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“The counseling world needs a little more color. Help us populate and grow Counselors of Color.”
Below is a recent email reply (edited) for a new member that forced me to become clear regarding my passion and motivation for Counselors of Color.
Men At Work
I look around at the conferences I attend and see that men are underrepresented in the mental health profession. According to payscale.com, men make up about 23 percent of the mental health field. It’s even less if you specifically look at marriage and family therapists at 15% and social workers at 19%. Women traditionally dominate both of those professions. The highest rate of men is among psychologists at 33% and psychiatrists at 59%. Additionally, according to the American Psychology Association in 2013, minorities only made up 13 percent of the field combined. So, let’s do the math. That means minority men make up less than 3% of the mental health profession.
So my questions begin, how important is it to have men of color (Latinos, Asians, African Americans, Arabs, etc.) represented within the mental health profession? What are the implications and should we be concerned? And finally, how do we recruit and encourage more men of color to join the mental health field? I’m curious regarding your thoughts, suggestion, and solutions.
My Niche Found Me
I didn’t want to be known as the “black” therapist.”While my caseload is very diverse, a self-select niche has found me. They’ve sought me because I’m a black male therapist. I’m the only Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist that is an African- American man for a 50-mile radius. Since I wanted to be all things to all people, I consciously avoided marketing as an “African-American” therapist. However, within my community, there are very few counselors of color. I resisted being pigeon-holed and the niche that was seeking me.
I Did My Research
Once couples started coming to my facility from many miles away, the researcher in me became curious. I wanted to know why more African-American couples were willing to drive many miles to get to my facility. They most like had other counselors available to them within their community. I started asking the couples, 1) Are there other therapists closer to you? 2)Why did you choose to work with me? The two highest replies were 1) because you’re a man and 2) because you look like me. The women of my survey wanted to make sure their husbands were comfortable and didn’t feel “ganged up” on. Some of the men of my survey stipulate they would only go to counseling with a black man (knowing there were none within their community).
Many said they just felt more comfortable seeing another African-American. Because the responses were initially vague, I pressed further regarding the racial question. Moreover, the clients did not want to feel like they needed to defend or justify their background and culture. They tried to avoid the feelings of being judged. One client made her point by stating, “I don’t want to explain myself or feel like educating someone about our background. I’m tired of explaining myself. I just want to get the help we need.”
I Get It
They were seeking comfort and instant rapport. My clients made sense, and I stopped resisting the niche that discovered me. I fully embraced my niche and myself. I heard a business podcaster state, “Never be ashamed to exploit your unfair business advantage.” He was right; it’s not my fault I was born a man. Moreover, it’s not my fault others are seeking me because I’m black. I just need to accept; they are coming to me from where they are. Interestingly, once I embraced my identity as a black, male, therapist, other races and ethnicity also found me. I believe it’s because I became authentic and accepted it.
What kinds of clients do you attract? What have your clients taught you about your hang-ups?
We humans, love l to find connections and look for it everywhere. The moment we discover the person we’re talking to is from our same state, we keep drilling down. “What city, what neighborhood, what school, what street do live on?” As the conversation continue, we look for the people we know in common. We even explore if we’re related. This process also plays out visually with race and color. Even though it’s unreliable, race and color are the visual cues that serve as a shortcut to comfort. It acts as a visual security blanket.
Much like my military experience, some are too anxious to leave the comfort of the base and explore the rich diversity of the surrounding community. Others embraced the rich culture, learned the language and married Germans. Some were angry about being stationed in Germany and hated everything about Germany. On the other extreme, some Soldiers were ashamed of their American roots and did everything they could to avoid being seen as American.
Counselors and Therapists
Most of us counselors and therapists are very comfortable and embrace different cultures. Our education and training have expanded our worldview. However, most of our clients do not come to us with this high level of self-awareness, education, and comfort. Overcoming the anxiety to get help is hard enough for anyone. For many of our clients, it may be their first time seeking help from a stranger. Like Soldiers overseas, clients are looking to connect. Some clients need the security blanket of seeing someone that looks like them. When the therapist or counselor looks like them, it’s one less hurdle to overcome. It’s almost instant rapport. Right or wrong, some clients will never leave the “barracks” and embrace other cultures and communities. For others, it will not matter as they will thrive and flourish.
Even though race may not be a source of anxiety for us as counselors and therapists, it may be for the clients we work with. As helping professionals, I believe it’s our job to meet our clients where they are rather than expecting them to arrive with our comfort level and worldviews. Even the Soldiers that refused to leave the base were entitled to good mental health care. So how does the community you serve know you are open to serve them?
I did not fully appreciate being black until I married someone white and started to have children.
Welcome to Counselors of Color. Admittedly, we are a niche counseling directory. Our goal is to match clients with their preferred therapists and counselors.
The search services are always free for clients.
For counselors and therapists, our goal is to help you market and expand your facility to serve your communities better. Showcase your facilities with Counselors of Color.
Counselors of Color is now free for providers!
Counselors of Color will not shy away from race or ethnicity. For many of us, it is our world. Therefore, we aim to highlight and promote those differences; not from a place of inferiority or supremacy. However, from a place of self-acceptance. Counselors often ask their clients to “become comfortable living in their own skin.” Counselors of Color will extend that metaphor and ask you to do the same as counselors and therapists.
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