Date of Submission


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)



Department Chair

Stephanie Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

First Advisor

Beverly White, PsyD

Second Advisor

Stephanie Felgoise, PhD, ABPP

Third Advisor

Tamika Thomas, PsyD


African American women endure multiple stressors from such forms of social oppression as racism and sexism that impact their lives in many ways. Despite those stressors, several barriers impede African American women from seeking the professional mental health they need to cope. Instead, they rely on cultural and historical methods for managing stress, such as religious beliefs and the support of the church community, or they create their own. In this study, 25 women were interviewed to explore the barriers interfering with African American women seeking professional mental health treatment. This study specifically identified and examined three potential barriers: the cultural and historical attitudes toward America’s predominant health care institutions, the cultural and historical reliance on religion and the church community for support, and the deficiencies of mental health services available to African American communities. The study identified four themes: Perception of mental health and mental illness; Perception of seeking and providing help; Perception that mental health is unimportant; and Perception of violence by law enforcement and whites. The findings emphasized the importance of considering how African American women develop perceptions of mental health and illness, and how these play a role in their help-seeking behaviors. This study’s information will hopefully guide approaches to therapy for African American women.

Included in

Psychology Commons