Episode Eighteen | Season Three

Finding Your Therapist Niche (The Power of Defining Your Services!)

On this Episode of PsychBiz, Howard and I are talking about how to set up your services so you can make the best decisions for your practice and attract the right clients.

We share insights on:

  • The Four W’s and One H of your service plan
  • How to find your niche?
  • And more!

We hope you find this episode insightful and inspiring. If you do, please consider subscribing, leaving a review or a comment.

And don’t forget, if you’d like help with your therapist website or branding, you can book a free 30-minute consultation with Sarah at https://SRWDschedule.as.me/discovery

Episode 18 Transcript:


Intro (Sarah):  If you are a mental health professional who wants to have a bigger impact on the world, help more people and grow your business all at the same time. Then, you’re in the right place. With every episode, we’re here to help you discover new ideas, gain new insights and get the step-by-step strategies that you need to grow your private practice with confidence.

I’m Sarah Gershone and along with my co-host,  Howard Baumgarten, we welcome you to PsychBiz. We’re so glad you’re here. 

Howard: In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about our services plan and for you the listener, I think you’ll find this very interesting as we go through how to set up your services, we’re going to discuss the who, what, when, where, why and how. You remember the journalistic way, we used to think about it in journalism – I adopted that in my curriculum for graduate students and it really was a great way for my students to connect with the idea of services. And then I’ll talk a little bit Sarah, today about how to find your niche and then what different tiers you want to think about in terms of your niche work. And you’ll see what I mean when I talk about that, how does that sound?

Sarah: That sounds great. And I think sometimes it can be surprising how difficult it can be to articulate exactly who you help and how you help them. And it’s so important for you to get really clear about it so that you can express it really clearly to people so that you can attract the right clients who are the right match for what you do best and are the people who are going to benefit the most from the work that you do. And I think a lot of people kind of have a sense of like, well, I help these groups of people, but it can be hard to really drill down to say it in a way that is really articulate and really concise, but it really does help a lot.

Both, for your own sake to have that clarity for yourself so that you can make decisions that build your practice in the direction that you want to go. And then also for other people to really have a clear understanding of what you do so that the right people end up coming to you. 

Howard: Exactly. And maybe the best way to start this is to actually create an exercise for you, the listener, to follow along as we cover some of these important topics revolving around services. So if you’re in a place where you’re listening to this podcast where you can pull out a piece of paper, great. If not, come back to it after you finish your morning run while you’re listening to this podcast or you’re driving in the car and make sure that you do this exercise because I think once you do it, you will find it extremely helpful in attracting those clients. Like you were saying, Sarah. 

What I’m going to have the listener do here is to take out that piece of paper. And you can just write it down on the left side of the column and skip a few lines – who, what, where, when, why and how. We’re just going to go through each of these, and I’m going to give you an example.

When you think about the services that you deliver, we all know that you’ve been trained as a professional counselor, a social worker, or some type of mental health clinician, who are the populations that you work with. Okay, the people. So when we talk about who, I want you to think about aspects of who in the form of gender, culture, age, group versus individual versus couple versus family. These are all different types of who that you might put down. And there may be more that you might think about, list as many who’s, as you can. You can put it in the form of a list because that’s what’s going to eventually get embedded into all of your marketing materials, all of the verbiage that you use when you’re talking with prospective clients. You really want to have a defined individual or group or person or persons that you’re working with. And the other thing is it’s going to be more than one of these aspects so the way we’re going to describe it is in a way that is inclusive, right? So you might say in your description and we get into the marketing and networking part process that we are, we meaning our practice, an all-inclusive, safe practice that allows all people to come in and we work with individuals, couples, and families. We work with ages of, we meaning this group practice, work with the ages 6 to 65, you know? And so this could be a general practice that has this grouping of people that work with this large population and each individual therapist might have their specific who that is under their profile. 

So if you’re an individual therapist, it might be that I work with adolescents and the age that I work with are 12 to 21. And that’s it, right? And that might be it, right? And that we’re inclusive of all cultures and gender and non-gender, and that would be your individual sort of like who, so that’s an example of who. Does that make sense?

Sarah: Yeah, I do have a couple of questions though. So let’s talk about a solo practitioner or even a small group practice just hypothetically,  what if that small practice or solo practitioner has the majority of their case work right now in a certain area but they really are interested in pivoting a little bit and they want to focus more on a different, servicing a different who. So how would you suggest that they work with that in this exercise? Should they be putting down the group that they want to be working with? Should they be putting down who they’re working with right now? How do you approach that? 

Howard: That’s a wonderful question, Sarah. I would recommend that if you’re working with a certain population and you like that population, keep that in your who. And then you can actually have a subsection in your plan to start working with this other population and remember that this is all part of your overall business plan.

So when you are getting ready to transition into working with more of this other population. Let’s say you’re going to start adding a couples therapy program for young couples or something like that then you would put that down as a projective “who”.  You could even say, I’d like to be doing that and in year three or year four, but I’m going to get some training and whatever, and then you go back to the business plan and you say, “okay, now it’s time to implement this into the website”, and you call your friendly neighborhood, Sarah Gershone, President of Strong Roots Web Design. And you say, “Hey, I know you did our website three years ago. I want to start, I want to add a dropdown in my services that says that I offer couples counseling. Here are my trainings that I’ve gone to, and this is, you know, can you work with me on a narrative?” And then I’m assuming you would work with that client, meaning that clinician, on a narrative, right?  

Sarah: Yeah. And I guess that brings me to my second question, which is that in the hypothetical that you gave of the larger group practice, how do they differentiate themselves? Because if you’re a group practice, a large group practice with a lot of therapists and you’re saying we help everybody, we help from ages six to 65 – that’s very, very broad. And so how does that practice make them present themselves in a way that sounds unique, that sounds like they do something special when in some ways what they’re offering is so broad.

Howard: That’s a great question! And I think it’s the challenge of being in a group practice. The consumer of therapy is looking for something specific and why would they go to a group practice if they’re offering a broad range, right?  And the reason for that is that the interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary, integrative group practice offers something that an individual practice can’t. It’s kind of both, meaning that they can actually offer both. We offer a wide variety of services that you and your family might need because one family member might be a younger one, one might be an older one. A lot of families like continuity of care. We talk a lot about continuity of care so the things that I would highlight in a group practice, again, this kind of fits with what we’re talking about would be we offer continuity of care. We offer medication evaluation and counseling. We offer counseling for child and ADHD. As well as adult ADHD, because we specialize in, let’s say, ADHD. And I think we can talk a little bit more about this at some time in, you know, if we want to talk about, maybe have a subsection or a different episode on group practice, what it looks like to do the who, what, where, why, when and how of group practice.

Sarah: Yeah. 

Howard: And just the short answer though, is let’s think about it more as we want to show the public that we can do many things and we can do specific things. And the specific things then would be in the form, I’m assuming you’re the web design expert would be in the form of, getting people to go to those specific pages, to be able to see the specialization. So, in fact, the drop down might look like I’m just assuming I’m asking you, would it look like specializations and then boom, you just see the specialization dropped out? 

Sarah: Yeah, that would definitely be a good way to do it. 

Howard: Right. And there’s probably other ways we can do it.

Sarah:  Yeah. 

Howard: So that’s the, who, who are we working with? The “what” is what are we working on? What kinds of issues? This is where you list the mental health disorders that you treat, the other things that fall outside of the DSM. The diagnostic statistical manual, things like self-improvement, career coaching or career counseling or other types of what’s.And we’re going to get into the “what” a little bit more specific. I can do it now, if you want, or we can come back after we do all this. What do you think we should do?

Sarah: I think maybe let’s keep going and then we can go more in depth in the future.

Howard:  Yeah. We’ll come back about “what” if we have time and if not, we’ll do a separate episode but the “what” is really, what do I treat? What disorders from the DSM do I treat? What kinds of life problems do I treat? So that would be a good way to break it at that subsection into two. 

Sarah: That sounds really good. 

Howard: And then you would obviously put that on the website, I presume, right? That’s an important thing to have. 

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Howard: The next one is really simple. Where do I do my treatment? And it’s really important when you write down where if you’re just ramping up. Where do I want to do my treatment? If you’re just figuring out where to office, what’s the optimal location for me to be in so we really put a lot of thought into that. We want it to be centralized, where we could get people in the local Denver Metro area to come from the north and the south. The way Denver is set up is really on a north south grid type thing you can go much further north and south than you can east or west. And we still wanted to be able to capture some of that east-west population as well that includes some of the foothills folks that live just into the mountains a little bit. And so we’re very centralized and even in a situation where we’re moving towards some of our work being virtual. It’s amazing how many people still want to come in and have that face to face connection. There’s a lot of factors in terms of where and where it can also mean virtually. What virtual platforms am I going to use? Those are all in your “where”.

Sarah: Yeah. And I do want to talk about the virtual thing for a minute because I keep having calls with people who are in the midst of transitioning from being in person to being fully virtual. And that is such an exciting transition in many ways, because it means you can work with such a broad range of people and hypothetically have the potential to work with people in different states and work with people in multiple states. And then it comes with its own set of challenges because when you are trying to service people in such a disperse geographic locations, then the challenge is how do you connect with all of those people? Because people are very used to looking for therapists and counselors based on their geographic location. So now let’s say you’re offering services and you can work virtually with people in four different states. That’s great. But how do we get them to know about you? How do we get them to feel like they have a connection with you, even though you’re not geographically close to them. And I think that comes back in many ways to the importance of what we were talking about just a minute ago with knowing your niche and knowing exactly who you serve and how you help them and being able to articulate that really clearly. And also to really being able to clearly talk about what’s special and unique about yourself.

So why would someone want to work with you even though you’re two states away from them? There’s only one you. And so there’s something special and unique about the way you work with your clients and being able to really explain that and talk about that in a way that helps people feel connected with you, even if they’re not going to be physically seeing you.

Howard: Absolutely. So let me first say that one thing that is super important here, and I think this needs to be on particularly when you’re putting yourself out there in public, on a website, is that if you’re pedaling virtual services that you are pedaling it only in states in which you are licensed. I have a colleague that actually lives in your area, Sarah and she’s licensed in Maryland and Colorado and Arizona, so she can provide virtual services in those three states only. I am only licensed in Colorado. I can only provide virtual services in Colorado. Unless, there are some unique circumstances in the fact that COVID brought about some lifting and easing of those restrictions. So it’s really important that you, the clinician, know your rights as a clinician in the laws of practicing. So you don’t get yourself into trouble and that you state that on your website. “I provide virtual services in Colorado only, or in California only, or in California and Washington” or wherever you’re licensed. 

As we heard earlier in the season from Lisa, her group practice is set up in such a way that she carries licenses in all of the states that she works. And so she’s got this ability to hire folks in other states. And so depending on your business model, the where is really going to be driven by the legalities of the states. What platforms you are providing services on? Definitely want to check with a legal expert around those kinds of things before you start thinking about going outside the state that you normally would be treating.

Now I can treat anybody in Colorado and I have treated people virtually in Colorado, but I’ve never met in person and it’s been really an amazing experience. 

Sarah: Yeah. And I think this is an area that is going to be really exciting for us to watch and continue to discuss, because I think that it’s changing so quickly.

I think that COVID has been the real life kind of impetus for a lot of change. And legally, I think things are going to evolve and there’s going to be different rules emerging and different places trying out different things, because among other things, there’s a real shortage right now of mental health support for people.

And with all of the stresses that COVID created people are on waiting lists.  So you get a turn to have the mental health support that they need. And I think that people are really looking at legally, how can they make it possible for people to get access to the services that they need?

So it’s something that’s fluid, it’s something that’s evolving. It’s something that you as a practitioner want to be extraordinarily cautious about because of course you want to protect yourself and make sure that you’re doing everything in the way that is legally sanctioned, but I mean, it’s definitely something that we’re going to see. I think there are a ton of really exciting and innovative ways of approaching things over the next couple of years, I think there’s going to be a lot of change. 

Howard: Well, one change that’s already happened, and this is really great news for seniors, especially those that might be immune-compromised and can’t get out or immobilized or whatever, but Medicare has now, this upcoming year, I believe, will now allow for payment to clinicians that are providing virtual therapy. That is a big, big move because it’s a federal change. And usually what happens is the private sector will follow. 

I know a lot of the insurance companies are paying for virtual therapy and so we’re seeing insurance companies, and now, Medicare being willing to pay. So this is something I’ve heard second hand so I need to verify that so don’t quote me on it. But I definitely see these changes coming as well. 

Sarah: It’s really exciting. And I think it would be great if we could bring someone on the podcast who specifically focuses on virtual therapy and talk to that person more in depth about how it works, what they do. I just think it’s a really, really exciting new area that I want to learn more about. And I’m sure many of the listeners do too. 

Howard: Absolutely. 

Let’s move on to the next category. That would be the “when” so your “when” is really, when are your office hours? When are you willing to see clients? You may have separate “when” – office hours for in-person and separate ones for virtual. You can delineate that if you want. And also the “when” is, when am I not willing to see clients? And I think that’s really important to write down because you got to have a boundary in your “when”. And clinicians, being one myself and knowing that it took me a long time to have good boundaries around time I should say. I’ve always had good boundaries around the relationship, but time is one that is really easy to create a problem with where we’re suddenly like talking to clients a lot on the weekends, or unless we want to work on the weekends or in the evenings. And so we want to really try to delineate – When are my office hours? 

Obviously, you’re going to be contacting clients if there’s an urgent matter and you might be making exceptions once in a while, but those are things that are important to at least have a little bit of an outline.

Sarah: Yes, and I’m not a therapist, but as a small business owner, I know how important it is to really define clearly for both your sake and for the sake of the person that you’re working for when you are available and when you’re not available. And to stick to it.

Howard: The last two are the “why” and the “how”. The “why” actually we’ve already answered because the why goes back to all the exercises that you did in the first couple of podcasts of the season where we talked about the business plan. And that’s the “why” really – is your mission statement and your aspiration. Why did you get into this field? And you already worked on that entire thing. And that’s you already worked on that part. And so that’s a really important piece to this puzzle. So you’ll just kind of take or grab that and plug it in. 

And then finally, the “how” is really all about what techniques do I use? What training and certifications do I have? I want you to use that “How” category or column to write down anything that you studied in graduate school and anything after graduate school that you have certifications in like I’m a certified such and such therapist. People get certification in EMDR or couples therapy certifications through John Gottman, or some of these other types of specializations and certifications. 

And then, if you’ve developed some of your own like I have, I approach my clients in terms of intervention that I call a compassionate integrative resilience therapy. And really it’s a catch-all phrase for the way or ways in which I plug into my client and assess and create goals and then treat them.

So you may have something that you’ve developed on your own, adapted from other people that you’ve studied. You may also carry certifications from those other people. These become really important and I want you to comment on the relevance of having that in a website. 

Sarah: It’s really important because there are significant numbers of people who are seeking specific types of approaches to treatment so there are people who have heard of Gottman’s couples therapy and that’s what they are looking for. Like, they want that. 

There are people who are specifically looking for EMDR. And then also, there are people who might not be looking specifically for those. Like, they might not know the name. They might not know somatic experiencing or whatever the particular approach that you use is, but they’re going to get your website. 

And when they see that and they read the description, they’re going to be like, “Oh my God, I’ve never heard of this, but this sounds like exactly what I need” and it’s going to speak to them. And because you are going to be presenting yourself and explaining that this is an approach that you’ve studied in depth that you’re an expert in using with your clients. People are going to be very excited about reaching out to you specifically because they want that type of treatment. So it’s extremely important to talk about it and to within, the website, educate potential clients about what it is. So not just to say I do EMDR, right? But obviously you want to say, I do EMDR so that people who are searching for that can find your website as a practitioner of that specific approach, but then also to, within the website, educate them so that if they haven’t heard about it before, they’re going to read it. And if it’s a good fit for them, be like, “oh my God, I never heard of this but now that I see it explained, I’m really eager to give it a try.” 

Howard: Absolutely. What a wonderful thought and idea about the integration of this particular category and even the previous ones into the website. I think listeners will really appreciate how each of these categories can really be a blueprint.

I don’t know if you would recommend this, but this might be a really nice exercise to do either before or during the phase in which they are getting to know you in terms of what goes into a website. 

Sarah: Yeah, absolutely. So much of it is about being able to really specify and be really clear both with yourself and with clients about what you do and how you help them. And being able to put that information out into the world in a way that’s accessible and attractive in a way that, you know, makes people feel comfortable with it. 

Howard: And I just want the listeners to know one more thing. And that is that this is beneficial for your presence, right? For putting yourself out there, it’s also beneficial for you, the practitioner, because it shows you that you’re aligned with what you want to be doing. And having that down on paper, and it being a living document as part of your business plan, it will change over time. And I just think it solidifies who you are as a practitioner if you look at all of these six areas. 

So to review those six areas are, Who – who you’re treating. What – what issues you’re treating. Both in the DSM and outside the DSM. Where you’re treating  – virtually what platform as well as locations, physical locations. When you’re doing it  – office hours? What are your boundaries around that? Why  – that’s your mission statement and how –  what techniques do you use that make you unique? All of those matter. 

This is a great exercise for you to do. And I think what we’re going to do, Sarah, since we’re running out of time for today is we’re going to do part two of this where we do a little bit of a deep dive into the “what” – the niche work. How do we find our niche? And I’d like to talk about that next time with you if you’d like to do that.

Sarah:  I think that’s so vital and yeah, we should definitely spend a whole episode kind of really, really drilling down into that issue. 

Howard: Cool. 

And I’m going to offer you the listener. One more thing. If you want to email me at howard@howardbaumgarten.com your Five W’s and one H, or Who, What, When, Where, Why, How, and just ask me for feedback. I’d be more than happy to turn it around to you and just share some feedback with you about what yours are. And if you have a question around it, I will do that at no charge of course.We just love to connect with you the listener around this, and please provide feedback as always, and write us a review about this episode.

Closing (Howard): We hope you found today’s episode thought-provoking and helpful. We’d love to know what you think. So leave us a comment and don’t forget to subscribe. You can find the show notes and additional resources at PsychBiz.com. Thank you for listening.

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Howard Baumgarten

Licensed professional counselor, author of PRIVATE PRACTICE ESSENTIALS, international speaker and small business consultant. Learn more at Howard’s website.



Sarah Gershone

Web designer and digital marketer specializing in therapist private practice growth. Owner of Strong Roots Web Design.