African-American Cultural Issues in Therapy
In general, therapists are trained in theories that are represented as universally true and valid, but in fact such theories are based on the perspective of white, middle-class, heterosexual, Western males (Espin, 1993, p. 103). In order to overcome this bias, professionals in the therapeutic community are working to understand the dynamics of counseling men and women who come from different cultural backgrounds than those of the therapist. It is the purpose of this paper to explore issues relevant to therapy with African-Americans.
It is probably impossible to live in a racist society without some of those elements of racism influencing what takes place within the therapy relationship. Even if both the therapist and the client are of the same sex and social class, if there is a difference in race, the difference will have an influence, to some degree, on the nature of the therapeutic alliance (Espin, 1993, p. 105).
Black women are in need of empowerment. They wish to stringently avoid any psychological jargon that cleverly cloaks racism and instead acquire control over the circumstances of their own lives. Basic changes need to take place in the structure of society for this to be accomplished, but issues brought to the therapy room by Black women, often have to do with issues of individual power and control. There may not be enough money in the family household. Black men tend to have higher rates of unemployment and suffer from life-threatening diseases at a younger age than white men, and Black women tend to struggle with obesity and hypertension (White, 1993, p. 136).
The language patterns of the therapist may differ from those of the client, and the sensitive therapist needs to be quite aware of those subtleties. Black children learn at a young age to use restrictive language, language that is specific to certain people and situations, and white children learn a ...