No matter who I’m working with, no matter what context, be it Group or Free Individual Consultation (yes, that’s a thing, email to get scheduled), I always start with creating a niche.

At least 30% of the time the person doesn’t want to go there. Usually they don’t want to limit themselves or they think they’re niching themselves with a population like “women in transition ages 25 to 60.” (Think for a second about the difference in marketing to a 25 year old in a quarter-life crisis and a 60 year old who is retiring to watch her grandbabies. Very different.)

Deciding on your niche is another ball game altogether that we’ll get to in another blog post.

First, I just want you to buy in to the idea: Your private practice will build faster and be more satisfying with a niche. 

Let’s work on two scarcity mindsets that come up with niching:

The first rebuttal I usually get is: I don’t want to limit the referrals that come in. I can work with a lot of presenting concerns and I need money to pay for my business expenses.  

Ok, fair enough. This seems counterintuitive, but here’s the thing: if you market to everyone, you’re really marketing to no one. When I see someone list EVERYTHING in the DSM as their specialty, I don’t make the assumption that they have extensive training in a lot of things, I think of them as mediocre at everything. When I network with people who describe themselves as “generalists” I usually put them in the category of allllllll the other “generalists” I’ve ever met. They get lumped in together in a forgettable heap. That’s harsh, but unless something about you really stands out, I am not going to remember to refer to you, nor will others. There are exceptions to this of course, but it stands as a general rule.

Consider yourself as a potential client. Imagine if you were struggling with something specific, even something that is considered “generalist” territory like anxiety. Are you going to choose the person your friend tells you about who LOVES working with therapists struggling with anxiety or someone whose website lists children, adolescents, and adults struggling with anxiety, depression, adjustment, addiction, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and family of origin issues as their client population?

Here’s a non-hypothetical: When I had Postpartum Depression after my first daughter was born, I wasn’t interested in seeing someone who had Perinatal Mental Health listed amongst a slew of other concerns they treated. I wanted the therapist who talked exclusively about Perinatal Mood Disorders on her website. I wanted someone who could explain the dynamics between my hormones, my lack of sleep, my daughter’s feeding issues and my mood, beyond what Google or my own training provided.  I’m sure there are well-trained folks out there who would have been great, but I was miserable and unwilling to take the risk of shopping around for a therapist. I needed relief and found the person who looked most likely to know what was going on with me.

The second rebuttal I get is: I don’t want to see just one presenting concern or just one kind of client. Me either!  How burned out would we all be if that’s how it worked! I’ve been a highly niched therapist for years. My website is straight up Eating Disorders with images and copy aimed toward twenty-somethings. I have never had more than 75% of my clientele have an eating disorder. Usually it hovers around 60%. How do I make this magic happen? Though I’ve been known for eating disorders in my communities, I am also known as someone who is fairly directive. Someone who will call someone on their stuff in a loving way they can hear. So if someone needs a clinician for their perseverating roommate or depressed mom, they’re told I have the ability to reach them. My graduated clients refer their friends to me because they know I know what I’m doing with feelings.

You don’t have to be pigeon-holed. It’s also totally okay to tell a few referral sources you’re close to, “Hey, I’m getting kinda full with this one type of client. I’d love someone who struggles with ____ instead.”

Let’s take a very meta example! You’re reading something from a business consultant who specializes in therapy private practices. You could follow a general business coach instead, but you know I know what it is to be a therapist, the idiosyncrasies of counseling private practices, the legal obligations that HIPAA and our licensing boards require. Now, the majority of my Abundance clientele is indeed counselors, but I’ve also worked with doctors, psych prescribers, massage therapists, Reiki practitioners, aestheticians, dietitians, interior decorators, yogis, etc.

What other hesitations do you have about having a niche? Let us know in the comments!


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