rhettsmith-frontWhen I was fresh out of graduate school I was so eager to get my hours, gain experience, and actually make some money for a change that I was willing to work with anyone. Many of you can probably relate to that.

And in those first few years of working on my hours I worked with a variety of people and issues. Some of it I really enjoyed and some of it I did not enjoy at all. Some of the time I felt extremely equipped and experienced and other times I felt completely inadequate. By the way, there are still plenty of times where I run into people I don’t work well with, or issues that I’m not adequately trained in (that’s when I refer).

But as I began to build my own practice I ran into a few issues:

  • I needed clients to support a therapy practice.
  • I didn’t really know who I wanted to work with. And when I did know, that’s not who I was working with.

In private practice we get into this predicament as I mentioned in an earlier post, of trying to run a business, but also stay true to our passion and vocation. So what happened for me was that I would often work with clients not because I enjoyed it, or felt I was the best therapist…but because I needed to run a practice. I think this is a pretty common practice for many therapists, especially new ones. Hopefully the more seasoned we become the more we find ourselves really focusing on and working with our ideal client, and referring others out.

It took me many years to get to the place though where I really knew who I wanted to work with. Before, I just really wanted to work with everyone. In fact, it was more about trying to help everyone, than it was about trying to run a business. But I learned that I needed to do both. I’m still learning a lot, but I know that I’m passionate about working with marriages/relationships, adolescent boys (high school/college), and men struggling with a variety of issues. That’s not to say I don’t work with other people…I do. Because I also love working with anxiety and depression which just doesn’t affect men of course…so I work with many women. And many times I work on marriages, but only the wife will come in. So as you can see, it’s not always clear cut, but I have much more clarity on what I love and what I’m good at. And I spend my time reaching out and speaking to these people.

Identifying your ideal client is important for several reasons:

  1. You can really focus on what your good at and who you can help. And you can put all your energy, training and reading into that niche.
  2. When you know your ideal client, you can better focus your marketing. If you don’t know who your ideal client is you will spin your wheels in a million directions trying to gain traction. But identifying your ideal client brings laser focus to who you want to work with, and you can more effectively reach out to them.
  3. You will know more readily who you don’t work well with, and what issues you feel more ineffective with. Therefore, you will be able to refer quickly to the right therapist. Which is also helpful in building up a referral network.
  4. You will love your work more and your business will thrive.


So who is your ideal client?