What is a niche? This is an important place to start, I've noticed a lot of confusion around this word. Simply put a "niche" is the approach to therapy and/or client population the therapist specializes in.
I hear many therapists express fear and concern about selecting a specialty because they don't want to "limit" their potential client pool.
To say it as blunt and simply as I can.....THIS WILL NOT HAPPEN!
Selecting a specialty does not limit your potential client pool.
In fact, it is often the opposite.
Why Having a Speciality is Important
Many therapists have different opinions on having a specialty, and as a therapist and a marketing coach, this is mine. We should always be operating under an abundance model and not a scarcity model. This means that as therapists in private practice we recognize that there are enough people in need of therapeutic services (abundance) and we shouldn't have a competition mindset (scarcity) when thinking about how we can attract clients.
Therapists want to attract clients who are ideal fits so they can provide the best care possible. Having a specialty is one way to do this. It lets potential clients know what areas you focus on as a therapist. Yes, we should always be growing our knowledge base in most areas however we can't focus everywhere at all times. A specialty is your passion, and potential clients can sense that.
This is a vast pool and one that I will not be able to cover in one, or a thousand posts.
As I said before a specialty can be the approach to therapy and/or the population a therapist chooses to focus on.
Approaches to therapy include narrative, CBT, EMDR, play therapy, sand tray, IPNB, sex therapy, person-centered, culturally responsive/affirming, the list is huge!
Populations could include LGBTQ+, Racial/Cultural Identity, Trauma, Anger, Kink, Relationships, Highly Sensitive People, People on the Spectrum, Teenagers, Children, Divorce, again the list is endless!
This is how I lay mine out?
Hi! My name is Ryan Dillon. I am a genderfluid narrative therapist and I specialize in working with people from the queer community. Identity development and exploration are passions of mine and I consider it an honor to help people discover their own. I also specialize in working with parents of queer-identified teenagers to provide support, knowledge, and a place to process thoughts and feelings and ask questions.
See, easy peasy! Don't overcomplicate it.
Your Ideal Client
An ideal client is a population you get the most excited to work with. The population you have the most passion in reading about, going to conferences and workshops for, reading books about, etc.
This doesn't mean this population is the only one you work with or enjoy working with, it's just the one that gets you pumped and keeps you fueled as a therapist.
As therapists, we need this concept in our minds and in our work because it does provide fuel to us and can even help prevent burnout. It isn't a bad thing to have a population you love above all else, and it doesn't mean your work with other populations suffers, it just means you know yourself and where most of your focus should be.
What Clients Are Searching For
Clients are likely to search for therapists with a particular specialty.
If you, as a therapist, state that you specialize in working with Open Relationships, this does not mean those in monogamous relationships will decide to not reach out to you.
I specialize in working with the queer community. But, guess what? Many, and I do mean MANY non-queer people reach out to me because they feel as if I am less likely to judge them because of my specialty.
Knowing A Little About A Lot
Having a specialty tells potential clients what you have the most knowledge in. You can know a little about a lot of different populations BUT this does not mean you should work with a lot of different populations.
We all want to help people, but we should know we can't help everyone.
I am not a trauma therapist. Can I help process some levels of trauma with my clients? Of course, but that doesn't mean I'm equipped for in-depth trauma processing. So, I don't list trauma as a specialty OR something I work with. Certainly, it does still come up in session but we, the client, and I evaluate my ability then.
Stop Listing Everything on Profiles!
This screams that a therapist does not have the skills for deep processing in most areas. Is that necessarily true? Who knows. A potential client or fellow therapist looking for referrals can't tell.
If you select EVERYTHING or even more than 6-8 areas on your profile it begins to muddle the message you are trying to get across and what you have the knowledge and skills to work with.
Keep it simple and tell the reader about your ideal client!
Not Too Fast
Don't rush to niche up! No one should just pick and go on a whim. Can you refocus later on in your career? Of course! But that doesn't mean you shouldn't take time to think about it.
I knew who I wanted to work with the moment I applied for graduate school. However, most therapists may not know until they begin the process of therapy, graduate, and are under-supervision. This is completely okay!
Developing your identity as a therapist takes time and will evolve as you do. Give it the time it deserves to happen organically.
Marketing Can Be Tricky
Marketing yourself as a therapist can be tricky. Especially when you aren't at an agency or group practice where the marketing is done in a bundle. As a therapist in private practice, you are the brand and the business, and there are many ways to market your business. The information I provided in this blog is just one way.
Trust yourself, you're the expert!
Yes, I have homework for you!
Get a piece of paper, as in from a tree, not a piece of technology. The reasoning for this is that it limits distractions AND it has been proven that people focus more and retain more information when they write something down.
Find a place with limited distractions and write down all the things that get you pumped about being a therapist. Write as much as you possibly can in one sitting without going back to read what you wrote, yet.
Examine what you wrote down. Does anything stand out? Circle the half that stands out most to you. Yes, half.
Look at what you have left. Is it a mix of populations, feelings, approaches, etc? Use that list to write a bio about yourself speaking directly to your ideal client using at least half, yes half, of the list you have left.
This process will get you used to speaking directly to your ideal client instead of trying to write to all potential clients, which doesn't work. Try this a couple of times. Writing bios can be difficult, but once you have an audience in mind (ideal client) it can get easier.