Through our consultative groups, we have the opportunity to see what issues are trending in the client population and what’s not. There are the perennials that are always on our rosters: anxiety, conflict, depression. And then there are the speciality niches. Remember that within one niche lies another. For example, couples counseling is a broad, wide field and within that category you can “niche down.” There’s Second Marriages, Surviving Affairs, Couplehood after Retirement…For those of you specializing in couples, consider the possibilities!
When identifying an underserved niche, it’s important to recognize the referral sources and how accessible they may be to you. With that in mind, we can tell you there are three populations that are easily reached, and often motivated.
Single, Successful, and In-Transition
Erik Erikson knew what he was doing when he delineated the stages of development. Each has it’s own challenges, but the single, successful, 35-year-olds may be in a category all on their own. Why? Because in our rapidly changing culture, this 30-something is caught between what was and what is. Flux is happening daily for this population. Jobs are lost and gained, as are relationships.
Consider: the job market is filled with all ages. Folks are marrying later. Student loans are the norm. So the current generation is asking the following: ”Is that all there is?” Unlike their parents before them, they are asking this existential question earlier and more often. They are a generation of problem-fixers and Googling it. And that is a perfect population for growth, insight, and change. Where do you find them?
Start with a good online presence. Add in a thoughtful blog and be sure to tweet. The exact title of this category was a winning talk at a Sunday night church social at a large metropolitan church. If you are in this age group, online is best. If you can serve this age group, sharpen your online know-how.
Parents of Adolescents
This group is muddling through the beginning of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. And, since parenting styles have changed dramatically over the last 30 years, it is often a perfect storm. The hierarchy is looser and rules are harder to enforce when your adolescent is taller than you. This population is very interested in how-tos, norms, and parenting tips. So, where to find them? One enterprising colleague of mine started a Parent of Teens group at her local high school. For an hour each week, she charged $15 per person for a group of 10. It was a small fee that reaped three private clients and grateful regard from the school counselor — who then referred to her consistently throughout the school year.
The rise of awareness of mental health concerns among college-age students has caused a huge crunch at student counseling centers everywhere. Some are limiting sessions while others are eliminating in-house counseling altogether. That’s where you come in. Contact your area student counseling centers and Deans of Students. Again, low-cost groups offered on the premises may be your gateway to a stream of clients. Time management seminars, studying tips, and conflict resolution lunch and learns are all topics of great interest to students and administrators alike. Compliance trainings around Title Nine concerns and sexual violence are not only important and relevant, but are now being enforced by state and federal laws. Develop a relationship with the in-house counselors and administrators and let them know you are ready to help out.
One More Tip:
Every niche is underserved if you find the finer points that have not been explored! It’s all about your enthusiasm and ability to offer value and time to groups that don’t know which way to turn. A well placed, empathetic conversation and a researched point of view will win the day —and referrals.