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3 Marketing Tips for Therapists Providing Food Allergy Counseling Services

Since starting the Food Allergy Counselor Directory and website in 2018, I routinely get emails from counseling and psychology graduate students considering focusing on working with those managing food allergies. (And I always take the time to pay it forward and chat with these students!)

But I also get frequent emails from therapists who personally and professionally understand IgE-mediated food allergies and want to consider adding food allergy counseling services in their private practices. The top comments and questions I get from these emails are: 

  • "I had no idea this was even a clinical focus or area of counseling!"

  • "How do you market food allergy counseling services?"

  • "Are you able to actually get clients with a food allergy counseling focus?"

A relationship builder at heart, I also take the time to connect with the therapists who reach out to me about food allergy counseling, either informally or more formally through my consultation services. Since I receive common questions in many of these emails, I decided to write a post to share the basic answers. But before I jump into the marketing tips, let's first explore WHY there's a need for food allergy counseling services. 

Why Food Allergy Counseling Services Are Needed 

Approximately 32 million Americans manage food allergies. While many may associate food allergies with children, rates of adult allergies, including adult-onset allergies are rising. Per this recent study from Dr. Ruchi Gupta and colleagues, almost 11% of adults manage food allergies, with nearly 19% believing they have a food allergy. 

No matter the age of the individuals managing food allergies, reports of increased anxiety, and psychosocial and quality of life impacts are common. Here is a brief snapshot of common psychosocial impacts reported:

Additionally, results from this recent survey (of food allergy centers) on the availability of mental healthcare services for those managing food allergies suggest: 

  • Allergists/physicians are noticing food allergy-related mental health concerns in their patients and/or caregivers; 

  • Counseling may be beneficial at key points for those managing allergies, such as at diagnosis, during age/child development stage transitions, and when doing oral food challenges and treatments

  • Mental health concerns and food aversions were also observed during food allergy treatments and after allergic reactions and epinephrine use

These descriptions are brief but help paint a clear picture of the WHY and NEED for support services from allergy-informed licensed clinical mental healthcare providers. Now, let's move on to HOW to market yourself if you're an allergy-informed therapist and ready to add the food allergy counseling niche to your practice! (If you're a therapist who is not well-versed in food allergies, but would like to learn more about them in order to provide support to patients, stay tuned for posts and podcast episodes on this topic). 

Marketing Tips for Food Allergy Counseling

Below are three key marketing tips for allergy-informed licensed clinical therapists, psychologists, social workers, and marriage and family therapists looking to expand their practices to include food allergy counseling services. 

1: Help Clients Find You By Listing "Food Allergies" as a Clinical Focus

I know this may seem like complete common sense, but I can't tell you how many times I come across a therapist's website with no mention of food allergies as a clinical area of focus, yet, they want to grow within this niche.  

At the very least, it's important to mention food allergy counseling or support somewhere on your website. Even if you don't want to dedicate a separate page on your site, or even a description of how you can support those managing food allergies, just listing food allergies in your list of clinical focuses helps clients know that this is a service you provide. 

If you do want to describe your food allergy-focused therapy services, here are some ideas to help you with writing about those services:

  • Specify client age you work with - some are looking for support for their children/teens, while others want support for themselves as adults or caregivers

  • List common psychosocial impacts you can help allergic clients address and process

  • Describe the therapeutic models you use to support those managing food allergies

  • Share helpful reputable resources related to food allergies, psychosocial support, etc.

  • Write blog posts or snippets on food allergy topics and post them on your website or social media accounts

 Taking this tip one step further, it's also helpful to list food allergies as an area of focus on your practice's social media profiles and pages. Again, seems like common sense, but this one is often overlooked, too. And, if you're good with website management and/or coding, throw some food allergy counseling-related words into the SEO section of your website!

2: Think Outside the Box & Connect with Allergists

In almost every online clinical mental healthcare provider forum or group I'm a member of, the discussion of HOW to market therapy services to medical practices gets explored.

What marketing materials should we drop off or mail (business cards, flyers, rack cards)?

Should we spend money on swag and treats for them to help our practice stand out? 

While these are all personal choices related to how you want to market your practice, here's the advice I will offer on how to market your services to allergists and allergy practices: Before reaching out, think about what you can offer them - what's the benefit of making a connection with you?

While many allergists have started assessing their patients' psychosocial impacts, some may not yet have a clear picture of how allergy-informed mental healthcare providers can benefit them, their practices, and their patients. 

Think outside of the box here - beyond just being a patient referral source. Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  • If the practice sends out regular newsletters, offer to share therapeutic tips; 

  • Offer to provide quarterly education sessions to their patients on topics such as anxiety management,  navigating bullying situations, building confidence in allergy management, etc.;

  • If they offer food allergy treatments, explore ways in which you can offer consultations or ongoing services in-house to their patients

Taking this tip one step further - beyond allergists/allergy practices - think about marketing to and networking with local food allergy support groups and dietitians, and if you work with kids, schools, and pediatricians. Offer the same kinds of out-of-the-box service ideas in order to help build strong referral relationships.

3: To Disclose or Not Disclose - That is the Question

This may seem like less of a marketing tip and more of an ethical practice discussion. But, especially if you've added a food allergy focus to your clinical practice because allergies personally impact your life or the life of a loved one, exploring this consideration is important since clients may inquire. 

In our training to become licensed clinical mental healthcare providers, many of us were taught not to self-disclose personal information to clients, or to do so very purposefully and sparingly. So let's explore this topic more to help allergy-informed therapists determine where their boundaries are on allergy-related self-disclosures. 

Potential Benefits of Self-Disclosing Personal Understanding of Food Allergies: 

  • Clients often appreciate self-disclosure related to allergy knowledge;

  • Disclosures may help facilitate a deeper therapeutic connection;

  • When focusing on specialized clinical topics such as allergies, clients may gain confidence in your services after learning about your personal understanding

Considerations When Deciding Whether to Self-Disclose This Information: 

  • Will you self-disclose this information to clients AND referral sources (i.e. allergists, food allergy support groups, etc)?

  • Can you disclose information while still following professional and ethical practice guidelines?

  • Explore the purpose of your disclosures. Are you doing so to help clients gain confidence in your allergy understanding/knowledge? Will these disclosures lead to more referrals?

  • Develop firm boundaries about what information and details you will disclose. For instance, will you share specific details about your own or your child's experiences? Will you talk about your diagnosis experience? 

  • If you're comfortable disclosing your personal connection to food allergies, but uncomfortable disclosing personal examples, consider using the therapeutic approach of formulating your personal experiences into "hypothetical client stories" that you can share with other clients.

Hopefully, this piece helped illustrate the need for more allergy-informed clinical mental healthcare providers and provided a few helpful marketing tips to those who offer food allergy counseling services. 

I'll end with a few related follow-up thoughts...

  • If you're a licensed clinical mental healthcare provider who is well-versed in IgE-food allergy knowledge and understands the psychosocial support needs of allergic clients, let's connect! You may meet the criteria to be listed on the Food Allergy Counselor Directory. 

  • If you're a licensed clinical mental healthcare provider who would like to learn more about food allergies and what knowledge is needed to effectively provide food allergy counseling services, let's also connect! I'm happy to answer questions or provide consultation services


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