Starting a Counseling Practice Part 8: Choosing Your Niche

Niche - it should be easy right? It's one of the biggest things we conquered in bootcamp and now we want to help you deal with this too.

Niche by definition is simply a specialized but profitable corner of the market. Choosing a niche gives your private practice a trajectory. When you have a niche, you are able to do market research needed for business planning. You also are clear in your marketing messages about who you help and how. Your niche will also influence your training choices, for example, couples specialist going through Gottman training.

So how do you choose a niche?

Look at your skills and your intellectual property (what do you know).
You have had a lot of education to be at this point in your life and that is valuable to the people you serve. Sometimes your niche is the way you work. For example, a clinician that works with EMDR allows them to market to people with trauma but the niche of how they work with trauma is in the EMDR skillset. People can have head trash around this area about how they aren’t enough because they are an intern, newly licensed or missing a specific certificate. We are all growing and I hope to be a better clinician every year but that doesn’t negate the knowledge I have today. Honor what you know and start valuing yourself.

Look at your experiences in and out of the office.
Ask yourself - which clients have been the most exciting or energizing kind of work for you? Look for common themes amongst these clients to help guide you towards a niche. Going back to our earlier post about giving yourself permission, often coaching clients struggle to speak up for what they love. Picking a niche is a creative experience and it will be easier when you open your mind up to possibilities, explore and play with ideas.

Look at your life.
Often times my coaching clients go through our process and select their niche and are shocked to discover that their ideal client sounds a lot like them or a piece of them from the past. It’s true, your story does have an impact what you are drawn towards. For example, I know of a clinician who survived cancer and now works with people going through cancer treatment. Let me be clear though. If you choose solely based upon experience, please be sure you have done your own work around issues and are managing countertransference. While you may have an interest based on something that has happened to you recently, you want to be sure that you are able to do your best work clinically without the clouding of your own issues.  If you are triggered please seek consultation.

Look at your interests.
What is sparking your curiosity now? Curiosity and passion are two energetic forces. When chooses a niche, you want to stay interested enough to really dig in and find out if it is the best fit for you. This process takes time so you need the energy to carry you through the process.

Look at the possibilities.
Research is part of finding a niche. Once you look at your life, experiences, knowledge and passions, find commonalities and play with ideas for your niche. Write down the different concepts and start researching to see if these niches exist. While we have a whole process for research, to start we recommend hopping online and checking out meetup.com, facebook groups, or googling topics related to your niche. From there you can see if there is interest in your area for the niche you are considering.

For example, you could want to work with woman who have survived breast cancer. As you start looking for support groups and such you might discover that in your area, there are more groups that support cancer survival in general. This information will guide you into marketing a viable niche. You might then choose to market to people who have survived cancer instead of breast cancer. Another tip: assumption is not research. I know you know this, but many therapists I have talked to make decisions about their niche based solely on their experience without really exploring the existence of the market. So take some time because once you find the resources you will have ideas for targeting your marketing.

Those are just some tips to get you started in discovering a niche. Know that the niche you have today is not necessarily the niche you will have 5 years from now. We are growing as professionals and that will be reflected in our businesses. You are never stuck (you hold this idealogy for your clients I bet, so why not for yourself?). If you pick a niche and it doesn’t work out, there are more options. If you pick a niche and it ends up burning you out, you can change it up.

Not sure you can do this on your own? Download this free 1 hour training where we guide you through the process of developing your niche.