Dog with pink hairImage by Psyberartist via

A couple of days ago I noticed on the front page of USA Today a story about decorative airbrushed “tattoos” for pets. It’s just another form of creative grooming that includes pedicures, spa treatments, fur dyeing and other cosmetic services.

I was particularly struck by a reference to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), who estimate that pet owners will spend almost $53 billion dollars on their animals this year!

While you may have a strong opinion about whether people should be spending so much money on their pets, the point here is that they do. In fact, according to APPA, such spending has increased every year since 1994, despite the ups and downs of the general economy.

People will purchase goods and services that they value. For example:

  • At the height of the economic recession people were standing in line to buy the newly introduced iPads at $500 – $700 a pop. Apple’s profits have increased every quarter for several years. The public can’t seem to get enough of Apple products.
  • People use their discretionary income to pay for gym memberships, cable and cellphone service, restaurants and other non-essentials.

What does all this have to do with mental health?

As mental health professionals we know that only a fraction of the people who need our help will actually seek our services.

For some, the barrier is poverty. Those who can barely put food on the table cannot afford the services of a private-practice mental health professional.

However, for the majority of the population it is a matter of priorities. Lots of people who need help don't understand how they can benefit from mental health services. It's not like a new outfit or a dog tattoo, where the results are instantly visible.

It's hard for some people to place value on something as intangible as personal growth or relief from depression, especially if they have never paid much attention to the inner workings of their minds. If they don't have a clear idea of how mental health services can improve their lives, they are not inclined to invest their time and money in such services.

How to communicate value of your services

On your website and in your written and spoken communications, focus on the needs of the people whom you want to help. Let them know that you understand what they're going through, and that you've helped others with similar problems.

Your training, certifications and other qualifications are also important in communicating the value that people get from consulting you. However, these are relevant only after they decide that they like you and trust you.