I was making a presentation to the Seattle Division of the Washington Association of Marriage and Family Therapists and made a statement to the audience: "There are more than enough clients to fill every single practice of all of you- and all of the other private practice therapists in Seattle."
Or I said something like that... But, this time a therapist pulled me aside and said "How do you know? How do you know that there are enough clients for all of our private practices?" I thought it would be fun today to share how I can make such bold claims about the deep need of our communities for therapy, mental health care, and coaching by qualified experts (like therapists).
When I talk to therapists and do private practice analysis sessions- I love to look up actual data about where they live, and what people who live there are searching for. Here are a few tools I use to determine: Are there really enough clients for everyone?
Google Keyword Tool
Did you know that Google tracks what people search for online? Did you know that they have statistics that anyone with a Google account can access. Today I went in and checked out what people in Seattle, WA are specifically searching for. Each of these are keywords people are typing in to Google monthly.
Schizophrenia 2400 monthly searches
depression 1600 monthly searches
bipolar disorder 1300 monthly searches
anxiety 1300 monthly searches
depression test 720 monthly searches
postpartum depression 480 monthly searches
couples therapy 480 monthly searches
couples retreat 260 monthly searches
marriage counseling Seattle 170 monthly searches
Seattle christian counseling 140 monthly searches
Seattle freeze 880 monthly searches
life coach 170 monthly searches
Let's say just 10% of those 480 people searching for couple's therapy are ready to actually find a therapist. That would be 48 new couples needing treatment each month. Or 576 couples requesting support each year. How many couples could a couple's therapist realistically take on each year?
Or, let's look at depression searches. 720 people searching specifically for a depression test each month. Or, 880 people typing in Seattle Freeze every month here. This isn't the whole picture of how much help people are needing in Seattle- but it gives you some ideas about how much support is needed. What happens if these individuals don't find great therapists or easy assistance to make things better?
Another statistic I look at is simply searching for the population in a given area. The population in Seattle in 2014 was more than 650,000 people. Almost 3/4 of a million people living in just a few square miles.
What if we thought about what general research tells us about rates of depression, postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, etc. What would be your guesstimate on how many individuals or couples are wanting or needing support at any given time? Would 1% be a high number? How about 2%? What are statistics you know by heart about rates of sexual assault for men, for women, rates of substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and just general need for help during transitions?
Seattle is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States. From July 2012, to July 2013- almost 18000 residents were added. What do you know about making a major move? Or moving to a place where over 800 local area searching something called the Seattle Freeze? My husband gave me a statistic (which I am still searching to verify) that the majority of newcomers only last a year or two on average in Seattle. I searched Seattle Freeze and NO therapists came up.
Keep your eyes open, search for information about your city and local trends. Modesto, where I built my private practice has a well-known and publicized issue with meth. So much so, that we've got the fabulous nick-name of "methdesto." Nice, huh? Let me guess- you don't want to work with meth addicts? What about their families? Their siblings? Their ex-spouses?
Incidence and Occurrence Data
I mentioned it briefly above. If there is a specific issue you work with, check out the research. How many people in 1000 struggle with this issue? Are there any mental health states that are local to your area, check it out. Put those numbers in front of you. Write them down and use those statistics to calculate the need based on the population of your area.
How many other therapists are providing this service? How many can you find online? Notice I said to check the availability, not the "competition." Many therapists are fearful that there isn't enough to go around. When in reality- there is a LOT of people needing support and direction! However, knowing how easy it is to find someone who can help in a particular area is good information to have. Many therapists are multi-passionate.
Be the client- go out and search as if you are looking for help in a specific area. You can even use the specific search terms you identified previously! Do you come up? Do ANY therapists come up? Have you ever searched for something using every word you could think of it- and not found it? It is frustrating for sure! How many times have you given up? I have!
I feel like lately the word abundance is pretty over-used. Some therapists even associate it with a sense of lala land magical thinking. While I truly believe in abundance, part of the reason I believe deeply in abundance is because of the abundance of hurt and pain I see in the world daily. Look at your group of friends, people at church- look at the overwhelmed moms, couples splitting up...
Of course my sense of abundance is bolstered by things like the 8 requests for services that were called in to my private practice in the first 8 days of 2015- despite my not actively marketing that private practice for almost a year.
What about you? What steps have you taken to know that there are sufficient clients for you? Clients who would feel relieved to be able to easily stumble upon you and find out you exist?