By Anna Jankowska MA LCPC
Success in private practice is not only defined by financial gains but also by our fulfillment. Many counselors do not consider counseling practice as a business and believe that it is mainly their passion. It is important that they love what they do, but they also should learn business essentials. This can be done through a variety of free marketing classes that are offered online or books that are published on different business-related topics. If we do not explore new ideas, we cannot thrive in any business. Including counseling business. May therapists are excellent as individual therapists but do not specialize in anything, therefore, cannot claim that they are experts in any particular area of counseling. Having a niche that is also your expertise helps you become known in the community as a go-to person when other practitioners want to refer clients.
Counselors fear that having a specialty makes their practice too narrow and they will not be able to attract enough people to make a living. This might be true only if we are concentrating on one area and not accepting any clients who might have other needs. This is not possible to do at the beginning of private practice, but once we become experts in a particular area, we can make the narrow niche our full-time practice. Niche is not only for other professionals to be able to refer to us, but it is also a selling point to our clients. Educated consumers are looking for someone who has more than a college degree in counseling. They want a counselor not only with experience in a particular area but also with additional training and expertise. Both clients and counselors believe that specialty in a certain area allows us to provide better service and also consult on our specialty to other counselors.
Finding the right niche does not have to be difficult. Concentrate on what you already like and feel comfortable working with. It could be anything from children to adults and from educational setting to business setting. Use your current interests and ideas, do some research, and even ask your friends and coworkers to see if there is a need in the community for your specific service.
Some of the most popular niches that I have encountered within my counseling community are providing anger management classes or crisis intervention to business companies, offering wellness classes for people with different illnesses, medication management, assessment for ADHD or substance abuse, etc. One of the growing trends within the counseling field is providing substance use evaluations for different purposes. Some of them are performed for legal reasons, others for work related situations. The majority of companies require random drug and alcohol testing, and as a consequence of positive testing, clients are required to undergo drug and alcohol evaluations. This kind of practice could be completely independent of insurance companies or can include contracts with insurance for the purposes of doing frequent drug and alcohol evaluations that are extremely short and do not require much follow-up. You as a practitioner have to make a decision if you feel comfortable with this type of practices and if you want to engage in such short assessment procedures.
Another niche has to do with providing short term therapy and risk education for a variety of clients who have drug and alcohol problems. Many schools, business companies, police stations refer clients for these services and are looking for brief therapy and/or education that could be completed quickly. These establishments are in need of quick service and often expect you to help the client quickly and efficiently. You as a practitioner need to decide if you feel comfortable working under pressure with clients who are sometimes angry and do not believe they should even be in your office.
Another interesting niche is working with school children with ADHD. You can receive a lot of referrals from neighboring schools to perform short assessments for school children who are hyperactive. Schools are underfunded, and they usually refer the parents to the local therapists for assessments. Teachers and administrators like all additional help they can get and often appreciate short presentations that could be done within a school, on topics pertaining to children mental health that can make their job easier.
These are only some of the niches that are pretty lucrative and do not rely on insurance reimbursement. Just the opposite. Many clients do not want to use their insurance when it comes to substance abuse problems. They do not want to be labeled, and they do not want the insurance company to carry the stigma of their addiction. Many parents do not want their kids to be diagnosed with mental illness, and they are fearful of insurance paperwork. They want to make sure that the practitioner is keeping all information confidential and does not inform anyone about any unnecessary issues. Parents have the right to make a decision about the diagnosis and how they want to proceed.
No matter what niche you choose, make sure that you also enjoy the work that it entails. Some of the niches might look financially rewarding, but they carry some legal burdens or other difficulties that you might not be ready to engage in. Know your personality and your limitations. The best niche is a simple extension of your passion that does not feel like work.
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