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I Resisted The Niche That Was Seeking Me

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?

About the Author

Dr. Dave Jenkins, DMin, LMFT is a marriage and family therapist in the Northern Virginia area.  He’s the founder of Fredericksburg Relationship Center, LLC, and Counselors of Color.  He’s been married to the same woman for 25 years and has four children and a daughter-in-law.
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