Racial Justice Resources for MFTs

AAMFT encourages authentic dialogue within the MFT community on race and trauma. Marriage and family therapists understand and recognize the systemic effect that oppression, inequity, and overt and covert racism have on individuals in marginalized communities, and have a role in fostering healing and maintaining change.

Recommended Resources:

This ish is exhausting: Acknowledging the Emotional Labor of Black MFTs Joslyn Armstrong, PhD

The Experiences of Couple/Marriage and Family Therapists of Color: A Survey Analysis  Kara S. Erolin and Elizabeth Wieling

Why Aren't There Any MFT Programs at Historically Black Colleges or Universities? Expanding the Reach of MFT Education and Training  Leslie Anderson, PhD

Our Role as Systemic Therapists in Dismantling Systemic Racism  Danielle Samuel, MS

"Academia was not created with me in mind." Examining MFT Programs and Systemic Racism  Denise Williams, PhD

Courageous Conversations with Our Clients Denesha B. Deloatch, LMFT, and Theresa M. Wray, LMFT

Mental Health and Black Adolescents Ashley Hicks White, PhD

Black Women and Depression: Removing the Cape DeAnna Harris-McCoy, PhD and Taimyr Strachan, MS

The Relevance of Social Justice for Today's Therapists Nicole Perryman, MA, MSW

First Person: Dear Black Professionals of AAMFT Cherry Tolbert, MA

Anti-racism resources compiled by Sarah Sophie Flicker and Alyssa Klein

AAMFT Statement of MFT Responsibility to Counter Racism

For Persons of Color about Self Care

Radical Self-Care

Strategies for Healing

Practical Ways to Counter Racism and Support Black People as MFTs

  1. Acknowledge that racism and discrimination exist and is currently prevalent.
  2. Acknowledge your power and privilege due to your social location. Privilege is when a person or group of persons are afforded special rights, immunities, and/or advantages that others are not afforded. Your privilege may be connected to the intersection of your race, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, level education, physical ability. You may experience simultaneous privilege and subjugation. It is important that we are aware and are accountable for the areas in which we are privileged. We all share the privilege of serving as clinicians and/or researchers. We must be accountable for the advantages and responsibilities this connected to our position.
  3. Take inventory of your own biases and assumptions. This can be done by being aware of your immediate reactions to the plethora of media reports and social media posts connected to race and racial crimes. What do you assume to be “true”? What informs this “truth” for you?
  4. Balance your conversations – remain in conversation with those of the same and different viewpoints. If the majority of your personal conversations mirror your personal beliefs, the ability to expand your perceptions and understanding in your professional role is quite limited.
  5. Your clients should not be the only people of color that you are in relational conversation. No matter how we view it, you are in the role of power as a therapist, and should allow yourself space to converse with others of whom you do not maintain a ‘power over’ position.
  6. Begin to become comfortable with discomfort. Avoid offering a, “that’s interesting,” to your client, friend, or someone else who is trying to “go there,” in terms of a conversation or sharing their experience connected to race. Engage in the conversation.
  7. Be willing to really hear the experiences of black people. We all want to be heard, but the conversation is often paralyzed, as there is far little safe space for black people to process what is going on for them, with so much exposure to racial trauma.
  8. Despite your own possible feelings, refrain from minimizing experiences of marginalized groups. Although you may have your own story, that does not negate the experiences of those who have been marginalized, or make their experiences any less real.
  9. Work for change out of love and not guilt. If you are guided by your own guilt, you may seek validation from black people, which, again, prioritizes your own experience. This, again, is steeped in white supremacy.
  10. Challenge those who trust you. If one trusts you enough to share their racist joke with you, become curious about their intentions and beliefs. Keep people accountable and responsible for their language and actions. Why are they so comfortable with racist ideology with you?
  11. Connect harmless racism with hate crimes. The Charleston perpetrator’s friends have repeatedly stated that he told “harmless, racist jokes.” Any form of racism has deleterious effects. People around him were complicit or explicitly supporting his ideology. Counter it.
  12. Just as we would become quite curious if we suspected child, elder, or partner abuse as clinicians, we should be as sensitive to racism, as its effects have proven to be just as, if not more dangerous, as other crimes against others.

Recommended Reading List

Charleston Syllabus - Dr. Chad Williams and Kidada Williams 

Ajayi, C., Marquez, M., Nazario, A. (2012). Culture and Diversity: A Lifelong Journey. In 
Family Therapy Review: Contrasting Contemporary Models. (Eds.) Rambo, West, Schooley, & Boyd. Routledge.

Anderson, S & Middleton, V. (2004). Explorations in Privilege, Oppression, and Diversity. Brooks/Cole: Belmont, CA.

Awosan, C.I., Sandberg, J.G., & Hall, C.A. (2011). Understanding the experience of Black clients in marriage and family therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 37, 153-168.

Bonilla-Silva, E. (2009). Racism without racists: Color-blind racism and the persistence of racial inequality in the United States (2nd ed.). Boulder, CO: Rowman & Littlefield.

Boyd-Franklin, N. (2006) (2nd Ed). Black families in therapy: Understanding the African American experience. New York: The Guildford Press.

Crenshaw, K., Gotanda, N., Pellar, G., & Thomas, K. (Eds.). (1995). Critical race theory. New York: New Press.

Cruz, M., Pincus, H. A., Harman, J. S., Reynolds, C. F., & Post, E. P. (2008). Barriers to care- seeking for depressed African Americans. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 38(1), 71-80.

Franklin, A.J. (2004). From Brotherhood to Manhood: How Black men rescue their relationships and dreams from the invisibility syndrome. New York: John Wiley & Son.

Franklin, A.J. & Davis, T. (2001). Therapeutic support groups as a primary intervention for issues of fatherhood with African American men. In J. Fagan & A. J. Hawkins (Eds.). Clinical and educational interventions with fathers. Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Press.

Kitwana, B. (2002). The hip hop generation:Young Blacks and the crisis in African – American Culture. New York: BasicCivitas Books.

McGoldrick, M., Hardy, K. (2nd Ed.). (2008). Re-Visioning Family Therapy: Race, Culture, and Gender in Clinical Practice. Gilford Press: New York.

Miller, J. & Garran, A.M. (2008).  Racism in the United States:  Implications for the Helping Professions.  CA:  Thomson/Brooks/Cole.

Rastogi, M & Wieling L. (2004) Voices of Color: First Person Accounts of Ethnic Minority Therapists. Sage: Thousand Oaks, Calif.

Rothenberg, P. S. (2008). White privilege: Essential readings on the other side of racism (3rd ed). NY: Worth Publishers

Samuels, D. R. (2009). Sounds and silences of language: Perpetuating institutionalized privilege and oppression.  In A. Ferber, C.M Jimenez, A. Herrera, & D.R. Samuels (Eds.), The matrix reader: Examining the dynamics of oppression and privileg (pp. 502-508. Boston: McGraw Hill.

Selden, S. (1999). Inheriting Shame: The Story of Eugenics and Racism in America. New York, NY: Teachers College Press. (pp. xiii-83, 106-126).

Seller, R. M., Copeland-Linder, N., Martin, P. P., & L’Heureux Lewis, R. (2006). Racial identity matters: The relationship between racial discrimination and psychological functioning in African American adolescents. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16(2), 187-216.

Snowden, L. (2001). Barriers to effective mental health services for African Americans. Mental Health Services Research, 3, 181-187.

Thompson, V. L., Bazile, A., & Akbar, M. (2004). African Americans’ perceptions of psychotherapy and psychotherapists. Professional Psychological Research and Practice, 35(1), 19-26.

Ulmer, J., Painter-Davis, N., & Tinik, L. (2014). Disproportional Imprisonment of Black and Hispanic Males: Sentencing Discretion, Processing Outcomes, and Policy Structures. Justice Quarterly, 1-40.

Wilkins, E.J., Whiting, J.B., Watson, M.F., Russon, J.M., & Moncrief, A.M. (2012). Residual effects of slavery: What clinicians need to know. Contemporary Family Therapy, 35, 14-28.

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