.
Since launching Portland Therapy Center, more than 300 therapists have created profiles and the directory quickly became the most popular way to find a counselor in Portland. The website gets close to 9,000 visitors per month, the majority of whom are researching therapists and learning about different mental health issues and treatment orientations.
Visitors to the site are encouraged to check out the mental health dictionary, where more than 100 terms are listed and defined. The dictionary serves two purposes. Clients can click on a term to learn more about it and can also find therapists that specialize in treating that issue or using that psychological orientation.
Therapists are given a chance to educate visitors as to why they are experts in that certain topic. When clients read the specialty explanation,s it creates more trust and authority with clients, while also holding therapists responsible for backing up why they specialize in a certain area.
Since launching the site, there have been more than 40,000 clicks on the terms in the dictionary. This data gives us unique insights into what clients want to learn more about and what they are looking for in a mental health professional. The results may surprise you. They certainly surprised me a bit.
The chart above shows the top 20 most popular terms in Portland Therapy Center’s mental health dictionary. These 20 terms make up more than 50% of the total clicks.
One important factor to take into consideration is that these results only represent the Portland, Oregon market. Portland is a very progressive town with liberal values and very little stigma associated with going to therapy.
This data does not fully represent the rest of the country. It may come close to representing similar cities, like San Francisco or Austin, but will likely fall short when compared to cities that are more conservative and less open to counseling. With that said, this information tells an interesting story.
The most interesting thing to me is that the top two terms, CBT and DBT, are by far the most clicked on. Both terms combined equal more than 11% of the more than 40,000 clicks.
To me, this means that clients are looking for therapeutic treatments that are evidenced-based and behavior oriented. Both treatment orientations deal directly with changing the client’s behavior. That same thing could be said about many treatment orientation. But I imagine clients feel as though CBT and DBT have a certain directness that other treatments may not have.
Clients could be attracted to these modalities because of the assumption that they can dive right in and start making immediate positive changes. You’ve got to like the enthusiasm!
Another interesting piece of data is that Gender Dysphoria is third on the list. Gender Dysphoria, which is sometimes referred to as Gender Identity Disorder, is characterized by an inconsistency between the gender a person identifies as and his or her physical gender.
The fact that it is so high on the list could be a symptom of Portland being such a liberal town that encourages and promotes different gender identities, but also may be because of gender issues being at the forefront of American culture. It also makes sense that LGBTQ issues are in the top10.
Anxiety and Depression are numbers 12 and 13 on the list. It makes perfect sense that these issues are high on a list of 112 psychological terms, but I thought they would be in first and second place if I’d had to guess.
Anxiety and Depression are problems that many people face multiple times in their lives and I would have figured that clients would click on these terms to learn more about them and find therapists that specialize in their treatment.
Number six on the list is Relationship and Marriage Issues. And there are four other terms in the top 20 that are related to relationship issues (Couples Counseling, Attachment Theory, Premarital Counseling, and Gottman Method).
It’s no surprise that a total of five relationship terms end up in the top 20. In my experience as a therapist, the majority of issues that are talked about in counseling revolve around relationships of some type.
PTSD, number 5, and EMDR, number 11, both relate to trauma work. Many people have experienced trauma in their lives and are looking for treatment because of it. The interesting thing is that EMDR is high on this list.
Even though EMDR has been around as a type of treatment for a while, it is still a therapeutic technique that is a bit more fringe when compared to more traditional and widely used psychological theories.
In addition to this information being interesting in its own right, there are some things that mental health professionals can do with it in order to figure out how to serve the community better.
Some of the terms in the top 20 don’t have many therapists specializing in them.
For example, there are far more therapists specializing in Depression and Anxiety than therapists specializing in Gender Dysphoria and Somatic Therapy. Because of this, Somatic Therapy and Gender Dysphoria would be smart specialties because a lot of people are interested in addressing these topics in counseling but few therapists concentrate on them.
Meaning that for some of the most popular terms, there is very little competition.
On Portland Therapy Center, the following terms have high interest from potential clients, but a relatively low amount of therapists that specialize in them:
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
- Gender Dysphoria
- Somatic Therapy (Body Centered)
- Art Therapy
- Gottman Method
This top 20 list gives us a glimpse into what clients in Portland feel is important when seeking therapy services. For mental health professionals, regardless of location, it is a great reminder to pay attention to modern trends and not to not get stuck in old thinking around what to offer clients looking for counseling and how to market yourself.
Jeff Guenther, LPC, is a therapist in Portland, OR. He has been in private practice since 2005 and currently leads workshops on how health and wellness practitioners can build their digital brands and attract more clients online. Jeff is the creator and owner of two highly ranked healthcare directory sites, Portland Therapy Center and Wellpdx. Jeff recently launched a new project, the Practice Academy, to teach healthcare workers how to ethically and effectively build and grow their private practices or small businesses.