The concept of the ideal client gets a lot of attention in private practice development. We are encouraged to figure out who these mythical beings are, market to them and voila!
Full, blissful practice!
For many of us, though, this sounds like a ridiculous idea. Some of the concerns that I have heard from clinicians are;
Why would I turn clients away when I can barely get them calling me in the first place?
But I like working with everybody!
I don’t have enough clinical experience to know who I want to work with.
I don’t want to “reject” any potential clients; that may make them feel bad.
I want a lot of variety in my practice.
These are all very valid concerns. I totally get it, because I had all of these beliefs before I became a convert.
I came from working in generalist practices. On any given day I could see a woman with anxiety symptoms, a military veteran, a couple in crisis following an affair, and a university student struggling with the transition of being away from home.
I had the clinical skills and training to see all of these clients. I did good work with these clients. I figured that I would continue with this pattern when I opened up by own practice.
When I built my first website, this was my foundation. I wanted to make my website appealing, comforting and instil hope in everyone! Anyone who landed on my site would breathe a sigh of relief because they found the person who could help them with *insert laundry list of potential problems and symptoms that they may be having!*
You can probably guess how well that strategy worked. You may even be living that reality right now.
It was time to niche down.
I surrendered to the idea of the ideal client.
But where to start?
I’ve noticed that many people start with a specific disorder (“I love to work with people with anxiety or substance use disorders.”) While that can make work for some, it isn’t necessarily the only place to start. These disorder categories can be incredibly broad and encompass a large variety of people (substance use disorders can be the 50 year old male with a chronic alcohol use problem, the 19 year old college student who is trying to curb their pot use or someone who has become addicted to pain killers due to an injury.)
Start with the person, not the diagnosis.
Think of the clients that you have absolutely loved working with. You were excited to see them from week to week, you felt that you shined as a therapist with, and you actually thought “I wish more of my clients were just like this!”
What were some of the common threads among these clients? Personality traits? What did they originally come to therapy for? What gains did they make?
Once you have a starting point, you can start building your ideal client. Think of this person as a living, breathing, evolving being. It can be helpful to think of this as a case conceptualization?
What is their family of origin story?
What is their attachment style?
How do they cope with stressors?
What do they find stressful?
The more detail oriented and deep you can get, the better. Once you really know this person, start thinking of how you will reach them.
What other professionals are they already interacting with in the community already? What social media platforms are they using? What do they enjoy reading about? What words are they using to describe themselves and the challenges they have?
As a therapist, you understand human beings on a much deeper level than most! Use these skills and knowledge to define that clients that you are passionate and skilled at helping!
Need more help in defining your ideal client? Sign up for my free video series on the 3 Biggest Private Mistakes I made when I was starting my own practice. The second video is all about ideal clients and you’ll get a nifty worksheet filled with prompts that will help you really get to know your ideal client!
Now that we’ve identified your ideal client, check out Connecting with your Ideal Client for the next step!