How to Turn Your Christian Counseling Degree Into a Thriving Practice
You earn a Christian Counseling degree. You have a license. Now what?
You may be able to join a church staff or an established counseling center. But, what if you want to strike out on your own? What are the keys to attracting clients and building a successful business? (The NCCA recommends, and we agree, that one should minimally hold a Masters degree before establishing their own center/ministry).
Yes, counseling is a ministry to God’s people but you need to have an entrepreneurial and business mindset to be successful. Many Christians believe that somehow the Lord is going to do the legwork and bring clients to them. They view their role as primarily praying and waiting for doors to open.
You are a trained professional, have invested in your own education, and are ready for clients. Be prepared to address those who will want to berate you for charging for your services. You need not be ashamed, but you need an answer.
Praying (and declaring) are important and God will indeed open doors, but our experience is that you should consider the following as a minimum:
- Have a clear, written vision of who you want to minister to and how you want to do it.
- What is your service area? Local, regional, or worldwide. The answer to this question will dictate the types of marketing strategies to pursue. At Above & Beyond, when we began back in 2008, we sensed a global calling to bring deliverance ministry to the Body of Christ which is why we focussed on the internet rather than the yellow pages.
- Figure out how to gain referrals from local pastors/ministries. One-on-one visits and relationship-building are key here. This is a slow process but you can reap fruit if you are good and persistent.
- Figure out how to exploit social media. Like it or not, people in the US live on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like. You may need to invest in help with this. If you do not want to go down this path, the relationship-building and referral business will have to be your lifeblood.
- Consider building an email database and try to send out regular updates/teachings. Having an up-to-date mail list is still the best way to connect with people who want to connect with you. Once again, this is an area where outside help may be worth the investment so you. We use Mailchimp but there are many choices out there.
- Do not forget about the administrative side of things. You will need to learn, or have help, in the realm of accounting and office functions. We use Quickbooks Online (there is a discount for non-profits) but there are other options available also.
- Decide on a client management system, that keeps track of client contact info, meeting schedules and emails. Do your own research. Many excellent and inexpensive offerings are out there. We use Insightly.
These are only a few basic suggestions and other “challenges” will surface as you grow. Be selective about getting help in the areas you need it. Be careful about spending excessive money on advertising. You can pour in dollars and see very little return unless you know what you are doing.
Bottom line: think like an entrepreneur because you are one! Pray and seek wisdom for every decision. Work-wise and hard and team up with someone (a spouse, friend) who agrees with your vision and can partner with you in prayer and support.
If the Lord has called you to do this, He will give you vision, wisdom, and tactics to be successful. You will make mistakes but learn from them and press on.