There’s the Generalist, the Niche and Specialty, and Then There’s This…

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My best friend and I go back about a decade in our friendship. We met in high school and didn’t become close until I graduated. We have the type of friendship that is continuous because it never misses a beat. I wouldn’t see him for years and it was like I saw him just yesterday when we finally had time to hang out. You know exactly what kind of relationship I’m talking about.

We now live in separate states and got our careers going. I’m proud of us. But you know what the best thing about my best friend is? He’s not a therapist. And because of this, he taught me something no other therapist has, which I will be getting to soon.

Now, many of us have heard the riches are in the niches. I’ve also heard that some people love the generalist path as well. There are compelling arguments for both sides, but all it took was one conversation with my best friend to jump on a newer bandwagon, with a newer mindset, and for good reason.

Gold Nugget Talks

Recently, we caught each other on the phone for a few hours because we both just so happened to have the day off. The topic of private practice came up and I explained my interests in being a generalist over specializing. The nice part was that this therapy mumbo-jumbo was completely foreign to him. So I knew that he could give me such an objective perspective regarding this branding stuff.

My best friend said one of the most prophetic things to me in that moment: “Jake, just do what you’re interested in.”

Simple, yes. Needed, absolutely.

I told him I was afraid to be stuck and to only be known for a single specialty. He said “that’s nonsense” because I’m relatable in many other ways—I pigeonholed myself without even knowing it. What he also said was that I couldn’t turn people away even if I tried to. He said they would see me because of other qualities I bring to the table.

What he taught me was that my brand wasn’t my niche, a specialty or the fact that I want to help save the world. He taught me that my brand was me.

New Mindset, New Option

Specialties and generalist stuff aside, a good question to ask yourself is, “do clients resonate with you, the person?” “Are you branding in a way that is unique, authentic and genuine to your true self?” Think about it: what better way to market yourself than offering that you provide (insert unique quality here) for only your clients. For example, maybe you’re known for treating infidelity among more religious couples and that you pray with your clients.

Simple, yes. Needed, again, absolutely!

My best friend taught me that generalist and niche stuff is cool, but that the fact I’m positive, hopeful, offer a non-anxious presence and other qualities, he said that would drive him to see any therapist. He said, “The person themselves would keep me going, not all this ‘other’ stuff they talk about.”

That conversation with my best friend had shown me that I was so caught up with my professional image, I forgot about the real guy behind the LinkedIn account. The person behind all the evidence-based treatments. Who I am is the strongest part of what I bring to my clients. It all goes back to what most of us had learned in grad school, to begin with: the relationship is key.

So what’s more important than finding a niche or sticking with the generalist path? Well, it’s a curve-ball really: One of the best ways of branding yourself is using yourself as an example.

Now that’s something you can’t find at training.

Jacob Kountz is the founder of Kern Wellness Counseling, a mental health blog, in Bakersfield, CA. His works have been featured on USA Today, Thrive Works, Fatherly, Martha Stewart Weddings, Thrive Global, and is a Practice of the Practice monthly contributor. His blog has also been ranked as one of the top 60 Mental Health Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018. Currently, he is a full-time graduate student and a Clinic Manager of a mental health training clinic at a local CSU where he provides therapy for individual adults, adolescents, and children, couples and families. He aspires to one day open a private practice in Bakersfield, CA so he may continue to serve his local population.