The Specificity Paradox

What is your client population? Who do you want to see? Who will you help?

These can be vexing questions for psychotherapists in general, particularly so for interns and trainees. These questions raise many emotions for us, chief among them is fear.

Here is a sample internal dialogue:
“If I’m too specific I might lose a large part of my potential client base.”
“Oh? Who is your potential client base?”
“Well, there’s mood issues, anxiety, trauma, relationships, grief. Oh yeah, and eating disorders, OCD, social issues, work pressures and life transitions. Pretty much everyone.”
“So you want to see everyone?”
“Of course not. But I don’t want someone to read my ad and think I can’t help them.”

Aha! Fear of rejection. Which in this case is a mask for a fear of inability to launch my career. A career in which I have invested more years, $$$$’s and intimate personal resources than most professions come close to demanding. After this kind of commitment, I don’t want anything to limit my ability to succeed!

So when I answer the question, “Who are my clients?” my main goal is avoiding rejection.

That makes sense psychologically, but it’s a very poor strategy. Here’s 2 reasons why:

1)  In order to avoid rejection you are going to make your ad so generalized and so amorphous that no one will identify with it. Therefore, no one will see their issue in your description. Therefore no one will have any reason to think you can help them.

2)  You can’t see everyone! There isn’t enough time in the week.

I’m afraid if I’m too specific about my primary client I’ll miss too many potential clients. But to get clients I have to be specific enough to be chosen.

This is The Specificity Paradox!

Do you want clients? Then take this to heart:

Getting clients is not about avoiding rejection, it’s about getting selected!!!

Getting clients is about reaching the 100 people in the area who need your help. It’s not about keeping 1,000,000 people in the area from rejecting you.

You only need some clients. So when you answer these big questions, be as specific as possible. The people looking for you need to know you are the one they seek!

You can’t see a million clients. But if you design your marketing to appeal to all of them you can easily wind up with none.

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