The first step in developing a niche practice is identifying a viable area of expertise. Consider the following factors in cultivating a niche area:
Analyze the Needs of Your Community
There must be sufficient need for your service in order for it to represent a viable niche practice opportunity. Conduct an environmental analysis as
part of your business plan
and update it periodically.
If your analysis reveals that there is an unmet need for a specific service in your community, examine how you can meet that need. In addition to traditional mental health areas such as psychotherapy and assessment, consider nontraditional areas. For example, as psychology continues to expand into health promotion, prevention and disease management, opportunities exist in these new arenas for professionals with relevant training and experience.
Talk to as many people as you can when you participate in community and professional association events and activities. Listening to others’ perspectives will give you a more thorough understanding of developing trends and salient issues related to a niche area.
Find the Right Match
A niche practice should take advantage of your particular strengths, skills and training.
“Make sure your area of specialization is a good match for you,” says Christine Farber, PhD, a psychologist specializing in providing services for trauma survivors at the Traumatic Stress Institute in South Windsor, Conn. “It should fit with your skills and talents as well as what you love to do.”
Some psychologists with niche practice areas find it important to take steps to avoid burnout. Dr. Farber advises niche practitioners to find balance. “I have found that doing administrative work, such as budgeting and program development, complements the emotional commitments required by my niche area of trauma work."
Seek out Volunteer Opportunities
If you are interested in a niche area but have limited knowledge or training in it, consider volunteering at a facility where you can develop skills in that area. In addition to gaining knowledge, volunteering provides the opportunity to gain experience and a professional network that can help you if you decide to pursue work in that area of specialization.
Volunteering and professional networking steered Michelle Rone-DePolo, PsyD, toward her niche area. A pediatric psychologist specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of autistic spectrum disorders at the Cleveland Clinic Center for Autism, Dr. Rone-DePolo met the executive director of the Center for Autism through her state psychological association. “I had no autism training, but I asked her if I could volunteer at the center. I became an unpaid supervised volunteer, shadowing the executive director and observing her doing evaluations. Six months as a volunteer turned into a formal fellowship, which turned into a staff position.”