Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Psy.D. Doctor of Clinical Psychology

Academic Discipline


First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Warner

Second Advisor

Dr. Emese Vitalis

Third Advisor

Dr. Alice Schruba


This phenomenological study was designed to evaluate the experiences of African American Christian adult clients within traditional psychotherapy and faith-based counseling settings. Research has shown various therapist/counselor identities affect Christian African American clients, and that Christians as well as African Americans have historically been less likely to pursue traditional psychotherapy for a variety of reasons. Participants were six African American Christian adult participants (three traditional psychotherapy participants and three faith-based counseling participants). All participants were asked open-ended questions about their experiences in traditional psychotherapy or faith-based counseling. In addition, they were asked to evaluate several aspects of their therapy/counseling experience on a scale of 1–10: (a) their overall experience within traditional psychotherapy/counseling, (b) the overall effectiveness of their therapist/counselor, and (c) how effectively they thought their therapist/counselor was in their ability to address faith-related content or concerns. To provide context for this study, a literature review was conducted on the history of psychology, the demographics of psychotherapy, the potential impact of psychotherapy on African American clients, and potential gaps in faith-based training among mental health providers. In addition, this study considered additional factors that may influence the traditional psychotherapy/counseling experiences of African American clients. These included barriers to access of care and the underutilization of mental health services among African Americans, the overall health disparities affecting African American people, working alliance factors, the impact of the Black Church on African American life, and the common reliance on faith as a means of coping. This project also considered 2 current research on community-based interventions and culturally sensitive and acceptable means of seeking care for African Americans. Results showed that though all African American Christian participants acknowledged benefits of therapy (across both types), there was an inherent secondary gain for African American Christian clients paired with faith-based therapists/counselors.