Feb 4, 2021
By Briahn Badelle, LCSW
How do you identify? What demographic of clients are you most passionate about serving? What mental health conditions do you most enjoy treating? What is your therapeutic style or favorite treatment modality? These are all questions you may not immediately think of that can help you discover your mental health provider niche.
In my last post on starting your private practice, I reflected on the hard time I had attracting the right clients for me when I first opened my practice. However, it was only when I became clear about the clients I was most interested in working with and referred out those who would do better with another provider, I saw my business take off.
Finding your niche as a private practice therapist may take some time, but it is so worth it.
If you don’t know what your niche is yet, it’s okay. You can always narrow your scope as you learn more about which clients would benefit most from working with you.
Finding your niche isn’t just about figuring out which mental health conditions you want to treat. You may also want to work with specific populations. For example, I am very intentional about working with Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) who want a therapist who uses a social justice framework. I also work with youth aged 15 and up, from any background, because of my experience as a school social worker. This doesn’t mean I never work with folks who don’t fit into these categories; but when I do, they have an understanding of my framework before our sessions.
Picking your niche can seem like a daunting task, but it’s important to remember that you can always refine it over time. Your niche two years ago may look different than who you want to work with today. As I write this, our nation’s capital is being taken over by white supremacists. If you were to ask me who I wanted to work pre-2020, I may have said I could work with anyone who is dealing with anxiety, work stress, and life transitions, with an emphasis on BIPOC folks. However, today I am only opening up extra appointments for BIPOC folx suffering from race-based trauma due to all of the traumatic events we’ve had in the last year.
The bottom line is that you can always narrow your niche as you gain more clarity.
One worry that some therapists may have in identifying a niche and only accepting clients who fit that profile is that this may limit the amount of clients who will want to work with them. Personally, I have not found this to be the case. For example, I have a colleague who is a queer Black woman specializing in working with BIPOC folks who struggle with eating disorders. Does that mean she only works with clients with eating disorders? Of course not. She may have clients who seek her out because she’s a Black woman, because she identifies as queer, or simply because they read her bio and her authenticity attracts them to her.
In order to find out what your niche is, you may want to think about who you’re passionate about working with, what mental health conditions you prefer treating, and what populations you most enjoy working with.
On the other hand, if you don’t have a strong pull to one particular demographic or specific diagnoses, you may want to consider applying to be one of Lyra’s Blended Care therapists, who are generalists and work with everyone.
With Lyra, you’re able to write a bio that allows clients to learn about you before scheduling an appointment. Whether you specialize in anxiety, helping the LGBTQ population, or work with families, you can let potential clients know your specialty through your profile. Additionally, Lyra’s care team can also connect clients with a therapist who may fit their needs. Whether the client is looking for a Latinx provider, a therapist who works with trans folx, or a mental health professional who specializes in anxiety, Lyra’s knowledgeable care team can provide clients with therapists who can help.
Another great way to attract your ideal client is to use social media and any groups or listing services that may reach your target audience. In my group practice, all of our therapists are BIPOC clinicians, some of whom identify as part of the LGBTQI+ community. Because of this, we are on various listing services for therapists of color and queer therapists in the Bay Area. We also use a public Instagram to make ourselves accessible to anyone who may be looking to work with queer and/or trans(QT)/ BIPOC therapists.
Starting a private practice can be difficult, and trying to figure out your niche may make it even harder. But if you really think about it, you probably already have an idea about the types of clients you want to work with. You may not want to make your niche as specific as, for example, first-generation QT/BIPOC college students who are going into the STEM field and struggling with depression. However, you can be intentional about working with certain populations and mental health conditions.
Furthermore, it’s just as important that you cater your practice to those you want to work with as it is to treat clients with whom you already have experience working. For example, if you’ve only provided care to adolescents, you may want to get additional training before working with couples dealing with infertility. On the other hand, if you’ve traditionally been a generalist therapist for many different populations, but find the most joy in working with adolescents who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, then you may want to consider narrowing your niche.
The most important thing to remember: No matter your niche, you will find clients who want to work with you as your most authentic self. If you take a more casual approach and use humor in building rapport with clients, let that show on your profile. If you use a social justice framework and want to be a safe space for Black folks to process the collective trauma we are going through, don’t be afraid to show that. Clients are reaching out to you for help with what they are struggling with, not a representation of you.
If you are a BIPOC therapist who is interested in joining the Lyra provider network, please contact us here.
If you want help connecting with a therapist, Lyra can assist you. You can get started today if Lyra is offered by your employer. Sign up now.
DISCLAIMER: The content of this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
ABOUT BRIAHN BADELLE, LCSW:
Briahn Badelle is a licensed clinical social worker with over 10 years of experience working with adolescents and adults in the Bay Area. An Oakland native, Briahn has worked as a trauma medical social worker at a local county trauma center as well as at other Bay area hospitals and has also worked at various nonprofits and schools in the Bay Area. To address the need for therapists from traditionally oppressed communities, Briahn opened Thrive Oakland, a multi-cultural, multi-lingual, LGBTQ+ affirming therapy practice in Oakland.