September is one of the busiest times for mental health professionals. Are you ready?

WHAT? It's not even the first official day of summer, you might be thinking.

True, but summer goes by fast. In just a few weeks, stores will move warm-weather clothing to clearance racks as they bring in new merchandise for fall. TV networks will start promoting their new program lineups. Ads for school supplies will be popping up everywhere. And NFL pre-season football starts Aug 5.

All this is designed to get you in the mindset for the fall. Of course, few people are going to purchase winter coats or snowmobiles in the middle of summer. But they may start looking at them, anticipating that they might buy them later on.

It's a similar process for people who are thinking about making changes in their lives come September. They're not quite ready to take action. But when they are, wouldn't you like them to think of you first?

Prochaska's "Stages of Change" model

In his Stages of Change model James Prochaska describes how people make decisions and take action toward healthier behaviors. Before they get to the Action stage, they start thinking about the changes they need to make (Contemplation), then begin committing to taking action (Preparation).

These are individual, internal states. People progress (or not) from one stage to another in their own time. Even if they need help, no one can force them to want help, nor to seek help until they are ready.

However, by ethically marketing your services through the summer, you can reach people who are currently thinking about making changes in their lives. Get more visible in your community through writing, networking and public talks. "Show up" frequently.

That way, during the fall season (traditionally associated with new beginnings) when many people move to the Preparation or Action stage and start looking for help, you will be at the top of their minds.