Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Your First Blog, or, Beginning Counselor Goes Meta

1. (of a creative work) referring to itself or the to the conventions of its genre; self-referential.

This will be a blog about blogging.

But not just any blogging - the Beginning Counselor's First Blog. Prepare for the meta-strophe. 


We'll work on that.

That, in itself, represents one of my first tips about blogging today. Draw the reader in by an unexpected set of images or ideas, questions, or a personal story. Why?

Why would anyone want to keep reading after a question is posed?

Why would one want to save the "meat" of the blog for later and keep the engaging stuff up front?

I think you've just experienced my answer. 

Questions beg to be answered. Stories plead to be finished. Oddities need to be explained.

It's why people keep reading.

After this is the time when you can get into the main part of the blog, like answering the question, why would a beginning counselor need a blog post about blogging just for them?

We hear all the time how important blogging is - it tells Google your website isn't dead and abandoned, for one, so that Google keeps sending people your way. 

For another, it's a way for clients to 'sample' your work before coming into session with you. Do you know how many people read my blog before deciding to become my client? (I don't. Would you tell me if you figure it out?) It's safe to say, though, it's a lot. 

Because blogging gives clients a sample of who you are, it's important for our profession that you give them an accurate sample of who you are. In real life, I do not talk to people in an opening paragraph, three middle paragraphs, and a concluding summarization. 

So why would I write a blog that way?

I also do not speak in a teeny tiny little voice that no one can hear or try to blend in my voice with the ambient noise in the room. 

So why would I make my print teeny-tiny or blend the colors of my words in with the background of my blog? Wouldn't it be better if instead I made them stand out? 

Do I start every counseling relationship with an introduction to myself and my counseling philosophy? 

Then why would my first blog post be about, "This is my first blog post I decided to write because I offer cognitive-behavioral therapy to people with blah blah blah blah blah..."

What, you didn't want to finish that sentence either?

There's no need to write an introductory blog post for the first time. That's what the about page is for. Just like if clients care how you practice therapy, they will ask about it, if blog readers care about why you do what you do they will go to your bio page. Trying to write that will just bore you to death. Focus on content instead.

Do you know who you're writing to when you write a blog post? If you don't, that's probably why you can't write one. Part of the reason I have one...two...three....four? Four and a half? other blogs is that a) I'm probably a little ADHD and b) each blog is to a different person. 

You're reading this blog because you're a new counselor.

You might appreciate, but would not connect with, my blog for survivors of sexual assault & abuse

That's okay. That's why it's on a different blog. 

It can really help to picture a person you're writing to and/or answering a question for when you're writing a blog post. That helps it be written more quickly, because it's like you're writing them an email. But because you're focused on a question, you don't go all off-base or emo. Most of the time. 

Just like you wouldn't come to your session with a client in your pajamas with broccoli in your teeth, it's important to present a good image of yourself in your blog. Get a good image....

like so
and it can really stick in your reader's mind more than any individual word or phrase has done. In fact, it can be a tool later on to help them find that blog post they liked.

I have searched through blog archives more than once for "that blog that was so good with the picture of the man frowning on it." 

And just as you wouldn't tell your client all about yourself and then say, "oh, well, that was the end of our session today, see you never," you don't want to ignore the comments section of your blog if you can help it. People are nice enough to talk to you, you want to talk back! It's what gets people from thinking, "that therapist sounds kind of smart, maybe I should employ him/her" to "I need to call them, because they like me, they really, really like me!"

Comments are the lifeblood of a blog post. You know how "good" a post is by the number of comments, in many cases. (Sometimes with us this isn't true because of the sensitive nature of our posts. See my other blog for an example. If there's another good reason why people wouldn't post a comment, this rule doesn't apply.)

So, to get comments going, you can try one or two things:

You can say something about what's coming next, like:

Since April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, look ahead for a special series next month, Treating Survivors of Sexual Violence: Topics for Therapists. 

April 2: Your Sexual Trauma Client: The Reality of Their Experience. 
April 9: Words That Oppress, Words That Heal: The Power of Language in Sexual Trauma Therapy
April 16: To Tell The Story or Not To Tell The Story? The Question of Uncovering the Abuse Story in Sexual Trauma Therapy.
April 23: Goals of Sexual Trauma Therapy: When Are You "Done?"

(Yes, this is actually coming in April. Stay tuned.)

Telling people about what's coming next can prompt excited comments, like: 

"Oh my goodness that series sounds amazing!"

"Can't wait to learn more about providing trauma therapy!"

Go ahead and add your excited comments to this post now. I'll wait.

You can also end a blog post with a question hanging in the air. That's almost guaranteed to provoke a comment or two. No need to keep going afterwards or provide a wrap-up sentence. Not really. People are scanning these things anyway. They'll only go back and read in more detail if what you said really resonates with them. Instead, just drop the question and leave. Let the question do its' work, like so:

"After reading this blog post, what questions do you still have about writing an amazing blog post that will give clients a realistic picture of the services you have to offer?"

Comment below!