That Special Niche Can a private practice limit its clinical focus and still survive? Check out these tips for specialization success. In Private Practice
Free
In Private Practice  |   March 01, 2017
That Special Niche
Author Notes
  • Nerissa Hall, PhD, CCC-SLP, co-founder of Commūnicāre LLC, specializes in AAC, assistive technology, telepractice and tele-AAC. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 12, Augmentative and Alternative Communication; and 18, Telepractice. hall@aaccommunicare.com
    Nerissa Hall, PhD, CCC-SLP, co-founder of Commūnicāre LLC, specializes in AAC, assistive technology, telepractice and tele-AAC. She is an affiliate of ASHA Special Interest Groups 12, Augmentative and Alternative Communication; and 18, Telepractice. hall@aaccommunicare.com×
Article Information
Practice Management / Professional Issues & Training / In Private Practice
In Private Practice   |   March 01, 2017
That Special Niche
The ASHA Leader, March 2017, Vol. 22, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.22032017.38
The ASHA Leader, March 2017, Vol. 22, 38-39. doi:10.1044/leader.IPP.22032017.38
As a clinician, you have an affinity for treating a certain type of communication, swallowing, hearing or balance disorder. You enjoy working with clients who have that disorder, and you stay current on related technology, treatments and research.
Should you consider specializing? Is it a good idea to start a practice—or limit an existing practice—to focus on one type of disorder or treatment?
My partner and I did just that. After working together for three years as speech-language pathologists in a local hospital, Hillary Jellison (my supervisor at the time) and I started Commūnicāre, LLC, in early 2011 to focus on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
Why did we take this step? At the hospital, we worked together and were becoming known for our interest in and focus on AAC. We wanted to do more work in this area and recognized that our goals (such as creating a community of people who use AAC and spearheading outreach efforts) required a business and practice model that didn’t really fit in a medical or outpatient setting. So we created our own two-person company.
We started out specializing in AAC, assistive technology (AT) and AAC telepractice. We have added two more full-time clinicians, expanded our clinical reach to serve more than 40 school districts across Massachusetts and Connecticut, and developed a niche in our local community and beyond working with people who require AAC/AT, their families, school-based teams and other organizations.
Here are some things to keep in mind if you are considering this step.

Your “partner” doesn’t necessarily need to be a business partner, but someone who can help field your ideas, keep you current and make sure you’re responsive to change.

Have a partner
You don’t have to have a business partner to start a private practice, but it helps to have someone with whom you can share ideas and learn from. I was fortunate to start my practice with Jellison. Our shared passion for and interest in AAC and AT keeps us creative and interested in learning more.
We also make a point of connecting regularly—two or three times a week, mostly through phone calls or video conferencing—to ensure that we share new information or resources.
Again, your “partner” doesn’t necessarily need to be a business partner, but someone who can help field your ideas, keep you current and make sure you’re responsive to change—all essential when working within the relative confines of a niche.
Broaden your services
Our clinical focus may be limited to working primarily with students who need AAC/AT and their teams, but our business practices are broad. Our services include evaluation and intervention with individual clients, but also professional development, program development and telepractice. Our creative service delivery model includes emphasizing our community (of people who use AAC/AT and those who support them as well as school administrators), designating time for learning and sharing ideas, and equipping clients, families and practitioners with the knowledge and skills related to AAC and AT.

In addition to offering a variety of services that meet a range of needs, you also want to offer resources in a variety of formats and on different platforms.

Be accessible
In niche practice, “accessible” means being able to reach different clientele. In addition to offering a variety of services that meet a range of needs, you also want to offer resources in a variety of formats and on different platforms. For example, some clients learn best when you work with them in person, others need to see something in writing, and others may need to watch a video. By offering a variety of services and developing resources in different formats, you will expand your appeal to more potential clients.
Create a community
Your services may be needed by only a subset of the population, which might be geographically dispersed. Bringing this community of clients and service providers together, either through in-person or virtual events, can be empowering for clients, and it may subsequently strengthen your brand as well. Extending your services to include community events, awareness campaigns or shout-outs to other organizations hosting similar events—youth centers and speech and hearing clinics, for example—can help bring your clientele together and further establish your role as a leader and resource within your specialty.
Focus on collaboration, not competition
Our business has expanded from mainly providing assessments and intervention to being a collaborative partner with other SLPs and practices. We provide consultations and professional development, with a strong emphasis on building the capacities of existing teams. Yes, we could essentially consult our way out of possible work—but so far, we have found this business model strengthens our mission to serve as a resource for our community, and has actually led to more work opportunities.
Maximize resources
As a private practice, you want your name known and shared favorably within your community and network. Marketing budgets are often small for small businesses. However, you can leverage social media to share your message and your brand. Build your network and share your resources. You can share a resource you developed for one client on Twitter or Facebook (while respecting privacy laws, of course), so others may benefit from it. Every week we share a “TechTip” with our network of clients, clients’ families and professionals, whether it is a data sheet, intervention tool, video tutorial, favorite app, website or something else. This extra effort is worth the time it takes, as it keeps your community engaged and puts your name and brand into the minds of many others.
Our emphasis on building a community and the capacities of others has helped to shape and support our brand. It has made our work more fulfilling and inspires us to continue to learn and grow within such a small field.
0 Comments
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
March 2017
Volume 22, Issue 3