7: How to (Really) Build Trust on Your Practice Website (Becky DeGrossa)

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Hello! Welcome to Session 7 of the Selling the Couch Podcast.  

I’ve been thinking a lot about trust and how to build it through a website.  That might sound strange. But think about it for moment.  

Our websites are more than just information about us.  They communicate who we are and whether we can be trusted.  

In fact, the research says that most of us make a decision of whether to leave or stay on a website within the first 10 seconds!  And seeing the owner of the website as a person with authority is a huge reason why.   

This is the reason I reached out to today’s guest, Becky Degrossa.

Becky is a technology consultant turned therapist who now helps private practitioners communicate their message while building trust and authority through their private practice websites.  

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • Areas of your website to focus on to build trust.
  • The line between too little and too much self disclosure.
  • Common mistakes that push website visitors away.
  • Who to get testimonials from.
  • How to set up your website for search engines if you have multiple specialities. 
  • Examples of effective testimonials.


Becky’s Main Website  


I hope you enjoyed my conversation with Becky DeGrossa on how to build trust through your private practice website. 

I would be grateful if you could share it using the social media buttons on this page. 

Finally, please Subscribe and leave a honest Rating and Review for the Selling the Couch podcast on iTunes if these conversations have helped your private practice journey.  It takes just a few minutes but helps tremendously with rankings in iTunes and in getting the word out about the podcast to our colleagues. 

Becky, thank you again for joining me.  Your ability take very complicated and technical information and put in language that clinicians can understand is amazing.

Until next time!


Intro: Welcome to the Selling the Couch Podcast where our goal is to help you achieve your counseling private practice dreams, and now the man whose first car was a 1989 maroon Toyota Camry, psychologist, and podcaster Melvin Varghese.

Melvin: Wow, that brings back such fond memories so that Camry was the first car that my parents bought after we had immigrated to the US, and I just remember the amount of pride that my parents had in being able to make such a large purchase like that especially being in a new country. In fact I drove that car, that was my first car when I got my license and I drove that car– I would have to say, I mean everywhere, but when we sold it believe it had close to 200,000 miles on it, so in fact it probably wouldn’t surprise me if it’s still running around somewhere. 

Hey everyone, thank you so much for joining me for today’s session of the Selling the Couch podcast. Whether you are in between sessions or working out or just on a hike or anything like that, thank you again for just your support of the blog and the podcast. 

So one of the questions that I have been thinking about this week is, how do you build a sense of trust on your private practice website? So I think we think about this idea of trust and rapport in the context of therapy all the time, right? So when a potential client calls, how do we answer that? What do we say? Or when they are in the waiting room for that first session, how do you make them feel comfortable and connected to you? And so I think a lot of times we are really great at thinking about it in the context of as clinicians, but I wonder how often we think about it in the context of when we actually have a private practice website.

So that was my motivation in inviting today’s guest whose name is Becky to DeGrossa. Becky is a therapist based in Colorado, but she also helps mental health providers to build websites that are easily found in search engines like Google, but also build a sense of trust with clients. And so some of the things that you will be learning by the end of this session include things like, the top ways to build trust on your private practice websites.

And then we will also explore the other side of it which is some of the things that any of us can do often unintentionally and to build a sense of mistrust, and then what you should do instead. And finally we’ll end with this idea of testimonials and how do you get testimonials, who do you get them from, what are the best ways to get testimonials and what should testimonials say that pique the interest of potential clients or people that could refer clients to you. So here is my conversation with Becky DeGrosssa.

Melvin: Becky thanks you so much for joining us.

Becky: Thank you for having me Melvin, happy to be here.

Melvin: Yeah, I’m really-really excited about this topic because I think it’s something that we don’t think about a lot, you know the emotional connections and how we can even build trust on a private practice website.

Becky: Yap, it’s a big topic and I could probably talk about it all day.

Melvin: We’ll try to condense it all into 20 or 25 minutes here but-

Becky: Yeah, Yeah. Too bad, too bad.

Melvin: Right, absolutely. You know I think a lot of times therapists in private practice when they think about like building trust or building rapport, they think of it in one of two ways, right? Like either once a client is in the therapy room or one that first like phone contact is made.

Becky: Right.

Melvin: So tell us a little bit about this other was of thinking. Now why– what’s the reason a private practice website would actually be a great way to build trust?

Becky: Well, it’s really interesting, I think that, I think we can’t actually build a ton of trust immediately on the first visit to a website, okay, because if you just think about trust, trust is something that is just naturally built over time.

Melvin: Right.

Becky: And yeah. And so we need to actually first get their attention which a lot of us do a horrible job of. We don’t get  the potential client’s attention first when they come to our website, if we can get their attention, then they are automatically going to stay longer on our site which will then enable them to get more of a sense of us, feel impacted by what we have to say and then eventually create trust.

Melvin: Okay, so what I hear you say is like there has to be this process of we have to do things intentionally on the site to actually grab attention, and the more attention that the people have the longer they are likely to stay on the website, and that staying longer is what actually leads to that sense of building trust?

Becky: Yes, definitely. If they bounce right away which is you know, the online term for somebody coming to your site and leaving, then there is no chance for you to build any trust. And I actually have a system where I encourage people to actually create– well, actually build an email list of their visitors so that they can continue to build trust over time, because it is a time necessity to build real trust.

Melvin: Yeah, right, there is a– yeah and the other thing I think is, you get a much better and higher quality clients if you do it this way?

Becky: Yes, definitely.

Melvin: So you said earlier, you know how do you, what are the like real practical steps that you can take, or that private practitioners can take to build that sense of connection on a private practice website?

Becky: Well, I think first of all it’s really kind of funny, I was thinking about this earlier. We spend so many hours of studying to be therapists, learning about psychology and human behavior, and yet you know these questions that you are asking, we don’t sit down and ask ourselves these questions, right? 

Melvin: Right.

Becky: How do you actually make an impact on a website? What is the psychology involved? How do we improve the human behavior of somebody actually reading our stuff and then building trust over time and calling us? We haven’t studied that very much and luckily for us billions of dollars have been spent studying on that, right? In the marketing and sales and copy writing and advertising, so if we can study those things we going to learn a lot about how to apply basic psychology to marketing, to marketing our own practice.

Melvin: Yeah.

Becky:  And yeah and so one of the things that we do in helping therapists build their websites is really help them get specific pages on their site that have to do with the issues that people are having.

Melvin: Right.

Becky: Okay, yeah and so like if somebody is depressed, don’t just mention, hey I work with depression and anxiety and ADHD and couples issues and all these million things. Don’t just you know, mention that on your home page, but actually have a page that goes into the details of depression and speaks with them very-very much in depth about what they are feeling, going through, how you can help etcetera.

Melvin: Yeah, I know that’s such a great point, right, because I think it’s also a reminder that when people come to your private practice website, they enter through multiple doors, right?

Becky: Yeah.

Melvin: And even if– and you never know what that is, and especially if you have a certain specialty it’s always good to promote that specialty in all sorts of different ways.

Becky: Yeah, definitely and to get in to the details of it, you have to do that or they aren’t, they are just not going to feel met and you won’t get their attention to have them stay.

Melvin: Yeah, absolutely. What are– you know you said earlier that you spent I feel like so many years studying this and just trying to figure out how you know behavior and just studying marketing and business, what are some of the things that you’ve picked up just from– and that goes into actually creating that sense of connection on a website? 

Becky: What I have picked up is that typically if you are– if you study copy writing, okay, what they do- a really good copy writer who’s you know, let’s say someone who is just trying to sell a, I don’t know, a better system for flying on an airplane or something like that, right? 

Melvin: Right.

Becky: They actually– good copy writers go and they hang out with people who fly a lot and they understand their pain, right? And so as therapists, we already have that right at our front door, there it is right. We understand the pain already, but when we go to market on our site we actually don’t usually get in touch with that pain.

Melvin: Yeah.

Becky: So, yeah, it requires a lot of work and vulnerability actually, right, to actually feel those feelings. So we have something when we are writing marketing copy on our website, our therapist website where we do something called a dig deep exercise, and we work with the client to– with the therapist client to actually dig really deeply into the issue they are trying to address. And so we have a dig deep exercise that’s on my site, it’s actually at counselingwise/dig-deep and there is eleven questions that enable a therapist to really get into the heart of what is going on for the client, what the feelings are, you know, what the unspoken hopes and desires are, and the biggest pain and all of that, and if they can do that and then come from that place with their marketing copy, they are going to make that connection and it’s going to be a much more impactful message.

Melvin: Yeah, I know, that’s absolutely such a great point, I’ll definitely link to that in to show notes, it sounds like such a great, just a great exercise for anyone to go through. What– you know I think one of the things that I was also thinking about was, you know a lot of times private practitioners go in and they create this website and a lot of time they actually unintentionally I think a lot of times do thing to actually create a sense of mistrust, and so what are some of those things that they unintentionally do?

Melvin: Yeah, and you know in my view there is actually– that’s not the biggest problem that people have, it’s mainly that they are not connecting, but there are a couple of areas where they can create mistrust, and one of those areas is if they divulged too much about themselves, you know where they are you know, let’s say that it’s a- I don’t know, let’s say that they had a history of sexual abuse, and they divulged too much about that. People can pick up lack of boundaries and maybe they’ve had an experience where they’ve been helping other people more than being helped themselves, and they don’t want to go into that situation with this therapist. So…

Melvin: It triggers too much.

Becky: Yeah, it triggers too much and it’s like, oh my gosh, I want to go to this person to get help for me not to help them. So you know, too much self divulgence there is a problem I think. And the other thing that I really caution people against is when you are looking at the whole idea of testimonials, you really want to get testimonials from professionals only, not from clients and you know, it’s a big debate within our field as to whether or not you can use unsolicited testimonials from clients.

Melvin: Right.

Becky: Yeah, and if you do I think you want to really say this is unsolicited. A lot of people just choose to not even use those because reading client testimonials on a website could immediately have the potential client feeling, wow, if I go and work with this person, eventually they may ask me to share my story on their website, and I don’t know that I want to do that.

Melvin: Yeah, right, there is almost a– I mean it’s such a good point I hadn’t even though of it that way. So somebody that comes on that’s a potential client that has no relationship with you, and then they see an existing testimonial and they are thinking, oh my gosh, am I next?

Becky: Uh, yeah, exactly-exactly, but really you know to get back to the whole topic of mistrust or distrust or whatever that could be created on a website, I don’t think that that’s usually the problem, I think the problem usually is that people are very general and boring, and so people just don’t stay, they go find something more interesting, something that really hits them like oh my gosh, you are talking about me, and that’s what they want. People are fascinated with themselves, right? We all are.

Melvin: Absolutely.

Becky:  Yeah, so we want to see what’s really going on for us mirrored back to us in enough detail that we can know that person gets it.

Melvin: Yeah, now absolutely I think it’s Dale Carnegie’s book “How to Win Friends and Influence People” and one of the sections he talks about is just having conversations with people, and  one of the best ways to  build a relationship is to get people talking about themselves.

Becky: Right, exactly, yeah-yeah-yeah. So we actually have a– we have a seven point marketing message format that we follow where we– and I have a training, a free training on my site about this as well, where we go through, you know, talking about the problem, so that you are starting out with that, mirror back to them what’s going on for them to really capture their attention, and then you go in to a solution phase of you know, offering them hope that you can help. 

You don’t– you also don’t want to go into gory detail about how you are going to help at that point, you just want to offer, hey and I have seen this before I can help and then you go through this other various steps that kind of take the person through a buying process if you will, which is ultimately what you are doing, you are really selling.

Melvin: Right, yeah, you are trying to sell yourself.

Becky: Yeah, you are. You are trying to sell yourself as a solution to their problem.

Melvin: Great.

Becky: Yeah, and so we have training on that, on the website too.

Melvin: Okay, cool, I’ll definitely link to that as well. You know going back to this, just that idea of testimonials; I wanted to kind of hear your thoughts about the other side of it, so more specifically like real kind of concrete things. What have you found are the type of testimonials that seem to have the most impact, that seem to really kind of capture the attention of potential clients?

Becky: That’s a great question and you know, a lot of people will just get the standard testimonial, you know doctor so and so is very talented you know, in working with clients, I refer to them all the time or something like that. Or I send a client to so and so and they did a great job with them, right?

Melvin: Yeah it’s very general.

Becky: So very general, very predictable, not very impactful at all. And so what I actually teach is using something called “A Reverse Testimonial.” And I learnt this from my copyrighting mentor years ago. But the Reverse Testimonial is one where you are going to ask the person who is giving you the testimonial to kind of put there gears in reverse, go back to the beginning of the first time when they were about ready to refer to you or work with you in some way. And to identify the feelings that they were having at that point in time, specifically doubts or fears or you know some level of concern about referring someone to you. 

And it could also be maybe not you specifically, but just one of the general concerns that they have when they are about to refer a client to someone. And if they can get in touch with those feelings, then they can say when I was about to refer my first client to so and so I was concerned that there may not be a good fit between this client and this therapist. Or I was wondering if you know this therapist had enough skills to work with this client with this particular issue, or enough experience with this issue. And then what you do, so that’s the whole reversal part, you get in touch with kind of where you were before you were led to do it. 

Melvin: So let me just make sure I’m hearing you right. So really that first part you have to get in touch with whatever that insecurity or that pinpoint is for somebody that’s going to be a referral source. And you have to…

Becky: Exactly.

Melvin:  And you got to identify it right there right off the bat.

Becky: Yeah because then people go, oh I have the same concern or this person is really serious because they actually had you know had some concerns about doing it. And so that’s the first part of the testimonial. And then you go into what I found was that you know this therapist was so skilled in helping this person and it was just– it turned out better than I ever expected. And I will surely be confident referring to them in the future for something like that.

Melvin: It’s something that kind of takes that pinpoint and then assonance that alleviates it in a way.

Becky: Exactly, exactly. And there is– I have one client has this great, great testimonial on her site where it’s a testimonial from a psychiatrist, she is a psychologist. And this one is from a psychiatrist. And he just starts out with– I will just read you the first sentence. He says, “I listen carefully to what my patients have to say about their experiences with colleagues to whom I have referred them.” So right there in that sentence he is saying this is really important to me. I check up on it. It really matters to me. You know I don’t refer with you know casually. And so then when he goes in to talk about the feedback on her, he’s already set the stage for how important this is.

Melvin: And how this is different than you know just someone else who is going to casually refer?

Becky: Right, right. Yeah so it’s very impactful. It’s much better than if he had just said, “Oh this psychologist is great.” It really sets the stage for making the testimonial so much more impactful.

Melvin: Yeah that’s really neat, you know I hadn’t even thought of it that way into going to such detail like that. And then the other side, what other things can you do? It sounds like so as we are talking that testimonials or like do you recommend like some kind of a testimonial page or how does that work? Or do you out it into kind of your ‘About You’ section or what do you suggest?

Becky: I actually think a testimonial page or you know what my peers say or something like that is great, that’s totally fine. Having something on the ‘About page’ is fine too. But the biggest impact I think, the place to put it to get the biggest impact is if you have it on the specific page about that specific issue, okay? Yeah so if I’m you know let’s say I’m depressed and  I go to a therapist website and I’m reading this, and first they are mirroring back to me you know is your life you know a real drag basically, right? I mean they go into the details of all the things I’m struggling with, with depression so that they get my attention. And then they go through the process of you know offering me hope and explaining, kind of normalizing depression so that I don’t have to feel so crazy. 

Melvin: Yeah like out there alone.

Becky: Yeah, yeah so ashamed and afraid to go see someone. So they normalize it and they kind of go through this the seven point process. One of the steps is kind of a testimonial step, or a proof step or something like that in our process. And so it’s not a proof in terms of we cure everyone who walks through our door, but it’s the social proof one in which they have a testimonial. 

And so right there in the copy or in the sidebar on that depression page, they could have a testimonial from a peer from another professional basically saying you know I was working with someone who had severe depression. And I really didn’t know who to refer them to. I took a chance on so and so because I had heard really good things about them. And after talking with them I felt that it would be a good referral and sure enough they did an amazing job and that’s who I send depression clients to these days. You know something like that. And it’s right there on the copy page that has treating depression, and so the person who is struggling with depression reads that and they are just like this is the expert for me.

Melvin: You know I was just thinking about this conversation we are having, and I think the biggest thing is like on your website I think one you have to present yourself as human, and then they are just some very intentional steps that you have to take to make sure that you are communicating that you understand what a potential client is going through.

Becky: Yes definitely. And you know that’s another thing you talked about people coming in through certain doorways on the website. You know ultimately we will create you know a depression treatment page, an anxiety treatment page, whatever the specialties are that the therapist has. And the idea is that if they rank in Google, they come in directly through that page because that specialty page is the one that ranks. 

So they get to talk with us immediately or you know engage with us immediately about their specific issue, and we are very compassionate, we are very tuned in to what they are going through. We provide them really in depth information. And they can always also check out the ‘About Page’ after that. Most people go to the ‘About Page’ on a website after. They have some interest after you have already captured their attention. Yeah they don’t really care who you are until they know that you can help them. Yeah and so they go there and specifically on the ‘About Page’ we do teach have yourself be human, right? 

Go ahead and talk about your experience and you know all your credentials and all of those things. Don’t spend too much time on those, but also do things like you know include a picture of you with our cat, or with your dog, or something like that. Or talk about being a parent because those are the things that people relate to. They do want to see you as a human and they want to relate to you.

Melvin: You know I think one of the things that you said earlier about social proofing I think for the listeners that don’t know what that is it’s kind of just a way online that you can establish your credibility. So it’s done through kind of multiple ways, so if it’s even a quote on a website and then especially if you have any kind of social media sharing links, or anything like that, just a way to like instantly establish credibility.

Becky: Yeah, yeah. We tend to– there has been a lot of studies done on that, that we tend to do what other people do, right? We trust the fact that other people are saying good things. And we are more likely to– that feels like a safer decision to us. If somebody else has chosen it and speaks highly of it, then let’s go do it too. Yeah.

Melvin: Becky the last question I had was so when you are creating these specialty sections like whether it’s for anxiety or depression, do you create them as individual pages or when you go on the website you know at the very top you got the about and maybe you have a blog, maybe like do you put that up there as a section?

Becky: Well if there is room in the top navigation bar to put the actual pages like depression you know depression counseling, anxiety counseling, whatever, then that’s a great place to put it because it’s very immediately visible which way to go. Often depending on how many specialties a client has or a therapist has, there is not enough room up there. So we may have a navigation item up there called specialties that is a drop down page.

Melvin: Okay.

Becky: Right? So the drop downs are there all of those are specifically listed. We may also have some kind of a visual at the top. And we do this often especially for group practices so that when the client comes to the website they can immediately see maybe one of four groups or something like child counseling, teen, you know families and couples, or something like that. And you may have more pages within that, but you want to make it very clear within one second really where they want to go to find out what’s there for them.

Melvin: Absolutely, and I forgot what the exact number was, but people make impressions about whether a site is going to be helpful I think within like less than 20 seconds or something like that on a site.

Becky: Yeah, yeah it’s very, very quick.

Melvin: Becky as we wrap up is there anything else that you think that you know we may just not have covered just about building trust on a private practice website?

Becky: No, I think pretty much we have covered it. I think it’s a system, we provide a system to do it because most people just kind of look around at other therapist and see what they do and say, “Oh that looks kind of neat, I’ll try that.” And there is really no research behind it and so we’ve kind of put together the systems to make that happen. And most of the therapists that I have trained follow it in the beginning, and then once they really understand what they are trying to do then they have a little more lee way to play with it after that.

Melvin: That’s really great, and I’ll definitely link to all of the things that you mentioned. Becky what is the best way for potential you know new private practitioners to get in touch with you?

Becky: Basically to just go to Counselingwise.com, that’s my website and there you know I offer a 30 minute free consult if anyone has any questions about their marketing. And so they could just set that up right there on the home page, schedule with me. And there is tons of information and Webinars and videos and all sorts of things on our site. 

Melvin: Yeah, I’ve checked it out and it’s– you have a lot of really-really awesome resources on there. And so I encourage everyone to check it out. 

Becky: Thanks. Yeah thanks Melvin.

Melvin: All right Becky, it’s really nice talking to you and take good care, okay?

Becky: Okay great talking with you too. Thanks for having me.

Melvin: Hope you enjoyed that conversation with Becky Degrossa from Counselingwise.com. You know the biggest thing that I’m taking away from my conversation with Becky is that the process of building trust or rapport on your private practice website, it is definitely a marathon and not a sprint. That fact of what Becky said that it takes like seven to twelve interactions with someone before they kind of make a decision, that’s really interesting. And it’s something for you to think about especially on your private practice website. 

So what are the different ways that you are building trust? What are the potential ways that clients or potential clients can interact with your website to help build that sense of trust? And then the other big thing is just about the testimonials and more specifically how to word them. 

So you know to be honest like when I always think of testimonials I always thought of it like a client perspective getting them from a client. And so it made me think about sort of legal and the ethical implications about that. So I like that Becky presents it from another perspective of you know thinking about potential colleagues or people in the community that could be referral sources for you if they can actually provide those testimonials for you. You can find show notes to today’s episode at Sellingthecouch.com/session7. 

And finally everyone if you could do me a huge favor, and subscribe to this podcast and leave a rating and a review. It’s definitely not an ego thing on a thing, but for iTunes that is the biggest way that the podcast can reach a larger number of folks. And so my real goal with this podcast that it reaches anyone that ever aspires of having their own private practice one day, or is currently in private practice. And subscription ratings and positive reviews play a big role in making that happen. And the easiest way to do that is to go to Sellingthecouch.com/iTunes. And I have set it up where iTunes will open directly in your web browser. Thank you everyone, have a great week.

Outro: Thanks for listening to the Selling the Couch podcast, for more great content and to stay up to date visit www.sellingthecouch.com.

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