Check out the picture below. It's a "mowercycle," created by someone who probably had very little money but lots of ingenuity, using items already on hand to solve a common problem.


What does this have to do with mental health practice?

You may not have the desire to create new objects out of spare parts. But you can be innovative in other ways. Consider melding specific aspects of your training, your experience and your interests to develop a distinctive product or service in your practice, as these three mental health professionals did:

Dr. Linda Hamilton, an ex-ballerina, understood the mental and physical stressors faced by dancers, as well as the financial cost of stress-related injuries and disability. She developed a wellness program for performers that reduced lost time by 46%.

Dr. Risë Van Fleet combined her experience as a play therapist with her interest in dogs, to develop her "Playful Pooch" animal assisted therapy program for children and their families.

Pegine Echevarria, a former street gang member who turned her life around and became a successful entrepreneur, later studied theater and earned her MSW. She applied her background and skills to establish herself as a keynote speaker and leadership development consultant for women.

Think about how you can parlay your own interests or experience into a unique niche or specialty. For example:

  • Is there something about your background that potential clients can relate to? It may be your ethnicity or religious affiliation; or certain family-of-origin issues; or challenges that you may have worked hard to overcome. In your marketing, reach out to people for whom that might be important.
  • Are you an avid golfer? Do you play a musical instrument? Are you passionate about cooking? Do you enjoy learning about financial investments? Almost any hobby or interest can be improved by applying mental health techniques. Line up speaking engagements for groups who share your interest. Be sure to distribute handouts with your contact info.
  • What is easy for you, but hard for others? For example, are you good at spotting inefficiencies? Can you help settle arguments among family members? Do people tell you that you inspire them? Skills such as these are needed by many organizations. To get into organizations, however, you first have to establish yourself as an expert. Thus, start writing and speaking on the mental health aspects of the challenges faced by organizations and businesses.

Results of your innovations won't be immediate. However, since the service or product that you're developing fits with your own experience and interests, it's almost certain that you'll enjoy the process and will be motivated to continue working on it.