Working With African American Clients
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Working With African American Clients, Dr. Thomas A. Parham demonstrates an African-centered, culturally based approach that can augment any therapy with African American clients. Dr. Parham's approach honors spirituality, interconnectedness, and self-knowledge, and is aimed at treating the client holistically—that is, without dividing a client's issues into affective, cognitive, and behavioral factors.
In this session, Dr. Parham works with a young woman who, because of a felony on her record, has been unable to find paying work in a job she is passionate about. Her frustration has led to her feeling depressed, and the only factors keeping her from giving up are her religious faith and her desire to give her daughters a better life. Dr. Parham works to help this client see the value in therapy, recognize her strengths, emphasizing her wisdom, faith, and intelligence, so that she may realize that she may already be prepared to make changes in her life.
Dr. Parham's African-centered approach takes into account the influence of race in psychotherapy, especially in the creation of the therapy framework. Because the American version of psychotherapy was first developed by people of European descent, a Eurocentric lens may not give an accurate view of African American clients—in fact, this lens may diagnose pathology where none exist.
The approach illustrated in this video takes into consideration five dimensions of the African personality, which are anchored in the ancient Kemetic system of Ma'at:
- Divinity: connecting with the creative force of the universe
- Teachability: the capacity to learn and show knowledge
- Perfectibility: being in the moment, yet always striving toward something better
- Free will: making conscious choices to respond to reality
- Moral and social Responsibility: All relationships should be guided by moral and social responsibility
This approach honors spirituality, interconnectedness, the precedence of the collective over the individual, self-knowledge, and the self healing power that he believes is within each of us. The phases of therapy are
- connecting with the client
- facilitating awareness
- setting goals
- taking action and instigating change
- getting feedback and monitoring accountability
Dr. Parham grew up in Southern California and received his BA in social ecology from UCI. He completed his MA in counseling psychology at Washington University and received his doctorate in counseling psychology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He is licensed to practice psychotherapy in California.
Since his return to Orange County, Dr. Parham has been an active member of the community, contributing his talents in the areas of social advocacy, community uplift, and youth empowerment. In 1986, he was appointed to the City of Irvine's Human Relations Committee. After being elected chair, he helped them draft the city's first human rights ordinance, which was passed by the City Council. He also served as chair of UCI's Martin Luther King Symposium for 10 years and sought to extend the boundaries of the university community countywide.
In the early 1990s, Dr. Parham helped to charter the Orange County Chapter of the 100 Black Men (100 BMOC). While serving as first chair of their education committee, he helped to develop the 100 BMOC's signature Passport to the Future program and is the architect of their Rites of Passage component. He extended his reach and influence to the greater Los Angeles area by collaborating with the Los Angeles Public Schools College Bound program to produce a similar Rites of Academic Passage component for their high school students.
He remains intimately involved with both programs to this day, despite being elected to serve as the fifth president of the 100 BMOC organization in January 2002. His efforts in this regard have included collaborating with Turning Point Communications and the City of Irvine to host the Annual African American Business Summit, planning for a Fall Health and Wellness Summit, initiating an Institutional Report Card initiative to evaluate the quality of the educational experience for African American youth in Orange County schools, serving on Orange County Sheriff Mike Carona's Community Coalition, and helping to recognize and honor citizens of all colors who make a difference in the African American community by co-chairing the 100 BMOC's award committee for its annual holiday gala.
Dr. Parham is a past president of the National Association of Black Psychologists. He is also a member of the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). He is past president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (a division of ACA). He served on the editorial board for the Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development for 5 years and completed a term on the editorial board of the Journal of Counseling and Development as well. He currently serves as an ad hoc reviewer for the Journal of Black Psychology.
For more than 20 years, Dr. Parham has focused his research efforts and has authored numerous articles in the area of psychological nigrescence, and the areas of identity development and multicultural counseling remain his primary focus. He is the coauthor of The Psychology of Blacks: An African American Perspective (updated 3rd edition published in 2000) and author of Psychological Storms: The African American Struggle for Identity (1993). He has most recently published Counseling African-Descent People: Raising the Bar of Practitioner Competence (2002). In addition to authoring over 20 journal articles and book chapters, he has produced several videotapes, including Counseling African Americans: Youth and Violence and Innovative Approaches to Counseling African-Descent People, which are available through Microtraining & Associates.
In consultations, public addresses, and television appearances throughout the United States, Dr. Parham has addressed such issues as multicultural counseling, counseling African Americans, cultural competence, youth and violence, coping with stress, characteristics of exceptional people, multicultural education, managing a diverse workforce, effective communications, developing effective management and supervisory skills, managing people, conflict resolution, and team building.
He has worked with such corporations as Hughes Aircraft, United Way of America, AVCO Financial Services, American Red Cross, Xerox Corporation, Institute for Transportation Studies at UCI, California Hospital and Medical Center, Anaheim Memorial Hospital, Home Depot Corporation, the City of Burbank, the City of Chino, the Law Firm of Lathem and Watkins, the YWCA of Orange County, the Department of Energy in the State of Nevada, and numerous universities and school districts around the country.
His honors and awards include selection as an APA Minority Fellow from 1979 through 1982; receipt of the Outstanding Staff Person Community Service Award from UCI in 1982; selection as an Outstanding Young Man in America in 1984; a Management and Professional Service Award from UCI in 1987; the 1988 Research/Scholarship Award from the National Association of Black Psychologists; 1989 Research Achievement Award from the APA's Minority Fellowship Program; receipt of the Research Award for Contributions to the Counseling Profession from the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development in 1991; election to fellow status of Division 17 (Counseling Psychology) of the APA in 1994; the Samuel H. Johnson Award for Exemplary Service and Scholarship from the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development in 1995; the Exemplary Community Service Award from the Orange County, California chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; election to fellow status of Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues) of the APA in 1997; the Distinguished Service Award from the Orange County Black Chamber of Commerce in 1998; election to the title of Distinguished Psychologist by the Association of Black Psychologists (the organization's highest honor) in 1998; the APA Dalmus Taylor Award for Leadership, Scholarship, and Advising in 1999; and a University of California Lauds and Laurels award for staff achievement in 2003.
- Parham, T. A. (2002). Counseling persons of African descent: Raising the bar of practitioner competence. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Parham, T. A., White, J. L., & Ajamu, A. (1999). The psychology of Blacks: An African-centered perspective (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
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