The Racially Inclusive Model

Race, Racial Identity and Psychotherapy: The Racially Inclusive Model – Race in the United States-The psychology and social boundaries that divide people are mostly racial.

In the following video about The U.S. System of Racial Inequity (a World Trust film), educator and author Dr. Joy DeGruy shares with us how one of her relatives (her white sister-in-law) is using her privilege as a white individual to fight systemic inequity:

Race is one of the most enduring and elusive aspects of life. Race has been a central theme throughout American history, from the Constitution to the Civil War to the denial of Native American and Black citizenship and social participation.

Despite the central and enduring significance of race in society, the psychology, psychiatry, and mental health disciplines treat race as a descriptor of primarily Black people and delineate the psychological effects of their status as victims of racism.

Because race is a central aspect of society, it is part of each person’s personality and social world. Yet little information can be acquired from traditional (psychodynamic, humanistic, cognitive-behavioral, family systems, etc.) theories of human development and personality about race. See also this post about Dr. Joy DeGruy and her highly respected research work and her book about Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome (PTSS).

Traditional Models vs. Racial Inclusion

Traditional Models:

  • Do not include race in personality development.
  • Can offer little information about human development, personality, and race.
  • Discuss race and development in terms of social effects of racism, thus inferring that Blacks are psychologically damaged.
  • Have ignored how race affects the psychological, emotional and social development of all people in the US.

Racially Inclusive Model:

I contend that before race can be included in psychotherapy, one must understand how race becomes part of a person’s psychological structure. See also: Traumatic Stress in Communities of Color

Racial Groups in the U.S

The primary markers of racial categories are a person’s skin color, physical features (which are biologically determined), and language (Hispanics are grouped into a functional racial group not on the basis of skin color alone but on language and physical features).

Racial groups in the US have been shaped and guided by distinct rules, many of which have become associated with accepted and unquestioned cultural practices and assumptions.

Basic cultural assumptions guide how racial group members identify with a racial group, process sensory information into precepts and concepts, use language and form thought patterns, and determine emotional and psychological types, which guide behaviors.

For various racial groups, psychological, emotional, and behavioral processes determine how members view self, others and the world.

Understanding Racial Identity

1950’s – 1970’s: Civil Rights movement started as did the:

  • Realization of the individual’s unique mode of identifying with their racial reference group emerged.
  • Theorist delineation of types and models of Black racial identity for individuals began to appear in the psychological literature.

1984: Helms publishes her model of White racial identity

Understanding Psychological Race: Racial Identity

The quality or manner of an individual’s psychological identification with a racial group. It is about how one views, or understands members of their own racial group and understands members of other racial groups. It includes:

  • consideration of other domains of difference such as gender, social class, ethnicity, etc.
  • A life-long process that begins during childhood and requires resolutions throughout one’s life.
  • Racial identity is an aspect of one’s personality

Development and Race

As a child develops, he or she creates racial schemata through the process of socialization. A segregated society that maintains taboos about interracial unions interjects racial concerns early in a person’s life. Race influences who is accepted in one’s intimate space. So it is about the Unidentified Trauma, Racial Harassment.

As the child matures physically, emotionally, intellectually and psychologically, he or she does so in the context of racial rules and norms.

A child’s awakening, self-awareness, and recognition of others are thought to begin during the first few months of life. Imitation of adult behavior is characteristic of child behavior during the formative years of human development.

Personality consists of the constellation of attributes and characteristics of a person that are enduring and that guide thoughts and behaviors.

At various stages of maturity, the child learns from different vantage points. While cognitive and physical maturation is proceeding, so is social and identity development. These human processes occur within a racial context. Therefore, as a child intellectually develops, he or she creates schemata that are influenced by the schemas of his or her family, peers and society.

Race affects a person’s development such that one internalizes the respective socio-cultural meanings assigned to racial groups. One should consider how the prevailing assumptions about race are absorbed when considering personality development

Racial Identity Statuses

Black/People of Color

Pre-encounter or Conformity- Idealization of White culture; Denigration of or distance from Black culture or of origin

Encounter or Dissonance- Confused about the personal and cultural meaning of race

Immersion/Emersion or Resistance – Idealization of Black culture; Distance and rejection of White culture

Internalization or Awareness- Inner security with one’s race and culture and American cultural heritage


Contact – Denial about the personal significance of race and unaware of cultural world view

Disintegration – First conscious acknowledgment of one’s Whiteness and its cultural norms about race-confused

Reintegration – Idealization of Whiteness and cultural heritage; dismissal of Black culture

Pseudo-independence – Intellectualized acceptance of one’s Whiteness and cultural norms about race

Immersion-Emersion – Emotional and Intellectual integration of positive sense of Whiteness and culture

Autonomy – Positive non-racist White identity

Racial Identity and Clinical Applications

Race’s influence on the psychotherapy process starts with an understanding of a person’s race and racial identity.

Knowing the racial identity that a person primarily operates with provides an initial step toward understanding how race-related issues affect him/her and how race manifests intra-psychically.

Focusing on the patient is not sufficient if an understanding of the process of psychotherapy is not grasped. The therapist level of racial identity is also important to the success of treatment.

In summary

Racial identity status expressions are the mechanism for racial influences in each person’s personality.

Therapeutic interactions of relationships are characterized by “type,” as defined by the combination of each person’s racial identity status.

Race applies to all people. Therefore, theories and models of psychology treatment must be racially inclusive as is the model presented here.