When I was in graduate school, I learned about theories, disorders, interventions, ethics…but not about personal and professional growth. I didn’t learn about finding a particular population or a particular issue to focus on and expand my knowldge on. It was all general. When I finally graudated, I did what many do and went into non-profit, where I worked with adults with chronic mental illness, and then moved into the hospital sector doing intakes. Here I met individuals with a variety of issues and concerns which maintained my general understanding of mental health issues. It wasn’t until I started seeing clients in private practice that I started narrowing my focus, expanding my knowledge in specific areas of mental health. But even then, I continued to market myself to e-v-e-r-y-o-n-e. There was this idea that if I wasn’t marketable to everyone, I wasn’t going to get clients. This fear is widespread in our field, often subtle, unconscious, and unspoken.
I’d like to say that I am the founder of the idea of niching yourself out. But I am not. And sadly, I have heard this so many times but thought this idea just doesn’t apply to me. That the referrals wouldn’t come if I was specific about who I wanted to see. I was fortunate in that my solo, and later group practice, had a steady stream of referrals and that put me in a place of referring new clients out. This was the point that I decided to take the “risk,” as I thought, and niche out. I had all my staff rewrite their bios, talking to that ideal client in their heads. Instead of everyone in the office having bios like, “I work with children, teens, adults, couples, families…. with anxiety, depression, trauma, relationship issues, bipolar disorder….” we widdled it down. We published it on our website and on places like Psych Today. Not only did referrals continue to come in, potential clients were calling to see specific clinicians in the group that they felt their bios “talked to them.”
So take the leap, niche yourself out. Start seeing only the clients that you can help the most. Your clients will benefit from it and you will enjoy it even more.
Your visibility to new clients does not go down when you niche yourself out.
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Maureen Werrbach is a psychotherapist, group practice owner and group practice coach. Learn more about her coaching services here: LEARN MORE HERE