How should you approach the clergy for therapy? What is something important you need to keep in mind when discussing therapy with clergy? How can you market to clergy?
In this podcast episode, Whitney Owens speaks with Jenn Fredette on how to get clergy into counseling.
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Meet Jenn Fredette
Jenn is a relational, psychodynamic oriented, attachment-based loving, Jungian concept adoring, and existential thinking psychotherapist based in the DC Metro area. In addition to her clinical work, Jenn partners with psychotherapists who want to market with depth, not just offer quick solutions to get people in the door.
In This Podcast
- How to approach clergy with counseling
- How to market to meet the needs of the clergy in your community
- Jenn’s advice to Christian counselors
How to approach clergy with counseling
I think in a lot of ways it depends on who you are when you’re talking to clergy … one of the things I know [from] just knowing clergy is there’s often a very clear outward persona and outward piece of who they are and how they show up in the world, and it’s pretty rare for them to let that piece down which makes therapy particularly threatening for them. (Jenn Fredette)
A lot of therapy requires you to get down into what lies under the surface, and doing internal work often leads to a shift in the external person, in their thoughts, beliefs, and habits.
To someone who is closely tied to how they are perceived and who work hard to show up in the world the way they want to be, going to therapy can be scary, because to them it is a threat to breaking down that persona that they have created to exist within that space in the church.
On the other hand, sometimes clergy want to be met with a more masculine presence that is familiar to them. This does not mean you need to be male, but it means that you can meet them with more authority instead of only focusing on the soothing part.
Sometimes I think that it what clergy need is somebody they know can stand toe to toe with them and really challenge them. (Jenn Fredette)
How to market to meet the needs of the clergy in your community
The two main aspects of marketing to the clergy are:
- Showing up authentically without being tightly married to your persona,
- Connecting with empathy and “speaking their language”, providing them the space to understand that you can connect with where they come from and accept them.
Why is it when we do our marketing do we feel like we have to be something else to bring people in because the good work happens when we choose to be vulnerable and authentic with others, and so that’s going to happen in our marketing. (Whitney Owens)
- Get rid of the jargon and speak authentically and speak maybe even irreverently.
- Think about what their core needs might be.
- Have your own spirituality settled so that you two can be on par with each other and can push back and support to one another.
Jenn’s advice to Christian counselors
You really have permission to show up authentically as yourself. Do the deeper work with people, but know that even Jesus showed up cranky sometimes. You really can show up as human while you work to incorporate the Divine into your own being.
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Meet Whitney Owens
Whitney is a licensed professional counselor and owns a growing group practice in Savannah, Georgia. Along with a wealth of experience managing a practice, she also has an extensive history working in a variety of clinical and religious settings, allowing her to specialize in consulting for faith-based practices and those wanting to connect with religious organizations.
Knowing the pains and difficulties surrounding building a private practice, she started this podcast to help clinicians start, grow, and scale a faith-based practice. She has learned how to start and grow a successful practice that adheres to her own faith and values. And as a private practice consultant, she has helped many clinicians do the same.
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Welcome to the Faith in Practice podcast. I’m your host Whitney Owens recording live from Savannah, Georgia. I’m a licensed professional counselor, group practice owner, and private practice consultant. Each week through personal story or amazing interviews, I will help you learn how to start, grow and scale your practice from a faith-based perspective. I will show you how to have an awesome faith-based practice without being cheesy or fake. You too can have a successful practice, make lots of money, and be true to yourself.
Today on the Faith and Practice podcast, I am interviewing Jenn Fredette. She s a relational, psychodynamic oriented, attachment-based loving, Jungian concept adoring, and existential thinking psychotherapist based in the DC Metro area. In addition to her clinical work, she partners with psychotherapists who want to market with depth, not just offer quick solutions to get people in the door. Jenn thanks for coming on the show today.
[JENN FREDETTE] Thanks for having me Whitney. I’m delighted to be here.
[WHITNEY] Yes, well it’s not every day that I get to talk to someone who’s a fellow Carl Young fan, so I’m happy to have you on the show. I just love his work, especially doing dream work with clients. It’s one of my favorite things.
[JENN] Yes, he’s been up in, so I’m actually making my way through like the actual Carl Young stuff through quarantine. He’s not always an easy read, but he’s great. He’s so great. So that’s been my quarantine. I don’t know, some people are prepping to run marathons. I am trying to read Carl Young and make sense of it.
[WHITNEY] Well, that’s great. It’s honestly, probably better than what I’m doing sometimes. I’ve actually been reading a lot about the Enneagram, so that’s been fun.
[JENN] I love that.
[WHITNEY] Well, why don’t we start out with you sharing about yourself and kind of how you got into private practice and a little bit about what your practice is like?
[JENN] Sure. I definitely have a winding journey. I have two master’s degrees. I have my Master’s in Counseling, which I got seven or eight years ago. I’d have to go back and like look at the actual dates, but before that I had gotten my M.Div. (Masters of Divinity) and really throughout my coursework and undergrad and then in my M.Div., I really thought that I was going to be a full-time minister, played a little bit with, do I want to go get a PhD in biblical literature? And as I continued my journey of just getting to know who I am and what it is I really want out of my life and paying attention to what is my call like, where do I actually feel led, it became clearer and clearer that church ministry and being clergy wasn’t what I felt led, or it really was my heart’s desire. So it took a year, worked or rather served with AmeriCorps, doing adult literacy and loved it, loved getting to do a lot of one-on-one with people, loved getting to go deeper to understand people’s story of how they got to be where they were and thought, “Oh, I should probably do something like this.”
And always my favorite parts of working in church were doing one-on-ones with the various youth that I worked with or sitting with parents to understand what was actually going on for their kids. So it felt like a pretty natural transition to move from. I was never really a full-time minister. I worked part-time all through divinity school. I did a couple of summers at churches, but moving from that into clinical practice felt really natural. It felt like, “Oh, this is where I’m supposed to be.” So over the past, I think it’s eight years I’ve been practicing, I have kind of run the gambit. I’ve worked in an agency with people who had serious and persistent mental illness. I worked at a group practice of pastoral counseling group practice and then went out on my own about three years ago now to have my own private practice, be my own boss and get to set my own hours and not have to go to a lot of staff meetings, which is a huge plus.
[WHITNEY] Most definitely. Well, thanks for sharing that story with us. Tell us what kind of clients do you work with now in your practice?
[JENN] So I really like working with people who are spiritual, but not religious. I work with like kind of the gambit and have worked really hard to figure out how to market to people that I really love to work with. So I have done a lot of experimenting and where I really ended up is I’ve worked with people who are really deep thinkers, who really like have everything in their life together, it looks really good on the surface that people are like, “Oh my gosh, you have an amazing life,” and yet still feel that internal pull for more, to want to understand who they are underneath the surface, underneath the persona, and also to understand how they can live life in a way that feels more meaningful, that feels more deep.
So a lot of them are pretty anxious, avoidant, attachment style, very deep thinkers and also really deep feelers, but they don’t always tap in to the feeling piece of themselves. And as that’s sort of my ideal person, I ended up actually seeing a lot of clergy and always have seen a lot of clergy for a variety of reasons. And I know that we’re going to talk a little bit more about how your audience can market towards clergy, towards pastors, if that’s who they really want to work with. But a lot of, I would say, I was looking at my caseload before I came on today and I see about 20 ish people, and I would say four of them are clergy or clergy adjacent right now, which is about a fourth of my caseload. And I don’t actively market towards clergy anymore, although I have in the past.
[JENN] That is a big thing that I talk about within the Faith in Practice community. That mean lots of things here. I mean, people are asking how do I market to pastors and other clergy? How do I honestly convince them how important therapy is and they feel that taboo or I can’t come in. I was actually just talking to a pastor the other day and he was talking about difficulties post-COVID as far as people who’ve had COVID and people having depression and the struggles he had with his church. And obviously things are improving. At least they are down here in the south, as far as getting out people, coming back to church precautions and all that. But just him talking about people needing therapy and specifically he even thought about it and he wasn’t sure what to do.
So it’s like, how do we bring up a lot of things here? How do we convince pastors or talk to clergy in a way that not only through an outlet that works where they’re actually going to hear us and what do we say to share with them that they need therapy or therapy can be helpful for them and they don’t have to like hat about that.
[JENN] Yes. I think in a lot of ways, it depends on who you are when you’re talking to clergy. And I still have a lot of friends who are full time, senior ministers or young adult ministers, youth ministers. Most of my Facebook feed and I had a lot of live at church options when quarantine first started because I am friends with a lot of ministers as well as seeing them in my practice. And one of the things that I know just knowing clergy is there’s often a very clear, outward persona and outward piece of who they are and how they show up in the world. And it’s pretty rare them to let that piece down, which makes therapy, I think, particularly threatening for them because a lot of therapies, okay, let’s get on under the surface, like what is actually going on? How do you actually feel about these things that you’re preaching about every Sunday? And that can be really scary because if you have questions or doubts or frustrations, it really can go against who you think you ought to be as minister.
And I think therapy in particular poses a real threat to breaking down the persona for pastors. It’s not that they don’t want to do deeper work, but it can be really, really scary, I think, as I think part of being able to market to pastors and even just start to have the conversation of like, yes, like therapy would be really helpful for you is understanding their defenses against therapy to begin with. Does that make sense?
[WHITNEY] Oh yes. That’s very good. And I even, it makes me think about therapists. You know, we feel that way, I mean, I know for me, I didn’t want to go see a therapist that was local. I didn’t feel safe, comfortable. They know about me, my practice. My therapist is out of town, which is the joy of virtual counseling but even when I think of my journey and like family going back to therapy the most recent time, and I think about pastors, like I almost feel like they have a double whammy, like it’s just even harder for them even than therapists.
[JENN] Yes, absolutely. And I think on top of that it can be, I think therapists might have this that, “Oh I don’t really need to go to therapy. Like I know all the stuff they’re going to tell me. How can I find somebody who can really hold their own with me?” And I do think pastors have a similar piece. I don’t know that they always are as conscious of it. but often in therapists marketing, we often will lean into gentle, soothing holding and some ways mothering. And I think often what pastors need at least to get in the door is more of like the concept of sort of that masculine energy, the fathering of like, I can meet you with authority. One of my younger clients, he’s in college, the other day, I’m so old and blamed out, but she taught me this great phrase. She’s like, “Jenn game meets game.” And I was like, “Oh, I love that, game meets game.” And I think sometimes that is what clergy need, is somebody they know can stand toe to toe with them and really challenge them.
And a huge part of their job from the pulpit, and if they’re maybe not senior preacher ministers, they’re still doing a lot of spiritual direction, a lot of religious tasks and they need somebody who can say, “Yes, I see you. And I see underneath the surface. So let’s go deeper and really show up with a little more oomph, as opposed to just doing sort of the soothing part.” Does that make sense?
[WHITNEY] Oh yes. I really liked that. I love that. You know, going back to Carl Young, the whole masculine femininity piece of that, I’m always thinking about that, especially in drinks. I love that you kind of pulled that into it there. So would love to hear more about how do we market to meet the needs of clergy in our communities?
[JENN] So I’ve been thinking about this. I actually, I was like, I wonder, because in some ways this has been an accidental niche for me. I don’t actually do a lot of conscientious marketing about it, at least anymore. So I asked one of my clients, who’s clergy, I don’t know a couple of weeks ago when you and I talked about us doing this. So I said to her, I was like, “Why did you pick me?” And at the point that she came onto my caseload, I was not actively marketing to a clergy. I wasn’t doing a ton of networking and she goes, “Oh, well Jenn, that’s easy. You curse on your website and you have an M.Div.” And I was like, “Oh, I don’t know. I can come tell Whitney’s people they should just drop the F bomb on their website and then go get an M.Div. to market to clergy.” That doesn’t feel like necessarily an easy, effective way to market towards clergy.
And honestly, not everybody curses as part of my own authentic voice, but as I dug deeper with this client, what we started to realize is, oh, part of what you actually were attracted to with each of these two things signified for her was that I was going to be real and I was going to say things that weren’t necessarily taboo, but I wasn’t going to have to sit in my own persona, which I really think when I think about core struggles from ministers, both people I know who are clients and then people I know who are friends. The persona is so, so strong of, I am ministered. This is how I show up that somebody who’s willing to show up without sort of a, with a really tightly held mask of therapeutic, whatever, but somebody who can be more relational, who can show up more authentically, whatever that looks like for you, was really, really appealing to her.
And the other piece that was appealing, and it wasn’t so much that my M.Div. was a shortcut for this, but that I would get what she was talking about, that I could speak her language, that I also could say, yes, lock-ins are my worst nightmare. I know some youth ministers love them, but I did not enjoy doing lock-ins. That I can hang with her there and hang with her with some of the challenging parts of being a clergy person. And often congregation members don’t see all of the stuff that ministers go through, how much they have to hold, how many boundaries are pushed and crossed and how the dynamics of how congregations can play stuff out with ministers and how much gets projected on them. My M.Div. served as a shortcut, like, okay, I’m going to just assume Jenn will get this. And it’s true that I get that, but it’s not because of my M.Div. It’s because I’m a therapist and like, we talk about dynamics all the time and we talk about what people are getting played out and what are we projecting on others?
So I think often when marketing, particularly to people who are very married to their outward persona for the sake of their job. So this is true, certainly for clergy. It could be true if you want to market towards therapists or people who have more of like a VIP status in your community. It’s being able to show up without being so, so tightly married to your own persona. Does that make sense?
[WHITNEY] Oh, I love it. This is great. Yes, and we feel that way as therapists. I mean, I feel like I have, especially as a group practice owner too, like, I feel like I have to have a personality. Like when I go to my supper club, I have to, that’s when the ladies get together and we eat and drink and have fun, I have to be on guard because I will go right back to that place I think I have to be in until I’m like, wait, no, like be authentic, be yourself. So I love that we’re talking about that because in the therapy room, we see true change with our clients through authentic relationship. So then why is it when we do our marketing? We feel like we have to be something else to bring people in. So good work happens when we choose to be vulnerable and authentic with others. So that’s going to happen in our marketing.
[JENN] Yes. So one of the things I talk a lot about when I am working with clinicians of how do you market with them is how can you show up in an authentic way in your marketing? And often what I see in, especially I do a lot of work with people about their online marketing, so the copy they write the content they write, and one of the things that people often do is they end up relying on a lot of jargon. So this is true of literally every clinician I’ve ever met, including that we will either borrow from our theoretical orientation and then have like alphabet soup of DBT and EMDR and ACT like whatever your medical orientation might be, and then very sweetly, we try very hard to like, I’m going to show up as authentic and then all of a sudden there’s a ton of Brittany Brown language in our copy.
And what ends up happening is everybody ends up looking the same. And for Christian counselors, I often end up seeing this, that they use a lot of Christian jargon, which, there’s something wrong with the Christian jargon, but it still has a way that you’re hiding behind your values as opposed to owning your values and really being able to articulate them in your own language to show that you’ve integrated them rather than you’re just cause playing your faith.
[JENN] Yes and that’s particularly an issue in the south too. You know, the jargon of the therapist, the jargon of the Christian community, and then we just bring them together and we’ve got multiple language jargon happening, and it’s confusing for people. Or like you just said, like when I go to a website and I read a bunch of jargon like that, it turns me away. So why are we not thinking that that’s turning other clients away?
Yes. And to come back to marketing to clergy, clergy by and large, at least those that I know have ton a lot more of their own spiritual work. They might be needing more help around the relational piece, especially, it’s just like the hardest job I’ve ever had. Like there’s so much going on and there’s just not a ton of like built-in boundaries, which is, I think part of what drew me to being a therapist. It’s like, “Oh, there are like very clear boundaries. You spend 45 minutes in my office and then like we’re done. I’m not going to be called to the hospital four hours from now to sit with you for another six hours.” Like not that that’s a bad thing, but the boundaries were very appealing to me. But ministers, by big and large, they are the wielders of the jargon and they know sometimes how empty it can be and being able to say in some ways the same thing, but in language that has a deeper resonance.
Because I think one of the things we’re talking about is sort of therapy for clergy. What I often see as a really core need from the clergy I’ve seen is more of that spirituality as well of having somebody who can hold space and show up grounded in their own faith, in their own sense of meaning and how the world works and how humans work and how the divine plays a role in all of that. Ministers don’t get that because they’re the ones holding that space and holding that container for so many others. So I do think part of, if I was to purposely market to clergy now, part of it is I would want to show up authentic and maybe even a little reference in my copy, which is part of just authentically who I am. And then I would really want to think about what are their core needs, both therapeutically, but a huge part of this is if you’re going to work with clergy, you got to, you have to be integrated in your spirituality and how that shows up in the room with clients. And I would probably emphasize that I am able to offer this.
And that goes back a little bit to that game meets game. Like I can hold my own with you. You want to break out an obscure text from the Old Testament about what happened after Moses was at the burning bush? Well, I can hang with you there and I can actually push back and say, “Ooh, I don’t know your image of God seems pretty punitive here. I wonder where that comes from.” So I think clergy just like therapy, clients are hard because you have to have done a lot of your own work to work with these kinds of people.
[WHITNEY] That’s so true. And we’ve talked a lot about kind of how to speak to them, how to show up with them. Do you have any other quick tips? I mean, social media or videos, or all this kind of thing. Do you have any other quick tips on what would be the best way to reach clergy that don’t know about us?
[JENN] Hmm. I think again, if you’ve done this kind of work of like really, really knowing these people, I would think about what do they actually need. So when we talk about how do we market it, we can talk about platforms or like ways to get the information to people, always to be visible to them. And it depends on where you’re at, essentially how large, if you’re an urban area versus a suburban or a rural area. It would depend on what you might offer. If I was in an, I am in an urban area, one of the things I think I probably would do is I would offer a paid offerings and probably either a short term process, spiritual direction group, maybe something longer.
Maybe it would be a support group for clergy, because I think they’re often really isolated especially from people who really get it. And I would then market at a very low cost because also clergy don’t always have, some of them do well financially, but not all of them do, especially if we’re talking about non-senior ministers. So I would offer probably something that was lower cost that could help invite them into a taste of what therapy could be like without requiring them to really go all in, in terms of investing. So I think actually workshops for clergy is something I see a lot of them really hungry for. They don’t want to be as isolated. They want to be able to be connected with others and they don’t always have that resource.
The other way to think about is offering workshops for clergy, especially on larger church staffs, particularly around group dynamics, almost every clergy member I’ve ever met. And maybe I just need to meet more but all of them at some point go through real fascination with Bowen family systems because that’s what gets taught in seminary for a lot of them. So being able to offer some of that piece of how do you manage, how do you work with challenging dynamics when people are really pushing boundaries in the congregation? So offering some of your own insight, especially for those who are trained more in family dynamics, that can be a really meaningful resource and that’s something, I always think it’s worth charging at least something so people have some skin in the game, but offering that, sort of pitching it around some of the congregations in the area specifically for clergy so they can get to know you.
So you can start to have these kinds of conversations, just like you talked earlier in the episode about how you were having a conversation with a clergy member who’s sort of wrestling with, do I need to go to therapy? How would I even do that? I know a lot of my congregation needs that. So essentially partnering with them to meet some of their congregation needs to then allow them to develop the idea of like, oh, this would be somebody that could really get me, could really hear me. Maybe I am willing to take this risk.
[WHITNEY] Yes. Those are all really great ideas. I actually have a Master of Divinity therapist on my staff. He’s a pastor at a local church here and when COVID happened, we were like, “Okay, how can we serve pastors right now? Because this is hard on them and what to do as a church and understanding how do they connect with their parishioners in the midst of this.” So we did Zoom meetings once a month, like a lunch and learn basically where we gave a presentation on mental health concern, like personality disorders, how to handle anxiety. There was a real rise with alcohol abuse, eating healthy, and people were very appreciative of just the information that they were getting because pastors are like, “We don’t get this anywhere else. We don’t know how to lead people on this.” And what I found interesting about it is we have a lot of relationships with local pastors that refer clients, but none of them seemed interested in attending this. We actually ended up getting a lot of people nationwide. It was just a little marketing online and other people coming, but people did find it very helpful.
[JENN] Yes. That’s interesting. I think, curious, I’m not sure why some of your local people didn’t want to come and maybe in some ways, I don’t know if you and your practice have offered more of this in non-COVID times to your local ministerial staff, or maybe somebody else’s or maybe they are much more resistant to accepting help.
[WHITNEY] Yes, I do think some of that is there are, we’re in a small community, like small but big. So I do think people worry about that, what people will say, who will see them, and taking the time out to take care of themselves. I mean, just like therapists, we don’t take the time for ourselves. But I really like your idea of the process group. So I’m kind of leaning into that thinking. Hmm, how could we do that here in a way that was safe and comfortable for people, but also be really authentic about it?
[JENN] Yes, and I would actually specifically for ministers, here’s me leaning into some of the jargon, I would definitely frame it as either come learn how to manage difficult dynamics, like a learning opportunity, like the lunch and learn, or again, depending on if that didn’t work, thinking about it as like a spiritual direction group, which is something I hear a lot of pastors much more willing to do versus, oh, I’m going to join a process group, if they even know what that is.
[WHITNEY] Sure. Yes, that’s really good feedback. I appreciate that. Well, good, Jenn do you want to share a little bit more, I know you’ve kind of intermingled into the episode kind of about the work you do, and if somebody was listening to the podcast, how they could get in touch with you to work with you?
[JENN] Sure, sure. So I love copywriting, which is marketing jargon for, how do we put words on a page or put words on a website in a way that we’re really going to capture the attention and captivate the people we want to work with. So I teach a number of classes, they’re all self-study. I have an overview of how do you market with depth? How do you actually start to implement strategy? It’s a quick weekend course for you to get really clear about who is the person that you’re called to serve, who do you really want to do deeper work with, and then when you actually do, like how do you actually implement the strategy? So that sort of the appetizer in some ways of what I offer the students that I’ve worked with. My larger, like sort of the feast is a fairly new class. I just launched it back in the fall and have revamped it in spring.
It’s called a two-minute distilled and it’s a copywriting course. So how do you actually write copy that will convert for you? So it’s not just you write something beautiful and meaningful, but something that is actually going to draw in those people that you really want to work with. And how do you do that, that you don’t spend 40 billion hours writing your website or your therapy directory profile? So that course starts with really working through how we defend against doing this work, how we defend against marketing ourselves and allowing ourselves to be visible, sort of how do we work through our own personas that we often feel very married to, and then it moves into a strategy of how do you actually write the content that you need to write and then we finished by talking about how do you then amplify your efforts.
So you’ve written something, but then how do you actually get it in front of the people that need to see it, who need to work with you because you have so much to offer to them. So those are my two things that I’m doing right now. I have a free offer for all of your listeners who know like, “Ugh, I know that I struggle,” especially what we were talking about with my own persona and like showing up authentically and the things that I write. So if your audience is interested, they can go to athinkersguide.com/diagnosis, and they can have a chance to diagnose some of their own marketing ways.
[WHITNEY] Oh, Jenn that’s awesome and I appreciate you giving us that freebie. So that will also be in the show notes, the website for that, and how to get in touch with Jenn. And I also want to ask you what I ask everyone that comes on the show, what do you believe every Christian counselor needs to know?
[JENN] I think every Christian counselor needs to know that they really have permission to show up authentically as themselves. My favorite Jesus in the four gospels is Jesus in the book of Mark. He’s cranky. He takes a lot of retreats. He is sometimes more Fritz Perls than a Carl Rogers and how He interacts with His disciples and He’s still beloved. So sometimes I think Christian counselors particularly like, going back to that jargon a little bit, like we both feel like I got to show up really warm and accepting and nonjudgmental, which absolutely, and I got to be like very tender and kind, and really like do the deeper work with people. Absolutely. But I also want to give people a lot of permission that even Jesus showed up cranky sometimes. Even He wasn’t always ideal, very peaceful gospel of John and Jesus. So I think every Christian counselor needs to know that you really get to show up as human, as much as you’re working to incorporate the divine into your own being.
[WHITNEY] That’s so good. I just love how you bring in the theorists here and use them as comparisons to Jesus. And that was such a good analogy.
[JENN] Thank you
[WHITNEY] Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate, it’s been a pleasure to just hang out and talk to you, not only on a professional level, but on that spiritual level. It’s a gift. So I appreciate you coming on the show today.
[JENN] Thanks so much for having me. It was so fun.
[WHITNEY] Thank you again, Brighter Vision for sponsoring this episode. If you want to take advantage of the special deal, remember to go over to brightervision.com\Joe.
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