How To Find A Private Practice Niche

Many therapists I’ve spoken with worry about picking a niche for their private practice. They’re afraid that by specializing they’ll scare away some of their potential clients.

But, when therapists niche properly they stand out from the crowd and connect with the potential clients who they can help best.

So that, choosing a niche is the way to grow a private practice, not only as an office with an address but as a website.

Choosing a Niche Helps Therapists Match with Clients

Therapists worry that by choosing a niche they’ll limit the number of clients they attract, and that they wont be able to fill their calendar. They think that being specific is too specific: that the only way to survive is to spread the widest possible net to try and catch everyone. But that doesn’t work.

Let’s take a moment to understand what it means to choose a niche, by using an example in an industry other than therapy.

Standing Out From the Crowd With a Niche

Imagine two coffee shops, one across the street from the other. We’ll call them The Beany Grind and Mocha Joe’s.

At first, neither specializes in anything particular. They both sell the same types of coffee, running the gamut from iced to espresso. To potential coffee-seeking clients each looks exactly the same. They might as well flip a coin to choose between The Beany Grind and Mocha Joe’s.

So far, both coffee shops have decided to specialize in everything and so they don’t stand out for anything.

But then The Beany Grind decides to introduce an espresso made with an exclusive recipe—beans handpicked and imported from a family farm in Hawaii—and they drape a big banner outside their store advertising the new espresso.

Now, any potential clients who want espresso are going to choose The Beany Grind over Mocha Joe’s, because The Beany Grind has niched into espresso. The Beany Grind looks special

Then Mocha Joe introduces a special iced coffee and all of a sudden Mocha Joe connects with clients on hot summer days who want a caffeine jolt and want to feel refreshed.

Both coffee shops started out by looking exactly the same. But once they niched they differentiated themselves and then began to develop a consistent clientele.

Clients who become fans of one coffee shop or the other then tell their friends, “If you want espresso make sure you go to The Beany Grind.” By niching the coffee shops start to develop a consistent clientele.

Therapists must do the same.

Why Therapists Are Afraid to Niche

Many therapists are scared to niche because they’ve been told not to niche by a coach or other consultant.

The coach may be well-intentioned, and may even be correct if they’re advocating for a particular strategy. But that strategy is one that doesn’t involve a website. Not niching is for therapists who plan to rely only on networking to build their practice.

They can’t afford to be too particular when they’re relying solely on word of mouth to build up their clientele.

But a therapist who plans to build their practice using a website and SEO needs niches with market demand. They’re like one of the two coffee shops across the street from one another. Except on the internet, the entire city is littered with coffee shops.

What therapists need is a plan for choosing a niche.

The 4 Steps to Niche and Keyword Selection

Finding niches isn’t difficult. Therapists just need a pen and paper and some time to think through their experiences and desires.

To choose a niche, start at the top…

  1. Therapists should list all of their training, experience, and interests
  2. Narrow this complete list to 6 to 8 niches that interest them and where they’re confident they can help
  3. Do keyword research on each interest to determine the best terms and ensure the viability of the terms.
  4. Narrow the list further to 3 to 4 niches.

(We’ve created a handy Private Practice Niche Selection Template that therapists can download and use to help keep their niche selection process organized.)

Let’s run through each step listed above, using my own niche selection as an example.

1. List all of your training, experience, and interests

With my notebook and a pen in hand I sat down and wrote out all of my training, internships, and jobs, and picked out what I was interested in and felt I had enough experience in.

The goal of this step is simply to jog the brain. Get it all out on paper so the process of narrowing down can begin.

Everyone’s list will be unique to them. My comprehensive list looked like this:

  • EMDR
  • EFT
  • Solution Focused Therapy
  • DBT
  • Collaborative Divorce
  • Love & Logic
  • Trauma
  • Couples
  • Divorce
  • Teens
  • Children
  • Families
  • Mothers-Daughters
  • Co-parenting
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Adoption
  • Attachment
  • Relationship Issues
  • Career Coaching

It’s quite a lot but that’s the idea. Now I can begin to sort.

2. Narrow the List Down to 6 – 8 Niches

Now it was time for me to pick out what my large and specific interests were: the niches that struck me as the kind of work I would want to wake up and do each day.

What I ended up with was…

  1. Trauma
  2. Divorce
  3. Couples
  4. Teens
  5. Co-Parenting
  6. Adoption
  7. Children

Note: Refining My Terms

One thing I will have to do, either in this step or the next, is refine my terms slightly so that they match what potential clients actually search on Google.

Potential clients don’t search “trauma” when they’re seeking trauma therapy. If they did they would get an informational result, i.e. a definition of the word “trauma” and maybe some links to WebMD.

Potential clients seeking trauma therapy, type “trauma therapy” into their search—or something very similar. Obvious, right?

So my real list will look like…

  1. Trauma Therapy
  2. Divorce Counseling
  3. Couples Counseling
  4. Teen Counseling
  5. Co-Parenting Counseling
  6. Adoption Counseling
  7. Child Counseling

And ideally these are all going to give me local results.

I can make sure that the above list includes terms that my potential clients search by going to Google and plugging those terms in.

When I search “trauma therapy” in Boulder, CO, Google shows me local therapists who offer trauma therapy. Bingo. I know that trauma therapy is at least one term I could use to connect with potential clients.

3. Do keyword research on each one to determine best terms and ensure viability of the niches.

The best tool for discovering keywords and keyword volume is KWFinder tells me how much demand there is for a niche like “Trauma Therapy” in my area. In other words, the tool shows me how many searches there are for my niche. 

Even though my practice was in Boulder, when using KWFinder I selected Denver, Colorado. Why? Because it’s a larger city, with more searches, and the larger volume nearby will give me a better idea of whether or not there are differences between similar terms like “trauma therapy,” “trauma treatment,” and “trauma counseling.”

So I plug in my niche-term and KWFinder shows…

An image of a search on KWFinder for the term "trauma therapy."
Narrowing niches is largely about determining what people in a therapist's area are searching.

Above I see that “trauma therapy” is searched, on average, 240 times per month in Denver. Below my target term, I see some synonymous terms and related terms and their search volume.

And what I see is that “ptsd treatment” is searched 380 times per month. So, if I work with PTSD clients I may choose to alter my niche’s name to “PTSD Treatment,” (which includes “trauma treatment” within PTSD) so that I’m choosing the term with the widest reach.

And so then I would have found one of the best terms.

Then I went through the same process on KWFinder for each of the interests I chose in Step 2.

4. Narrow Niches Down to 3 to 4 Keywords

Now it’s time for the final triage. Take a look at the original list of 6 – 8 keywords and narrow that list even further to 3 to 4 niches.

When narrowing, therapists should choose a mix between search volume and what they want to do.

What I ended up with was…

  1. Divorce counseling
  2. Teen counseling
  3. Child therapist

I didn’t want to choose too many niches when getting started because too many niches can quickly become overwhelming. It’s best to start with a few well chosen niches and then expand as therapists become comfortable.

The niches I chose became my Specialty Pages, the main drivers of traffic to my website.

Niches Become Specialty Pages

Once niches are chosen they become a therapist’s Specialty Pages, and it’s time to get to writing those Specialty Pages, and then building a blog strategy to support those Specialty Pages. It’s a good bit of work. But it pays off in the end by matching therapists with a solid potential clientele, and it’s all thanks to the niche selection I’ve outlined in this article.

Therapists can’t start building their digital presence and attracting potential clients until they’ve chosen their niches. It’s fundamental to their success.

If you would like to see how niche selection works step-by-step, then click on the video below and watch as I walk through niche selection for my own private practice as we did here. 

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