Choosing A Specialty Part 1: Avoid Exclusion

Defining Your Therapeutic Specialty

Therapists often get asked ‘what is your specialty?’ This is a difficult question to answer and you run the risk of being too specialized or too vague. Here is where the business part of the practice of therapy comes in. Forget about all the great things you can do as a therapist, the issues you enjoy treating and simply focus on what you need to write to get clients to call you. If they don’t call you, you can’t help them. Nor can you pay your rent. Keep in mind that once you build your practice, you can start being more selective about the clients you want and at that time it is not a problem to narrow who you advertise to.

A good place to advertise is on websites like Psychology Today and Good Therapy. The reason is that these sites will show up at the top of a client’s search for therapy. You benefit from the work these companies have done to appear very high in a web search.

When a potential client is reading your ad, they are going to look at your specialties and see if that excludes or includes them and you want to include as many people as possible.

The biggest mistake that therapists make in their advertising is eliminating huge client bases unnecessarily. For example, if you advertise yourself as a play therapist specializing in treating young children, you have just eliminated anyone above the age of 10 which is approximately 97% of the population according to the census bureau. You have managed to narrow your client base down to 3% of the population searching for therapy.

Another example, advertising faith-based counseling eliminates a large population of potential clients who are of a different faith than you. Religion is very polarizing as it is and people often struggle with where their beliefs lie.  Let’s say you want to do Christian Faith-Based Counseling. According to Pew Research Center, a reputable group that has conducted religious based surveys for decades, approximately 70% of the United States identifies as Christian. However, this includes all subsidies of Christianity: Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness and “other”. Depending on what subsidies of Christianity you are comfortable working with, and who might be comfortable working with you, you are really only making yourself desirable to 20-50% of the population. According to the same organization, almost 23% of people identify as unaffiliated (Atheist, Agnostic or “nothing in particular”) and almost 6% are of non-Christian faiths. So on a good day, you are likely to only reach 50% of the population.

Why reduce your client base like that immediately?

Here is something I want you to take away from this, you have to learn to start thinking like a business person. That means researching your geographical area, reading about statistics and making un-emotional, fact-based decisions.