If you are trying to build your caseload, specifying a niche might seem counterproductive. After all, a wide net catches the most fish, right? But a niche, or specific area of interest and expertise, can help attract more clients, as well as differentiate you from other therapists.

Prospective clients look for professionals who meet specific qualifications– age, gender, type of therapy provided, and area of expertise among them. They may actually turn away from a therapist who appears too generalized. It’s hard to get an accurate sense of someone who claims to be all things to everyone, and patients want to know that you can meet their particular needs.

Some therapists enter graduate school with a niche already identified. For others, a niche only materializes with time and mental energy. Here are some steps to get you started on finding your niche:

Step 1: Brainstorm Interests

Get a pen and pad of paper and answer the following questions.

Who are your favorite clients and what makes them most interesting to you?

What were your favorite classes in college and grad school?

What social issues are you the most passionate about?

Are there particular occupational groups that you feel drawn towards? (For example, first responders, competitive athletes, stay-at-home moms, or “starving artists”).

Are there any specific cultural or age groups you enjoy working with?

Step 2: Make a List of Strengths, Skills, and Experience

No matter where you are in your career, you have attributes, skills, and experiences that can guide you toward your niche. What do your friends and colleagues appreciate most about you? Is it your compassion, insight, trustworthiness, or patience? Do you have any special training that makes you particularly suited to treat a particular group of people? Finally, consider the personal life experiences that connect you with certain patients. While you might not publish these details on your website, they can help you to identify an appropriate niche.

Step 3: Look for Overlap

Take a look at your answers from steps 1 and 2. What are the areas of overlap? For example, maybe you enjoy working with kids who have learning disabilities and you worked as a CIT at a youth camp for 3 summers in high school. Perhaps you grew up in a military family and also feel passionate about helping veterans. See if you can identify 3-4 potential groups of like interests, skills, and experiences.

Step 4: Market Research

Now that you have a handful of potential niches, it’s time for some market research. Is your community already saturated with child therapists? Maybe there is a VA hospital in the center of town and therefore not much of a demand for therapists who treat veterans. Reach out to colleagues to ask what needs may be underserved. Do any of these overlap with your interests and experience?

Step 5: Decision Time!

Remember that choosing a niche doesn’t mean that you can only see patients who meet those specific parameters. So don’t be afraid to get specific! If you simply can’t decide between two areas of interest, it’s okay to have more than one niche. Just make sure you don’t try to market to both groups simultaneously, as your message (and your patients) will get confused. Instead, use different web pages and/or social media accounts to speak to each population.

Step 6: Spread the Word!

Now it’s time to create a marketing plan so that clients within your niche can find you. A professional website is a given, but you’ll reach more people if you also post on social media or create a blog or online course. Sites like Keyword Finder can help you determine what words and phrases your clients are most likely to search so you can include them in any content you publish. You can also spread the word by networking with colleagues or joining a site like Belongly.


Identifying a niche attracts the clients you most wish to serve while increasing your credibility. It may take a little effort, but it is the first step toward establishing expertise. With an accompanying marketing plan, and a little time, you can become the “go-to” therapist for your selected population. This will then generate more referrals and may eventually create opportunities for publishing or public speaking.

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About the Author: Belongly
The community for mental health professionals. A free, secure space for mental health professionals to collaborate with and meet new colleagues, support each other through referrals and stay connected to a trusted network of peers.

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