ideal client profiles for therapists

I get it. It makes logical sense that if you keep your door wide open, more people come in. But I’ve learned in practice, it doesn’t work that way.

Narrowing your focus, through understanding and marketing to exactly who you want to work with is actually what brings in more people (both in and outside your niche). Not only that, but it also helps you do more of the work you enjoy and build your credibility.

Here’s Why It Works

When you narrow your focus of who you want to work with, down to the smallest detail: their age, gender, relationship status, needs, values and hopes, there are two groups of clients who will be drawn to you and your work:

The first is obvious: it’s the group you want to work with. The more clearly your ideal client sees themselves in your marketing, the more they will be attracted to you and your work. They’ll keep coming back for more because you are speaking to exactly all of their needs, solving their problems, and helping them reach their goals. It’s a perfect match for everyone.

The second group drawn to you might be unexpected: It will be people who, although they don’t exactly match, are eager to work with you because of the way you come across, and they will fight hard to do so.

I’ll use my therapy practice as an example. I work specifically with trauma survivors who feel stuck after going through years of unhelpful talk therapy. And so about 60% of my practice is filled with clients with that exact story. But I have many clients (and even more who call) who have never experienced any kind of trauma. Potential clients call weekly who have OCD, Postpartum Depression, who need help with parenting or work stress, or just want some time to talk. Things that are not trauma.

The interesting thing is, nearly every one of those outside-the-focus clients who called me said something similar: “I really like what you said on your site. Even though I haven’t been through trauma, I’m hoping I’m otherwise a good fit. You seem like the kind of therapist that would really help me figure out what’s going on. Is there any chance you’ll see someone who isn’t going through trauma?”

You Won’t Push People Away

The worry that we (including myself) often have about narrowing our focus, is that we’ll push away people who don’t fit within the lines. But just the opposite happens. We start drawing in many different types of people who are drawn to our credibility, trustworthiness, confidence, diligence and thoughtfulness. Who wouldn’t want to work with a person like that?

Believe it or not, it’s the “I’ll work with anyone” stance that pushes potential clients away. Instead of credible and diligent, clients see us as desperate, untrained and unfocused.

Tight Budget? Narrow Your Focus

The tighter your budget, the harder it may feel to narrow your focus in this way. You have to pay the bills, right? Here’s why that doesn’t work: The people you are more likely draw in when you take “anyone” are typically the people you want to work with least. They are the ones who are going to drain you. They’ll make one meeting feel like five, and cause you to question whether you should be doing this in the first place. Is one client helping you pay the bills worth you questioning your calling? Your pay-the-bills client might be the cause of you giving up before you even start! Not worth it.

How to Narrow Your Focus

Although having a niche is good, I’m referring to something more thorough than developing a niche. I’m talking about, what in many marketing circles is called having an “ideal client”. It’s language that sounds strange in our profession because it sounds like we’re playing favorites. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about identifying details of a client that would be the best fit for us. So I’m talking about going beyond a niche like “Women with Post Pardum Depression” to specifics like age and values. Narrowing your focus is about getting very specific. The more specific you are, the more clients come in.

I have an exercise for you to help you narrow down your focus.

  1. First, think of the client you do not want to work with. Think of the worst possible client that could walk into your office, or comment your blog. Maybe it’s someone who frequently disappears on you without communicating, or who shows up late to every meeting. Perhaps it’s a personality type you just don’t mix well with, or a challenging population you have no training in. First of all, it’s okay to admit you don’t want to work with them, or at least don’t want to yet. Not only is it okay, it’s important for you to know you cannot help everyone with everything. If you don’t you will burn yourself out!
  2. Got that person in mind? Okay, write down everything about that type of client you do not like. Everything from personality, to values, to needs. Think of what about that type of client you would most notice in your first conversation. Note that as a screening tool for your new clients and customers.
  3. Now that you know who you don’t want to work with, can you think of who your BEST client is. The kind of client or reader who reminds you of exactly why you are doing this work in the first place. Think of everything about them. Their personality, favorite activities, frustrations, needs, goals, and values. This is the person you want to reach out to. Starting with your ideal client’s frustrations, how can you speak to what you wrote down, on your website specifically?

I hope you walk away with understanding the value it brings to you and to your clients when you narrow down what you want to work with. Having a focus will draw new clients, customers, and readers to you like a magnet. Not focusing will draw in the wrong type and repel the ones you want.

Ready to bring in more clients? Download your Ideal Client PDF below.

Download Your Ideal Client Profile PDF

Narrow your focus, and determine the next steps for your marketing.