When I was in high school my parents built a house and they had a couple of niches built into the walls. Those niches became the place in the house where treasures, mainly my mother’s artwork, were displayed. They were special and sacred spaces to me.
Like those little places in the walls, holding something special, so are we as we sit in our offices helping people heal and soar above adversity. We all have a special place in this world. No one is like you. No one does therapy like you. No one can help exactly the way you can. That is what it means to have a niche, to literally carve out your space in the world and be there fully.
So how do you find your niche? And once you do, how do you articulate something so unique and special?
Here are some tips in discovering your niche:
- Know and honor thyself. Too often clinicians buy into the headtrash that there is nothing unique about them (though they wouldn’t say that about their clients) and that they offer similar help to people as other therapists. I believe people take this approach out of wanting to be humble. This is not about pride. When you are clear about your craft then a potential client can more easily make the decision as to whether or not you are the right fit for them. Look at your knowledge, your style, what is in your toolkit, your approach, your beliefs and your values. All of these things make up who you are as a therapist. Speak to those things when you talk to people. Let them see who you are. If you work with me, we are going to laugh. Guaranteed. Why? Because I highlight the absurdity in my sessions. I find laughter softens the embrace and acceptance of our rough edges as we begin to lean into them. That isn’t all of me, but that is a taste of what it is like to work with me. For some of you, your niche is going to be a super specialized way of working with people. But we all have our path and it is important to ask – What is it like to work with me?
- Know who you help. Let’s face it, you don’t help everyone. You may think you do, but I bet there are some people that just aren’t the right fit. That is why our field is so diverse because it is reflective of the world we seek to help. When looking at your “ideal client” it might be several kinds of issues. That’s ok. Find the common thread amongst them and use that as a niche. Sometimes people will tell you to niche in your practice based upon your passion. But even some passions can drain you. I know of a clinician that specializes in working with severe trauma, but she in fact can only take a handful of clients that are struggling with this issue because of its intensity. Oh and just because you are “good” at working with a certain issue, doesn’t mean you “have” to continue. Follow what makes you curious. You are still going to grow as a clinician in this work. The more curious you can stay, the better for the longevity of your career.
- Be flexible. In a world where news travels so quickly and information can be changed with ease, we are more fortunate than ever to have the freedom to change in our practices. You can try a niche on for 90 days and if you discover that it isn’t for you, you can move onto the next thing that peaks your curiosity. When we hang onto things that aren’t working, we sink into a darkness or frustration in our business that doesn’t allow creativity in. Your creativity is what will open doors. Your ability to embrace change and continue to move through and adjust is a huge asset in building your niche. This is where many people get stuck. They want to get it “right” the first time. But really that is an impossible expectation. As you grow, so will your niche. List all the things you are curious about. See if there are commonalities. Pick a place to start and move from there.
- Be honest and share. Don’t minimize what you do or who you help. Don’t make false promises but don’t hide either. Claim your sacred space and honor it. Your clients are the ones who will benefit and you will as well. When I coach clients and they start to work in a niche that is more authentic and aligned with who they are, there is freedom, joy, and space. It’s exciting. It’s not as limiting as many think niching will be. It’s simply giving yourself permission to be in a space where you do your best work. Who wouldn’t want to share that with the world?
Explore your niche and begin to use what you discover in your marketing for your private practice.
Do you have a niche? or Have you been scared about choosing a niche? Share below in the comments.
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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Sep 2014