What's in a Name? Handling Disappointment and Competition in Private Practice

By Allison Puryear, LCSW, CEDS on October 28, 2020

I get a lot of questions that sometimes showcase disappointment and discomfort at a certain stage of practice building. In fact, I receive more questions like that than questions about a business name or a cranky landlord.

One issue that comes up frequently revolves around what to do when someone has the same practice name as you. We've heard about this from all kinds of practices, whether they are down the street from one another or across the country using the same name.

Unless you trademark your business name, this is a risk that comes with building a private practice. However, it's important to note that while trademarking your name is absolutely something you can do, it's not common practice in our industry.

It's frustrating to pour yourself into something, build your business, and then realize that the company you've created might be confusing for potential clients. This can be particularly exasperating if the other company with the same name is in the same area.

It's also disappointing. You put in a lot of brainstorming, and now it feels like that work didn't matter. You might find yourself scrambling with thoughts to get new business branding, draw up new logos, or re-write your website. You might even feel pressure to put jumper cables on SEO and work 10 times harder to be buoyed past this name-thief.

Here's the deal: you can change your name or suggest that the other party changes theirs. However, if you focus on delivering excellent therapy, building relationships with your colleagues, and having a web page that speaks directly to your ideal clients, then you'll be fine. If they're also doing all of that, great! It's unlikely that you have the same ideal client. Everybody who wants therapy should get it, and you'll each find that you're the better fit with different clients.

Is it annoying? Absolutely. Is it disappointing? Totally, especially if you've put a ton of work into getting your business known. Is it worth reading someone the riot act and ruminating over the fate of your business? No.

Unless you have proof it was willful and this person is trying to steal some of your thunder, assume it was a mistake. I promise there are only so many combinations of your city name or landmark, along with the words: empowerment, growth, resilience, harmony, clinic, counseling, therapy, bloom, wise, wisdom, trust, hope, psychological services, etc. I'm not saying these words to call anyone out. I've worked with at least 10 people that have used each of those in their business' names. In fact, there have probably been more, but I'm not going to count.

There are plenty of clients to go around. Many of them need and want help, but specifically, they need and want your help. Your job, aside from being a great therapist, is to help them find you. Don't let this kind of disappointment derail you. Yes, you can change names if it feels that important, but change it fast and don't put yourself through all the worry. Otherwise, you can keep it, and the right people will find you if you're doing your job right.

* The content of this post is intended to serve as general advice and information. It is not to be taken as legal advice and may not account for all rules and regulations in every jurisdiction. For legal advice, please contact an attorney.

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