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Dr. Thurman Webb

Dr. Eva Gibson

Tennessee State University


Upon completion of this session, attendees will be able to:

• Identify sociopolitical factors that contribute to the adaptive attitudinal stance
guarded minorities take when engaged in behaviors related to mental health
• Analyze institutional barriers that impact counselees of color.
• Discuss how cultural mistrust influences the way persons of color approach
• Evaluate relevant counseling strategies and implications to address the
mental health needs of clients of color.
• Describe methods to infuse social justice advocacy into practice.

Critical Race Theory

• originally developed as a race-based

critique to address covert and subtle forms of
racism within the legal system

• This theory was later applied to education

Haskins & Singh (2015)

• Theoretical literature regarding cultural
mistrust suggests that African Americans
harbor a generalized suspicion of White
people, which stems from a long history of
oppression and race-related injustices.

• These suspicions can be considered to be

both a psychological construct and a coping
response to systemic institutional barriers
5 Major Tenets of Critical Race Theory

1) Permanence and intersectionality of race and

• racism is deeply ingrained legally,
culturally, and psychologically and
intersects with sex, class, national origin,
and sexual orientation

2) Critique of color blindness

Haskins & Singh (2015)

5 Major Tenets of Critical Race Theory
3) counter-storytelling
• naming one’s own reality

4) interest convergence
• encourages individuals to be cautious in examining
and interpreting the civil rights victories for
individuals from marginalized populations
Haskins & Singh (2015)
5 Major Tenets of Critical Race Theory

5) Whiteness as property

• social, educational, and economic value is

associated with being White

Haskins & Singh (2015)

Counseling and Psychotherapy
with African Americans

• Studies have shown that African Americans are

only half as likely as Whites to seek mental
health services.

• When they do they engage in services, they engage in

shorter periods of treatment and have higher premature
termination rates from treatment.
Racism Within the Field of Psychology

• Much of the field of counseling and psychology

historically have been dominated by the
teachings and theories of White psychologists.

• Mainstream American psychology cannot be

separated from the social context within which
it emerges; it has historically been Eurocentric
and plagued by blatant racism characteristics
of the times.
Racism Within the Field of Psychology

• Dr. Benjamin Rush, the reputed “father of

American Psychiatry,” declared that the color
of Black people was caused by a congenital
disease akin to leprosy. The only evidence of a
cure was when the skin turned white.
Racism Within the Field of Psychology

• Dr. Edward Jarvis, a specialist in mental

disorders, used a 1840 census to purportedly
prove that the condition of freedom in the North
was so unnatural to Blacks it made them more
prone to mental illness, thus justifying the
enslavement of African people by the flawed
premise that it provided a shield for Black
people from what he consider the liabilities and
dangers of active self-determination.
Racism Within the Field of Psychology

• In 1851, Dr. Samuel Cartwright published an article in a

professional journal of his time claiming that he had
discovered two new mental diseases peculiar to Black

• Drapetomania – which caused Black people to have the

uncontrollable urge to run away from their slave captors

• Dysaesthesia aethiops – evidenced by disobedience,

answering disrespectfully, and refusing to work.
Racism Within the Field of Psychology

• The First President of the American

Psychological Association (G. Stanley Hall),
theorized that Africans, Indians, and Chinese
were members of “adolescent races” and in the
stage of “incomplete growth” and that
therefore it was Western psychology’s role and
responsibility to save these adolescent races
from the liabilities of freedom.

• Kim et al. (2016) found that cultural mistrust was

the most consistent and powerful predictor of
help-seeking attitudes.
Historical Accounts
• It was called the “Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the
Negro Male.” The study initially involved 600 black men – 399
with syphilis, 201 who did not have the disease. The study was
conducted without the benefit of patients' informed consent.
Vertus Hardiman
Infant Mortality Rate
Educational mistrust

• Historical use of intellectual assessments within the

education system was frequently utilized to justify school
segregation and racial discrimination
• Public records reveal that government and university
sponsored researchers’ manipulated IQ tests to explain a
racial hierarchy of intelligence among Caucasian,
African American, and Latino children
• Misuse of intelligence tests eventually led to a
disproportionate amount of minority students being
represented in special education

•Three models address culture from different

standpoints & belief systems

1) Genetic deficiency model

• People of color are intellectually inferior (i.e.

Bell Curve)

Chung & Bemak, 2012

How do we decide who
gets to make what
The Fallout Shelter

• Your group of eight has been selected to start the new world
after 99.5% of the world's population has died of radiation
poisoning. You have been in the fallout shelter for two
months. You have to stay in the shelter for another four
months before it is safe to come out – but the food and water
has been going faster than expected. Now, you realize that
there is only enough food and water left for four people for
the remaining four months. Therefore, half the people in the
shelter will have to leave in order to save the rest (and
The Fallout Shelter
• Pretend you are among this group and must
decide who should stay and who must go. State
and support at least three specific reasons for
each member as to why he/she should either
stay or go.

• You are encouraged to compromise, but feel

free to disagree along the way. However, one
way or another you must reach a decision as to
which four are going to stay and which four are
going to go
The following people are in the fallout shelter:

Dixie A pregnant 16-year-old white girl, high school dropout

Ricardo: A 25-year-old Hispanic Catholic Priest; before becoming a

priest, he was a professional carpenter for 5 years
Eve: A 32-year-old Asian female doctor (general practitioner),
unable to conceive

Charlie: A 53-year-old Black male military man, recently retired from

the army
Jake: A 26-year-old aspiring white male guitar player; served five
years in prison for fraud when he ran a con game to get some
quick money
Kim: A 28-year-old white former prostitute; "retired" for 4 years;
high school graduate; I.Q 140
Hugh: A 38-year-old Native American male engineer, confined to a
wheelchair, but still able to father children
Lisa: A 39 year-old Black female science teacher
2) Cultural deficiency model

• Monoculturalism- all people are the same &

have (or should have) the same beliefs,
values, attitudes, & worldviews

• European American culture is used as the

baseline and others are viewed as deficient
if they vary

Chung & Bemak, 2012


Problematic issues are inappropriately


Avoidance of issues due to discomfort of


Downplaying client perception

3) Culturally diverse model

• Differences are valued, respected, &


• Multiculturalism is viewed as positive,

healthy, vital, & indispensable

Chung & Bemak, 2012

Impact on counseling relationship

• Minorities with high cultural mistrust are:

• less willing to seek counseling

• less willing to disclose to White counselors

• less likely to remain in counseling (w/White


• less likely to believe that they can benefit from

counseling (w/White counselors)

• have a higher preference for counselors-of-color

(Neville, Tynes, & Utsey (2009)

Implications for Counselors:
• Include discussions of the dynamics of race w/in
the counseling dyad

• These play an important role in the

development of the therapeutic alliance

• Counselors who avoided the topic of race

missed a therapeutic connection & instead
provoked avoidance in their clients
Implications for Counselors:

• incorporate accurate cultural knowledge & attend to

cultural factors in clients’ lives

• focus on risk & protective factors for clients of color

• this acknowledges existing contextual barriers,

such as institutional, cultural, & individual racism

• harness client strengths

Implications for Counselors:
• Encourage clients to connect w/mentors & role models
w/in their communities

• Act as social change agents & teach skills to help them

negotiate the systems in which they live

• Work collaboratively to gain access to the resources

needed to improve well-being
Implications for Counselors:
Implications for Counselors:
• Social justice advocacy- actions taken to facilitate the
removal of external barriers to opportunity and well-being

• difficult dialogues & direct confrontation are both

uncomfortable and critical to the learning process

• promoting social justice relies not only the counselor’s

skill in facilitating micro-level change but also on skill and
tenacity in advocating for necessary reform that
potentially disrupts the status quo

Goodman, et.al., 2018; Grapin, 2017

Implications for Counselors:
• it is imperative that this awareness prompts action

• Courageous conversations may be a first step in promoting


• As counselors begin to notice systems of oppression, they

need to start a dialogue about the issues of concern

• This can be challenging because they may need to practice

interruption at times and professionally confront
colleagues, practices, or policies that contribute to the
What does this look
like in practice?
What will you
integrate in your
Dr. Thurman Webb: twebb8@tnstate.edu
Dr. Eva Gibson: egibson4@tnstate.edu
Tennessee State University