Experiences of racism and discrimination are a prominent concern within the Black community and often cause symptoms of stress or trauma for those who endure it. However, there are limited research studies which examine best practices and pitfalls for treating individuals of this population who struggle with race-based stress or trauma. This study uses a phenomenological approach to examine the therapy experiences of six clients, identifying as Black or African American, when discussing stress or trauma related to racism. Results identified several pitfalls, such as experiences of racism, color blindness, inattention, and countertransference, as well as promising practices, such as active listening, validation/affirming racial experiences, and authenticity. This study produced themes related to racial identity and experiences of racism. Lastly, participants provided recommendations for treating therapists who wish to be helpful, including efforts to learn about Black history and current events, use of consultation and continued review of the literature, and intake questions centered on racism and discrimination. A primary aim of this study is to decrease the gap in the literature for interventions to treat race-based stress and trauma in order to increase cultural competence among clinicians. Ideas for future research studies to build on these results are discussed.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Racism--Psychological aspects; African Americans--Psychology; Psychic trauma--Treatment

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

Thema Bryant Davis