Black Family Therapy Research

Powerful Essays
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy doi: 10.1111/j.1752-0606.2009.00166.x
April 2011, Vol. 37, No. 2, 153–168

UNDERSTANDING THE EXPERIENCE OF BLACK
CLIENTS IN MARRIAGE AND FAMILY THERAPY
Christiana I. Awosan
Drexel University

Jonathan G. Sandberg
Brigham Young University

Cadmona A. Hall
Past research on Black clients’ utilization of therapy focused on the barriers that prevent
Black clients from attending therapy and the reasons for these barriers. However, few studies have been conducted that focus on how Black clients attending therapy actually experience these barriers. This study utilized both Likert and open-ended questions to examine the obstacles 16 Black clients face in their attempts to attend family therapy.
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At the time of therapy, half of the sample had never been married; 31% was married or living with a partner. Of those with children, the average number of children in the home was one at the onset of therapy. The majority of the sample (57%) expressed some satisfaction with their overall health.
Measures
The questionnaire was developed specifically for this study (see the appendix). After a review of the literature, our research team met to discuss key factors relating to family therapy with Black clients, particularly barriers preventing African American clients from engaging in marital or family therapy. Drawing upon personal and clinical experience, as well as extant literature, we divided the questionnaire into three main sections. The first section assessed participant demographics. The second section asked participants to rate factors that may have presented an obstacle in their efforts to engage in therapy. The third section asked participants to describe, in an open-ended format, additional issues that may have been obstacles in their journey to therapy. This section provided clients with a space and format to speak to their experience without prompts.
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These open-ended responses coincide with the quantitative identification of concerns regarding family and cultural views of therapy as the most significant obstacle to therapy.
Advice for therapists. Responses in this category (12 total) range from a need for increased advertising to a request for more overt discussions of videotaping. However, the most common theme in the advice given relates to the therapists’ ability to demonstrate understanding of and respect for the experiences of Black families. One quote powerfully represents a major theme in this category.
‘‘I would encourage those who can to try to place themselves where they can experience the disparity . . . take up residence in a Black neighborhood. And if you can alter your appearance to resemble a person of color that would be better. To remove obstacles is to educate yourselves as much as you can about race and cultural issues in
America. Education is key because until all Americans are educated, the obstacles will still be

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