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Counseling African Americans

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Title: Counseling African Americans


1
Counseling African Americans
  • Mandy Cleveland, M.A.

2
Who is African American?
  • Historically
  • Term was used to describe people of African
    descent who were born in the United States and
    who may have experienced or inherited a history
    of slavery and oppression.
  • Modern
  • Modern definitions also include those who have
    immigrated to the United States and who choose
    the term African American because it best fits
    their group identity
  • E.g. people of color from Africa, the West
    Indies, the Caribbean, and South America

3
African American vs Black
  • These terms have been used interchangeably in the
    literature
  • However, each term may hold a different meaning
    for individual clients
  • Important to understand how clients self identify
  • Younger people often choose African American
    while the older prefer the term Black
  • Preference for the term Black is strongest among
    the college educated, affluent, rural areas, and
    the South
  • (Emonson, 1993)

4
Questions AA clients may have about Counselors
  • Understand that Black individuals and families
    are distinct from other individuals and families?
  • Understand that racism, classism, sexism, and
    other sources of discrimination are real issues
    for Black clients and not a sign that they're
    "too sensitive" or paranoid?
  • Treat me as an individual deserving respect and
    at the same time avoid being biased or
    paternalistic or having a personal agenda??
  • Know something about Black cultural expressions
    values, music, styles of speech, dress,
    mannerisms, and popular and classic music and
    literature?
  • See me as deviant simply because I'm different
    from him or her?

5
Relevant Factors
  • Historical oppression and racism
  • Present socio-economic status
  • Physical and mental health concerns
  • Family structure
  • Values
  • Religion
  • Understanding Black Identity Development

6
Historical Oppression and Racism
  • 10 million Africans, brought as slaves into the
    Americas from the sixteenth to the nineteenth
    centuries
  • In the Southern U.S., the economy was virtually
    destroyed due to the war, freeing of the slaves,
    and Reconstruction

7
Historical Oppression and Racism
  • Northern cities like New York and Philadelphia
    designated certain areas of the city where
    African Americans could live, and certain jobs
    where they could work
  • The struggle to achieve basic civil rights and
    criminalize outright discrimination didnt take
    place until the 1960s

8
Historical Oppression and Racism
  • Had to fight for voter registration, equal
    opportunities for education, equal access to
    common public facilities like bathrooms and lunch
    counters, and most famously, the right to sit at
    the front of a public transportation bus
  • Federal government eventually provided increased
    enforcement of desegregation, and punished some
    wrongdoers for discrimination

9
Present Status
  • 36.6 million
  • Roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population
  • Almost 2/3rds of the AA population is in the
    lower socio-economic class today.
  • 10.3 percent of White families with children
    under 18 are below the poverty level compared to
    24.9 percent of Black families with children
    under 18.

10
Present Status
  • In 2001, the overall rate of unemployment for all
    Americans was 5.8 percent but the unemployment
    rate for African Americans was 10.2 percent
  • AA men have the lowest participation in the work
    force compared to men in other racial groups

11
Educational Equity?
  • In 2000, 12 percent of Black males attained a BA
    compared to 20 percent of White males
  • Similarly, 11 percent of Black females attained
    a BA compared to 18 percent of White females

12
Structural Discrimination
  • Companies choosing to build factories away from
    urban areas with large AA populations
  • Cities choosing to build public transit systems
    that provide easy access to inner city jobs from
    the suburbs, but not from inner city to central
    city jobs or from inner city to suburban jobs
  • Funding education through local property tax
    revenues, when AA inner-city communities have a
    higher proportion of depressed property values

13
Middle class and Upper class
  • This segment of the population often has a
    distinct set of experiences from other African
    Americans
  • They are often better educated, have more
    financial security, and more work opportunities
  • What message does this convey?
  • They may also endure bicultural stress and
    receive negative feelings from both African
    Americans and Whites
  • Why?

14
Mental Health Statistics
  • African Americans rarely use private therapists,
    but more often may use community mental health
    centers (overrepresented)
  • An APA task force found that large numbers of
    disadvantaged and minority citizens lacked access
    to adequate health care (mental health)
  • African Americans are significantly more likely
    to terminate counseling prematurely
  • Ethnic match between therapist and client proved
    to have a greater impact on the number of
    sessions attended than did treatment outcomes
  • Does it matter though?
  • What does the class think?

15
Mental Health
  • According to NIMH Study the rates of depressive
    disorders and substance abuse for African
    Americans were very similar to Whites
  • The incidence of schizophrenia is slightly higher
    for African Americans (could be related to SES)

16
Mental Health Cont.
  • Mental health problems may not be equally
    addressed
  • MH professionals may misinterpret behavior as
    being normative for African Americans when it is
    really a symptom of mental illness (D.O. Lewis,
    Balla, Shanok, 1979).
  • Black patients are often given more severe
    diagnoses than Whites, regardless of the race of
    the psychiatrist (Loring Powell, 1988)

17
Family Structure
  • Households with married couples with children
    comprised less than half of the households among
    African Americans. (Census, 2000)
  • 78 of single parent families were headed by
    females. (Census, 2000)
  • AA single mothers are the least likely to be
    divorced (17), most likely to never be married
    (65), and more likely than Whites to live within
    an extended family situation (e.g. with
    grandparents) (18)
  • How do these statistics fit into societal norms?

18
Family Structure Cont.
  • Among single AA mothers 23 live with related
    family
  • 4 live with unrelated, or augmented, family.
    (Census, 2000)
  • Many negative claims have been made concerning
    the influence of AA family structure on social,
    psychological, and economic well-being

19
Family Structure Cont.
  • For example, the AA family headed by a female is
    frequently characterized as inferior and blamed
    for many of the problems in the African American
    community
  • Positive aspects of AA family structure are often
    overlooked

20
Values
  • According to McCollum (1997) African Americans as
    a group tend to value strong kinship bonds, are
    work and education oriented, have strong
    dedication to religious values and church
    participation, and tend to be more group
    oriented, rather than individualistic
  • These values are in many ways similar to West
    African heritage which values elements like
    family structure, notions of kinship, and
    religious concepts and practices. (Hine, Hine,
    Harrold, 2000)

21
Religion
  • The religious customs of African Americans have
    helped them to survive slavery, deal with racism,
    oppression, economic hardship, and many other
    forces that demoralized and exploited their
    people.
  • Indigenous religions of the slaves continued long
    after they left Africa
  • These religions underscored
  • the unity of the natural and the supernatural,
    the secular and the sacred, and the living and
    the dead

22
Religion
  • Conversion to Christianity shaped AA culture
  • The sharing of religious beliefs and practices
    created multiracial congregations, and a common
    ground of spiritual equality
  • AA worshipers also influenced the practice of
    Christianity through the development of elements
    like gospel music and a vibrant worship style

23
Religion
  • Although many slave owners tried to use Christian
    beliefs to control and justify their treatment of
    Blacks, the freedom to worship together as a
    congregation reinforced African Americans
    collective identity and helped them to persevere
    through hard times.

24
Black Identity Development
  • Dr. William E. Cross Jr. (1971) developed an
    African American identity development model that
    traces the individuals group or racial
    identity growth.
  • One of the first racial identity models
  • The Cross Model
  • The basis of this model is that self-perception
    is based on racial factors, especially for
    African Americans, because society has determined
    that race is a salient characteristic.

25
Cross Model
  • Stages Pre-encounter, encounter,
    immersion-emersion, internalization, and
    internalization-commitment.

26
Cross Model
  • Pre-encounter Unaware of ones own racial or
    cultural identity. Person is unconscious of
    negative stereotypes against African Americans
  • Consciously or unconsciously devalue their own
    Blackness and concurrently value White values and
    ways. Pressure to assimilate and acculturate into
    White society

27
Cross Model
  • Encounter A specific event or experience
    happens that causes a person to feel the need for
    change by becoming aware of her/his own racial
    identity

28
Cross Model
  • Immersion-emersion - Individuals seek to immerse
    themselves in their ethnic culture through active
    exploration of cultural identity.  Ethnic culture
    becomes a positive, beautiful worldview, and the
    majority culture may be seen as negative or
    flawed.
  • Feelings of guilt and anger seem to dissipate
    with a rise in pride

29
Cross Model
  • Internalization Stage - Identity is solidified,
    and the individual may have a deep and integrated
    sense of their racial/ethnic identity.  The
    individual is more at ease with their own
    standard of cultural identity. 
  • Internalization-commitment Stage - The individual
    has a long-term commitment and involvement in
    their own cultural identity. 
  • Commitment to community/people of similar
    cultural heritage
  • Anti-White feelings subside as the person becomes
    more flexible, more tolerant, and more
    bicultural/multicultural

30
Modifications
  • This model was later expanded to include all
    people of color
  • Minority Identity Theory Model
  • This model included the stages of
  • 1. Conformity
  • 2. Dissonance
  • 3. Resistance
  • 4. Introspection
  • 5. Integrative Awareness

31
Racial/Cultural Identity Development Model
  • Conformity - Individuals accept the values of the
    majority culture.  Ethnic individuals in this
    culture may value White role models, White
    standards of beauty and success, and may even
    believe it is better to be white.  There may be
    underlying negative emotions toward self.

32
Racial/Cultural Identity Development Model
  • Dissonance Stage - Individuals begin to
    acknowledge the personal impact of racism.  An
    event, or trigger, causes the individual to
    examine and question their own set of beliefs. 
    Confusion and conflict toward dominant cultural
    system emerges

33
Racial/Cultural Identity Development Model
  • Resistance Active rejection of the dominant
    culture and active involvement in ones own
    culture
  • Introspection Starts to question the values of
    both his/her minority group and the dominant
    group
  • Integrative Awareness Person develops cultural
    identity based on both minority and dominant
    cultural values

34
Guidelines for clinical practice
  • Clients reactions- Sometimes clients feel
    uncomfortable working with a counselor of a
    different race would this be a problem for you?
  • Examine clients worldviews and believes about
    counseling
  • Egalitarian relationship (self disclosure). Talk
    about non-counseling topics if client is hostile
    or aloof.

35
Guidelines for clinical practice
  • Reaction to racial oppression- How much does
    racism play a role in client problem?
  • How client responded to discrimination
  • Positive assets of client (e.g. family, church,
    etc.)
  • Help client define goals
  • Degree of adoption to majority culture values
  • Personal experience of the individual
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