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Why identifying your niche is crucial in building a successful psychotherapy practice

When I talk to people about niching, they get freaked out. Almost every-single-person. They see it as limiting. They are afraid it will push people away. That they won’t get referrals. That no one will come see them. They are also terrified that they’re not good enough. That to be a specialist in something, they need to be certified in X, Y, and Z, not to mention CBT, DBT, EMDR, and EFT. And they are afraid there are not enough __________ in their community who want a therapist.

Where you live, what your experience is, and who you are passionate about helping will all play into what you name as your niche. (If you live in Lima, Montana, your niche is going to be in treating people who live in Lima, population 221.) However, if you live somewhere larger than that, you get to pick a more nuanced niche. And here’s the thing, the larger the population area you are drawing from, the more narrow your niche can and should be. This is really a numbers game. There are plenty of people out there who could use your help. (As a therapist, I believe that everyone could benefit from the help of a therapist at some point in their lives, :-) but that number is probably higher than the actual number who will seek our support… but there are still plenty of potential clients out there!)

In Bozeman, I work with teens, young adults and their parents. (Actually, I am a little more tightly niched than that, but not much!) If I lived in Brooklyn, I would probably niche tighter in order to stand out. Yes, that is part of the point of niching. If you can choose and pursue a specialty area, you become known for that thing. You become the go-to for that population. If you do not niche, you are known for… hmmm… I’m actually not sure what you would be known for, and that is the point. As someone with a niche, you actually get more referrals because you are memorable.

Another reason to niche is that specialists are more highly valued. Yep. You got it. I would rather see a knee specialist for knee replacement than a general surgeon. And yes, I would be willing to invest at a higher level to see that specialist. This is my knee after all. And yes, that does translate to mental health. If so-and-so wants to save their marriage, don’t you think it would be worth it for them to see someone who focuses on couples? Who goes to trainings about couples work every chance they get rather than to a random assortment of very interesting but possibly not related trainings each year?

I also have found one more benefit to niching that I had not necessarily anticipated before I did it myself, and that is efficiency. When you niche, you get to focus your time and energy around finding and creating resources for your ideal client. This means you don’t have to reinvent the wheel doing fourteen-hours of research every time a client needs a handout or exercise on a challenge they are having.

Finally, if you are reading this and shaking your head thinking, “yeah, well, that is all good and well if you are truly good at something, but I am not there yet,” then we should talk. If you have at least a few years of clinical experience under your belt, OR you have a lot of years of life experience under your belt, I’d bet there is something you are really good at or tuned in to. (If you are a 24-year-old recent graduate of your master’s program, it actually might be possible that you have a niche that is ripe and ready too. But probably, you’re in a place where you need to spend a little time getting some experience under your belt to figure out what your talent is.)

I challenge you today to think about carving out your niche – examine what is scaring you about it and what you would do if you were fearless. Post your fears below so we can figure this out together and get your ideal clients connected with you so that they can get the valuable help you offer.

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