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African Immigrant Experience in Family Therapy, Article Critique Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1072

Article Critique

The experience of individuals regarding family therapy is influenced by cultural and social factors. That is the reason why studying the impact of cultural and social diversity on individual outcomes and experiences is important. Ward, Sellers & David (2005, p. 1) conclude that “over 2.25 million Africans reside in the U.S. today, yet research focusing on African immigrants is sparse”. The authors provide background statistical data, information about cultural differences in perception of depression and mental health among African female immigrants. The authors’ research, based on demographic questionnaires and focus groups,  concludes that racism, discrimination, stereotyping, and attitudes of therapists influenced the mood of participants. Negative stereotyping was described by one of the participants as follows: “do you assume that every Black person that walks in is going to shoplift or they’re going to wear the things and bring them back?” Society’s stereotyping and discriminative behavior creates a mental health risk for African immigrants that needs to be addressed by therapists. Culturally appropriate treatment is one of the intervention methods the authors propose to improve mental health outcomes among African immigrants.

Constantine, Redington & Graham (2009) list the group differences of African Americans and their perception about health care in general. The authors state that African immigrants have a general suspicion against white people’s perception, assuming that they would be treated differently because of their skin color. This mistrust does indeed have a negative impact on the outcomes of therapies, as well as the therapist-patient relationship. Further, the study lists some of the traditional values of individuals of African origin, in order to offer a better understanding of their health related behaviors. One of these values is communalism; putting a great emphasis on human relationships in one’s life. The other one is the tendency of valuing harmony more than individuals who grew up in European and American environments. Other africentric (cultural) values listed by the authors include sensitivity to emotional clues, the preference of oral communication, and learning through visual aids and music. The above list of characteristics is useful for policymakers who are looking to create culturally responsive therapy for African immigrants.

Thomas (1998, p. 24) states that “culture influences the behaviors and beliefs of family members”, therefore, it also affects communication methods preferred and used. This indicates that by knowing the communication preferences and health beliefs of African immigrants, therapists will be able to create a setting that is culturally responsive, matches the expectations of individuals, and creates better outcomes. As the author states, counselors should not neglect cultural diversity when working with families in order to “identify potential resources and family strengths” (p. 25). The article also assesses the impact of immigration and acculturation status of families as one variable that needs to be considered when creating a therapeutic plan. The main conclusion that the author provides is that family counselors need to be sensitive to cultural diversity of patients.

Szapocznik,  Schwartz, Muir & Brown (2012) focused on adolescent risk behavior among culturally diverse families. The authors tested the results BSFT approach of family therapy among diverse families. The report states that immigrant families’ rate of engagement using the BSFT approach was much lower than American born ones. Further, quoting related research, the authors confirm that “BSFT treatment was significantly more efficacious in reducing association with antisocial peers among African Americans than among Hispanics”. However, family functioning improvement outcomes of the therapy were lower among African immigrants than Hispanic families. This finding provides the author of the current study with an indication of development areas of African immigrant family counseling.

The Council of National Psychological Associations for the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests (2003) created a comprehensive study about the recommended psychotherapy approaches for persons with African descent. The highlighted inadequacies in mental health care of African immigrants were: the lack of bicultural and culturally competent therapists, the lack of understanding culture, tradition, and the impact of society’s hostility towards the group. These highlighted development areas can determine the focus of future study of effective therapies.

Thomas (2008) examined African immigrants’ health-seeking behavior. He concludes that without understanding health beliefs, traditional family hierarchies, and approaches towards therapy. The author concludes that “because therapy is foreign for most Africans, self-disclosure to the therapist becomes easier once a trusting relationship is established. He further explained that because of the relational culture of Africans, they are more likely to respond to a therapist who is more active and personal and who shows dignity” (p. 14).

Poulsen, Karuppaswamy & Natrajan (2005) examine real life experiences of Indian immigrants with family therapy. While the author focuses on the experiences of three Indian women, the similarities in the experience of immigration can provide an important insight for therapists to understand this life event in the light of mental health and beliefs.

Wetzel & Winawer (2002) assessed the outcomes of school-based community family therapies among minority groups. The authors recommend that therapists keep in mind the perspective of “identification with a particular ethnic heritage, culture, and race and the family’s immigration experience”. (p. 209). The authors also conclude that therapists should consider “high-school-students’ identifications with their ethnic heritages and cultures and the consequences and conflicts of their ethnic identities” when developing a therapeutic approach.

References

Constantine, M., Redington, R. & Graham, S. (2009) Counseling and psychotherapy with African Americans. In: Neville, H., Tynes, B. & Utsey (eds.) Handbook of African American Psychology. Chapter 31. pp; 431-444.

Council of National Psychological Associationsfor the Advancement of Ethnic Minority Interests (2003) Psychological treatment of ethnic minority populations. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/brochures/treatment-minority.pdf

Poulsen, S., Karuppaswamy, N., & Natrajan, R. (2005) Immigration as a dynamic experience: personal narratives and clinical implications for family therapists. Contemporary Family Therapy27(3), September 2005

Szapocznik, J.,  Schwartz, S.,  Muir, J.  & Brown, H. (2012) Brief strategic family therapy: an intervention to reduce adolescent risk behavior. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice. 2012, Vol. 1, No. 2, 134–145

Thomas, A. (1998) Understanding culture and worldview in family systems: Use of the multicultural genogram. The Family Journal. Vol. 6. Jan. 1998. pp; 24-32.

Thomas, Damafing Keita, “West African immingrants’ attitude toward seeking psychological help” (2008). Counseling and Psychological Services Dissertations. Paper 29

Ward, E., Sellers, S. & David, P. (2005) A qualitative study of depression among black African immigrant women: “It is just madness” African American Research Perspectives. 2005;11:1 77-88

Wetzel, N. & Winaver, H. (2002) School-based community family therapy for adolescents at risk. In: Kaslow, F. W. (ed.) (2002) Comprehensive Handbook of Psychotherapy. Vol. 3 Interpersonal/Humanistic/Existential. New York: John Wiley & Sons; pp. 205-230

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