The angry black woman: the impact of pejorative stereotypes on psychotherapy with black women
by: Wendy Ashley
Department of Social Work , California State University , Northridge , California , USA.
In the aftermath of slavery and the resulting social, economic, and political effects, Black women have become the victims of negative stereotyping in mainstream American culture. Such stereotypes include the myth of the angry Black woman that characterizes these women as aggressive, ill tempered, illogical, overbearing, hostile, and ignorant without provocation. Symptoms presented by Black women during mental health treatment may reinforce this myth. However, many of the negative characteristics of the angry Black woman developed in response to external stressors and historical factors. Black women also have a unique experience with and expressions of anger that shape the presenting symptoms interpreted by the mental health clinician. This myth and corresponding negative stereotypes significantly affect Black women intrapsychically, interpersonally, and are likely to influence the efficacy of mental health treatment. Understanding and treatment of Black women in a mental health context should be influenced by the cultural norms and sociopolitical dynamics affecting these clients. Successful mental health treatment requires cultural competence and clinicians who are well prepared to navigate the inherent complexities of culture with clients. Awareness of the angry Black woman mythology, including its genesis, manifestations, and the unique experiences of Black women, may raise the standards of cultural competence for clinicians and provide more successful treatment outcomes in working with this population. A case example illustrates the assiduity essential to practicing in a culturally competent manner. A client is presented from a traditional psychotherapeutic perspective and then viewed through a lens that integrates psychotherapeutic practice with conscious awareness of the mythology and stereotypes impacting Black women. Implications for culturally relevant practice are discussed.
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