Criteria for Evaluating a Niche Idea

Criteria for Evaluating a Niche Idea

There are hundreds if not thousands of possible niches for psychologists. How can you decide which are worth pursuing? When Rona LoPresti and I were selecting niches for our book Rewarding Specialties, we developed these criteria which we believed met the ethical and clinical concerns as well as the personal needs of clinicians.

1. Is there a knowledge base for this specialty area?
As scientifically trained professionals we want our work to have research support. There should not be great controversy about the efficacy or validity of this type of intervention.

  • Is there at least some solid empirical validation of their methods? Or is the underlying theoretical model widely accepted?
  • Although a particular intervention may not have been tested empirically, when highly similar or more basic interventions have been shown to be effective can we assume that this particular one will be as well? For example:
    – When an intervention is an extension of a supported method to a new population, can we assume that it will be effective there as well?
    – Where an untested combination of supported interventions are used in a specialization, can we assume that the combination will also be as effective as its components?
  • For some cutting-edge specializations with great need, can we accept supporting rationales which were simply consistent with clinical experiences?
  • When a body of professionals recognizes the procedures as standard for their specialty, can we adopt those methods as very likely to be later shown to be valuable?
  • 2. Does the niche make use of your current competencies?
    What skills and knowledge already in your possession can be immediately applied (Recycled/Redeployed/Repurposed) for this specialization? Where more that the above skills are needed what additional training, experience, or other resources – Retreading – adding new (current) rubber onto a still serviceable tire – are truly needed to practice in this area or its subspecializations? Are learning opportunities, training and supervision obtainable? Or does the specialization require massive reeducation (Retooling) such as taking a post-doctoral internship?

    3. Does the specialization provide autonomy?
    How important to you is having good possibilities for self-pay clients, preferably with no or low managed care penetration or even interest, few or no bureaucratic external controls, and similar concerns?

    4. Does the specialization provide satisfactions for clinicians?
    Doing this work should produce a strong sense of having helped the most needy or having made worthwhile changes in clients’ lives. The work would not always be pleasant or exciting but it should regularly satisfy typical clinicians’ most important personal reasons for becoming clinicians.

    5. Does the specialization offer a real opportunity?
    Is this an undeveloped or under-developed market? Is there little competition, a high demand for services or large population, and a high awareness of a problem on the part of potential clients, referrers, or other payers?

    6. Can I make a living or part of a living in this niche?
    What kinds of financial arrangements are common in this specialization? Who will pay for your services? What are the costs involved in offering these services? How much do you have to make to afford to make the move into this specialization?

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was a series of practical books for mental health clinicians at Guilford Press. The books are still available there but just not as a series.
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For twenty years Ed Zuckerman, PhD, has developed simple, practical, inexpensive, and transparently useful tools for his fellow clinicians.