Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast!
I’m your host, Cindy Norton.
Here in Episode 13 I talk about how to niche your therapy practice, as well as how you can niche when you’re not yet sure who your ideal client is.
Let’s get started.
Podcasts are growing in popularity and there are already so many great private practice podcasts out there. If you join the Trailblazer community via my seasonal newsletter you will receive a free A-Z download that includes a list of my favorite private practice podcasts.
I hope that the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast will earn its spot in your regular podcast listens.
See below for the episode show notes links and transcript…
Episode 13 Show Notes Links
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Episode 13 Transcript
Hello there, and welcome back to the Mountain Practice Journeys podcast! I’m your host, Cindy Norton. Here in Episode 13 I’m going to talk about how to niche your therapy practice, as well as how you can niche when you’re not yet sure who your ideal client is.
Let’s get started.
Have you been wanting to start your private practice, but you can’t seem to take that first step? Maybe you’re afraid of failure or lack confidence, or maybe the idea of running your own practice is overwhelming. I’m Cindy Norton, owner of Mountain Practice Journeys and I help therapists and counselors to love the business side of private practice. I’ll share with you practical skills and advice along with a healthy dose of inspiration so that you can be on your way to the practice of your dreams. Put on your hiking boots, and let’s get going.
If you haven’t yet listened to Episode 12, I urge you to do that. In that episode I chat with Jesse Martin, a holistic business coach. We talk about how therapists and counselors can use their expertise to be highly-paid online consultants and ethically attract their dream clients. Jesse will answer questions such as: Can therapists do consulting and coaching? How much should you charge? How do you get clients? and How do you pick a niche?
Now, let’s get to today’s episode about niching.
I’m going to start with an example. Listen to the answers to the following question from Therapist A and Therapist B. Which therapist do you think will attract the clients they can be most helpful to?
Question: What’s the purpose of your practice?
Therapist A’s Answer: To provide therapy services.
Therapist B’s Answer: To support stressed-out moms and help them to find a sense of peace in their everyday lives.
This is a huge difference, right?
A practice with a clear niche will fill faster. And therapists who work with their preferred niche often have a more fulfilling and rewarding practice.
There are many different ways that you can niche your practice. I’ll share with you four of the most common ways.
First, you can niche by ideal client. Maybe there is a specific type of person you like to work with. Let’s say that you love working with women in their 20’s and 30’s. You focus your marketing on what women that age may be going through – career concerns, finding purpose, dating, or becoming a mother. You share that you can help because you’ve been there before.
Second, you can niche by treatment specialty or diagnosis. Maybe you are really great at treating depression, therefore you niche your practice around the treatment of depression. You highlight your expertise in this area. In your marketing you speak to the pain points of your clients around their depressive episodes. You share stories of how you help people overcome depression and give hope.
Third, you can niche by modality or approach. Maybe you really love working from the Internal Family Systems model. In your marketing you share insight into how the approach works to help clients heal. You really believe in the model, and your clients will too.
Fourth, you can niche who YOU are. Many therapists have a difficult time with niching because they think they have to choose a specific specialty, approach, or ideal client. If you’re more of a generalist, let clients get to know you so no matter what they’re looking for they want YOU to help them. Maybe you are the motherly type. You’re a great listener, caring, and supportive. You offer tea to your clients and have a welcoming, comfy office. You also love to knit and crochet. And you invite clients to take off their shoes and curl up on the couch like they are having a comforting conversation with an old friend. With this way of niching you are sharing yourself. The clients who are looking for a sense of calm and comfort in their therapeutic experience will come to you whether they are 20 or 40, or looking to work with depression, anxiety, or trauma.
I niched my own practice by using two of these examples. First by ideal client, which is happy couples, and then by modality or approach, which is Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I also described my ideal client in detail. For example: couples who are looking to learn new relationship skills to better manage conflict and enhance communication, and couples who are sure of their commitment to one another.
I also described who my ideal client was not. Not everyone thinks of doing this, but I believe that it can be just as important. I shared that I do not work with couples who are ambivalent about their relationship or are considering separation, or couples who are looking for support in recovering from infidelity, or couples who are experiencing very high conflict, or couples who are looking for parenting support.
I do however share that I am more than happy to assist couples who fit these descriptions in finding an excellent therapist who specializes in these concerns, as I want all couples to get the appropriate support from a therapist who is both competent and excited about their work with couples.
Now I want to share a few more thoughts I have about niching.
Niching is definitely important, but I believe that it is especially important for private pay practices. As a private pay therapist, I believe that having a clearly defined niche has been the most helpful aspect of growing my practice.
Even though niching with an ideal client is most common, I have worked with some of my coaching clients to get creative and niche in other ways. So don’t think that you are stuck with only using an ideal client to formulate your niche.
I also recommend against choosing a niche solely based on its potential for profitability, as this may take you further away from what YOU really want. In my opinion, this should not be factored into your decision making process. ALL niches have the potential for profitability. If you chose a niche you are passionate about, and are good at, the clients WILL come.
You likely won’t have to worry about getting too specific with your niche, as the majority of therapists aren’t specific enough.
And please remember, just because you claim a specific niche doesn’t mean that all of your clients will fit neatly into that description. You can still have variety.
I hope those little nuggets are helpful to you as you think about your niche.
Now, I’m going to take my own advice from this episode. For my private practice, AVL Couples Therapy, I’m very clear with my niche. I sometimes get a chuckle when I say that I work with happy couples, but it’s true.
However, I haven’t always been so clear with my Mountain Practice Journeys business. I absolutely love helping anyone who wants to start or grow their private practice. But I was recently thinking about that – and that is not a niche. Here I am – a private practice coach who helps my clients with niching – and I haven’t fully done it myself.
Well, I have actually niched really well in my private practice, but I didn’t even think about doing it for my coaching business. So now is as good a time as any. I’m going to further niche Mountain Practice Journeys on this episode so you can observe my thought process and hopefully you can translate it to your practice in some way.
When I look at Mountain Practice Journeys I see many things. The majority of my clients are a lot like me – Introverts and Highly Sensitive Therapists. I bet you notice this in your practice as well. You will likely see similarities between yourself and your clients. Once we have been through an experience and have come out the other side with helpful knowledge and a new perspective, we love to help others on their journey as well.
I also notice that the products and courses that I design are all about simplifying, creating space, and reducing stress or overwhelm in some way – things that Introverts and Highly Sensitive Therapists need – not only in their life, but in their practice as well.
I also find myself working with a lot of clients who want or already have private pay practices, and I help a lot of clients transition away from insurance panels. Personally, I know nothing about insurance. I’ve never been on an insurance panel in my practice. I get sweaty just thinking about it. And many of my clients do too.
So I’m probably not going to be the absolute best fit as a coach for insurance-based practices. And it’s actually pretty scary to me as I say this because I have successfully supported many therapists with insurance-based practices. So why would I do something like this that may make them feel excluded? Or that actively diverts potential business away from me?
I’m sure that you are struggling with the exact same question as you are deciding on your niche. Why would you exclude potential clients that you can work with? Well, the answers is that you shouldn’t only work with a client just because you CAN. This is a big topic, so I’m not going to get into it now. I’ll do a future episode about phone consultations where I talk about screening potential clients for the very best fit.
So now that I think more deeply about that fear of exclusion, I realize that it’s not actually exclusion – it’s informed consent. If someone with an insurance-based practice wants me as their coach I will be more than happy to work with them. However, I will be transparent and share that I have a very limited knowledge of running an insurance-based private practice and let them make an informed decision. It may be that they are wanting support with an area that has nothing to do with insurance.
By sharing what some may consider exclusions for working with me, I’m actually ensuring that potential clients are protected by sharing my own limitations. Personally, I find the whole insurance thing very overwhelming and frustrating, and that is going to shine through if I am working with a coaching client on this topic. I may inadvertently show a bias toward a private pay practice, and that is not what they need.
So I think I’ve done it! I’ve clarified my niche for Mountain Practice Journeys. Not only am I a private practice coach for therapists starting and growing their private practice – I absolutely love working with Introverts and Highly Sensitive Therapists who want a private pay practice.
Okay, so this feels really nice. I’m feeling good about my new, more specific niche here at Mountain Practice Journeys. Now it’s your turn. How can you create a practice that is authentic to you and the clients that you love to serve?
During each episode I’ll be giving you one small take away, action step, or mindset shift. I call these acorns. Listen to episode 0 to get the scoop on what the acorns are all about.
The acorn from this episode is to enhance your niche through professional education and training. Because, if we’re going to niche in something, we better be good at it.
When honing in on your niche, ask yourself: What do I love doing? What am I good at? and What am I competent at?
There’s something to be said for life experience, but you also want training and education. As therapists we should never stop learning. We would be doing our clients a huge disservice if we were not continuing to grow in our knowledge.
Seek out continuing education within your niche. This isn’t to say that you should have tunnel vision, as it’s important to have broad knowledge in this field. However, I want to challenge you to not just seek out the free or cheap options when it comes to your CEUs, especially if they are unrelated to your niche. I want you to invest in yourself and your knowledge within your niche. You will be a better therapist for it, and you clients will be better served. Is there a dreamy, destination conference based on your niche? Go for it!
As I outlined in episode 0, I’ll be alternating between a fun fact and ‘what I’m digging’ segment with each new episode.
What I’m digging for this episode is Bonfire. Bonfire is a free online platform where you can design and sell products such as hoodies, t-shirts, and more. It’s a great way to add a bit of additional income to your business or to create a fundraiser for a worthy cause.
In the past, if you wanted to sell promotional apparel for your business, you would have to order batches of t-shirts in various sizes and colors and then try to get rid of your inventory. You would likely run into the problem of not having the correct color or size that someone wanted and miss out on that sale.
If someone did order something, you would need to package up the item and mail it yourself. This whole fiasco likely ended with you having a stockpile of unsold merchandise collecting dust in a corner of your house. What a waste of money.
Gone are the days of having to maintain a stock of promotional materials. Bonfire handles payment processing, order fulfillment, and customer service so you can focus on connecting with your community.
I personally use Bonfire for the apparel that I have designed to help support the costs of producing this podcast. I have ordered several items myself to test out the quality, as I didn’t want to offer up anything to my community that wasn’t good quality and that I haven’t personally tried. I have t shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies, and they are both comfy and high-quality. I have washed and dried my items over the course of 6 months and they still look great.
If you want to create your own store with Bonfire, it’s free to do so. Check out the show notes for my referral link. Use it to sign up and you’ll get a little something extra. The show notes can be found at mountainpracticejourneys.com/episode13
Thank you so much for joining me today on your private practice journey.
For episode 14 I’ll be chatting with Jane Carter of Jane Carter Coaching about overcoming common fears in private practice. We talk about fear, imposter syndrome, and perfectionism and what to do about them.
There’s no way you can know how much it means to me that you choose to join me here as I share all things related to private practice. Please subscribe so you don’t miss a step. For more information about this episode, please visit the show notes page at mountainpracticejourneys.com/podcast I truly appreciate you Trailblazers. Your mountain is within reach. Journey on.
I Want You To Be Successful In Business & In Life!
Starting, growing, and maintaining a business is a big deal. It's super-exciting and super-scary all at the same time. I created Mountain Practice Journeys to support you through the difficult and muddy terrain, and to celebrate with you when you have reached each summit of the many mountains you will conquer on your journey.
Happy Climbing, Cindy