When my family moved to Seattle this phrase “saturated market” kept coming up. I worried that in a city with more than 1,200 therapists listed on Psychology Today, I wouldn’t have a place.
Because I didn’t really have the option to fail, I tried my best not to pay attention to it. I held on to my business mantra and did what I had to in order to build. I came at my business with the same plan I was using in my life: a smaller community within a much bigger system. It all worked beautifully.
When we moved to Asheville, this phrase came up again. I actually heard someone say “You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting an LCSW here,” which both disturbed me and made me grateful for my quick reflexes.
And it’s true— there are a lot of therapists in this community. But it’s a part of the culture here.
Many, many Ashevillians have therapists–and Reiki Masters and mediums and homeopathic physicians. And maybe even a guru. It’s a place committed to being your best self and continued personal growth. As a result, there are probably 50-100 therapists within two blocks of my office.
We’re all doing quite well.
Now if you live in a town of 3,000 and there are 500 therapists, that might be true saturation.
However, it would stand to reason that it’s also a place that values therapy.
Because the last two cities I’ve lived in are allegedly saturated, I’ve spoken with a lot of people stuck in agencies who are terrified to go out on their own.
Location, Location, Location
They think there are already too many therapists. Let me tell you something about business you may not know: you know how Starbucks seems to sprout up across the street from your locally owned coffee shop? They’re doing it because the local coffee shop is proving that that location works.
Starbucks isn’t moving across town where there’s a caffeine wasteland. Not yet anyway.
What if you live in a very small town where people are resistant to therapy and there are already 10 struggling therapists in private practice?
Make a name for yourself in bigger cities and use a HIPAA-compliant video conferencing (like Vsee) to see those folks. Some legal FYI: you need to be licensed in the state in which your client is sitting at the time of the session and in some states, insurance doesn’t cover video conferencing.
If you really have a niche and are expert at something, you don’t need to rely on insurance! So even in the rare event that the town you want to work in is truly saturated, you can expand your market and be wildly successful.
What Might Have Been
I want to back up. What if had I invested in the idea that Seattle was a saturated market? I would have determined that I wasn’t going to make it as someone who had no ties to the community. I would have taken the job offered to me my first month there working with a population with whom I am not as skilled.
That situation would have led to low self-efficacy and burnout. I would have felt silly for ever thinking that I would make private practice work in a big city. We would have struggled financially. The money piece would have been a burden on our marriage, especially after I got pregnant while my husband was still in school.
I would have resented the move to somewhere so much more expensive. I wouldn’t have been able to afford the astronomical childcare fees and would have to stay at home. I’m really not good at being a stay-at-home mom, which makes me feel guilty.
Then, when it was clear we needed to move back across the country because of a family illness, we wouldn’t have been able to afford to for a long time. Then I’d probably have just gotten some crappy agency job in Asheville.
I could go on. Can you tell how good I am at catastrophizing?
My Beautiful Life
What happened instead is that I grew into a new adult self. I stepped up; I kicked ass and I learned to give myself some credit for making it work.
Aside from birthing my daughter, it has been the most empowering thing I’ve ever done. It has been great for our marriage. My husband could focus on school instead of listening to me fret about bills. We hired a nanny for the three days I worked. We went on vacations. I attended the good conferences that made me more clinically competent. I invested in self care.
Again, I could go on. I’m also good at having gratitude for how beautiful my life is!
Here’s my point: if you are attached to the idea that you won’t succeed because it’s a saturated market, stop. Drop that excuse. If the millions of therapists in your area are doing well, it’s because there are plenty of clients.
If most of the therapists in your area are struggling, find out if they are learning how to market themselves effectively or reaching out to experts in practice building. If you’re the only one around reading posts like this one and taking courses, you can rack up! You can do this! It’s not rocket science. Maybe you can do rocket science, too. Who knows?
Allison Puryear is an LCSW with a nearly diagnosable obsession with business development. She has started practices in three different states and wants you to know that building a private practice is shockingly doable when you have a plan and support. After retiring her individual consultation services, she opened the Abundance Party, where you can get practice-building help for the cost of a copay. You can download a free private practice checklist to make sure you have your ducks in a row, get weekly private practice tips, listen to the podcast, hop into the free Facebook Group. Allison is all about helping you gain the confidence and tools you need to succeed.