For better or worse, we live in a culture that’s heavily influenced by personalities. Having a personal brand has now become a practical necessity for many people across countless industries. For a counselor — particularly one having difficulty growing their practice — it can be tempting to embrace this through the promotional opportunities of blogging.

And though a blog is inherently self-serving to some extent (getting your name out there and establishing your niche expertise), this is something that can benefit everyone involved: raising your profile while providing meaningful value to your readers. Where’s the harm?

Well, there are some drawbacks to be considered — blogging is something that won’t always be appropriate. Let’s take a closer look at what it brings to the table, and consider in what circumstances a counselor should commit time to blogging.

The Importance of a Strong Community Profile

As noted, achieving a degree of recognition within your field is hugely important online, and similarly important in counseling. People are understandably driven to be very careful when choosing people to assist them with their mental health, so they’ll want social proof to reassure them that your skill and discretion can be trusted.

Building up an online readership through a blog recognized as valuable by influential figures in the counseling world (you can send links to noted figures and earn mentions as a result) is a great way to make prospective clients feel less nervous about working with you. If everyone else puts stock in your guidance, that’s a good reason for them to do so as well.

This also allows you to branch out and demonstrate insight into issues and topics you may not have had the chance to address through your counseling work. It’s difficult to win referrals for grief if you haven’t yet helped any clients suffering through grief, for instance, but you might have an in-depth understanding of grief you’ve yet to have the chance to display.

Posts as Lead Generators, Not Session Replacements

It’s increasingly common for people to look to the internet for answers to even their most important questions (consider the rise of sites such as WebMD, for instance, and the accompanying rise in questionable self-diagnosis), but online resources aren’t suitable replacements for counseling — and you must be careful not to suggest otherwise.

This isn’t to say that you’d outright state that reading your blog is the same as getting counseling. Rather, it’s a note that people may casually infer that getting your advice in that format is essentially the same as attending a counseling session with you, and that you must be very clear with your content that anyone in need of anything beyond some basic tips should make an effort to see a counselor.

Essentially, your blog posts should serve as lead generators. Anyone who could benefit from counseling should have their interest piqued by your posts and subsequently be led to contact you for further information and guidance. You must always provide your readers with options: contact forms, calls to action, and reminders of the value of counseling.

When Is a Blog Readership Valuable?

One big note of caution for blogging as a counselor is that blog traffic can filter in from across the world, which sounds like a good thing until you factor in that most counseling (even in a time of internet telephony and video conferencing) is done in person — so there’s little use in persuading someone on the other side of the planet that your services are valuable.

If you have a physical practice, you’d need to be very targeted with your blogging, aiming firmly at local issues and concentrating on bringing in traffic from people who live nearby. You won’t need to pointedly exclude anyone who doesn’t live close enough to work with you — after all, people move, and they give recommendations to friends who don’t live near them — but you’ll certainly want to remember where the greatest value lies in your readership.

This might all seem obvious, but it feels satisfying to win praise through blogging, so it’s surprisingly easy to start a blog with professional intentions and see it morph into an exercise that makes you feel good but doesn’t win you any business (it is possible to monetize blogging in various ways, but that might not gel with your career choice). Of course, if you already have enough business, it could simply serve as a rewarding downtime activity for you.

Consistency is Key—Can You Find the Time?

Turning a blog into a major success takes time, effort, and — above all — consistency. Many bloggers post steadily for months or even years before they achieve decent readerships, and there’s little use in putting a lot of effort into blogging for a couple of weeks before giving up or simply forgetting about it.

This bears noting because everyone can commit some time to blogging, but it might not be enough time. Can you post two or three decent-length posts (or one huge post) each week? If you want your blog to become a regular destination for readers, you’ll need those updates trickling in — the moment it seems like you might not return, people will lose interest.

Now, you can get away with being very inconsistent, but only if your content is spectacular. Taking a month to create a comprehensive guide to a particular issue might work out very well. But that’s likely to take up even more time than regular blogging, so it’s generally best to create an editorial calendar and stick to small portions delivered on a frequent basis.

Should counselors commit time to blogging, then? I contend that they should, but only if they’re able to do it consistently and they have a fully-formed notion of what they intend to achieve as a result. It can be done casually, but not to great effect, so think carefully about how it could fit into your schedule.

*Patrick Foster is a consultant at Ecommerce Tips, an industry-leading ecommerce blog dedicated to sharing business and entrepreneurial insights from the sector. Start growing your business today and check out the latest on Twitter @myecommercetips