In Mixed-Race Identities, Dr. Maria P. P. Root demonstrates her approach to working with clients who are experiencing conflicts or distress because of mixed-race identity. Dr. Root's multiculturally sensitive approach seeks to strengthen or find a client's own voice and validate the client's experiences and ways of belonging in the world.
In this session, Dr. Root works with a young woman in her mid-20s whose mother is African and whose father is Latino. Dr. Root helps her client to look at various effects that her mixed-race heritage has had on her life. She illuminates the various struggles surrounding the client's identity as well as her resilience and the need for continued vigilance in discerning how society's "race rules" are causing much of the stress she is experiencing.
Dr. Root's therapeutic orientations blend multicultural sensitivities with feminist perspectives. This means that she helps people strengthen or find their own voice and validate their experiences, taking into account historical events that have affected their family, their ethnic or racial group, gendered experience, or way of belonging and identifying in this world.
She questions assumptions that are very old or the source of restriction or unhappiness. Sometimes it is necessary to examine early racial or ethnic experiences as they intersect with learning about gender and privilege through money, skin color, language, and so forth. These experiences inform identity and the presentation or hiding of self. Sometimes Dr. Root uses a person's reaction to her "Bill of Rights" to open these conversations.
For persons from multiracial families or of biracial heritage, therapy becomes a forum to connect certain suspected ways of being disenfranchised or oppressed within their own families, groups with whom they identify, or institutional policies. Conversely, this conversation takes place within the generation's attitudes toward racial issues and mixed-race people and their families. These hurts, invisibilities, misidentifications, and privileges become a rich source of examining ways of coping and the costs of identifying certain ways in the world.
Often therapy is comprised solely of talking. It may include recommended reading and other forms of homework to direct the work outside of the therapy hour. Ultimately, this self-education is used to make conscious decisions to act in ways that feel more congruent with self and constructive.
Further Resources and Client Handouts
Maria P. P. Root, PhD, born in Manila, Philippines, grew up in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from the University of California at Riverside in 1977 with degrees in psychology and sociology. She subsequently attended Claremont University in Claremont, California receiving her Master's degree in cognitive psychology in 1979. She completed her PhD in clinical psychology at the University of Washington in Seattle in 1983 with an emphasis in minority mental health.
Dr. Root resides in Seattle, Washington, where she is an independent scholar and clinical psychologist. She has been in practice for over 20 years. Her general practice focuses on adult and adolescent treatment therapy, which includes working with families and couples.
Dr. Root's working areas of knowledge are broad with emphasis on culturally competent practice, life transition issues, trauma, ethnic and racial identity, workplace stress and harassment, and disordered eating. In the early 1980s, she established a group treatment program for bulimia that grew out of her dissertation work. Subsequently, she trained other professionals to recognize and treat people with a range of disordered eating symptoms. She continues to treat people with eating disorders.
Dr. Root's practice also includes formal psychological evaluation. She works as a consultant to several law enforcement departments. She also works as an expert witness in forensic settings performing evaluations and offering expert testimony in matters that require cultural competence or knowledge of racism or ethnocentrism.
Dr. Root is a trainer, educator, and public speaker on the topics of multiracial families, multiracial identity, cultural competence, trauma, workplace harassment, and disordered eating. She has provided lectures and training in New Zealand, England, the Netherlands, Canada, and the United States for major universities, professional organizations, grassroots community groups, and student organizations.
Dr. Root's publications cover the areas of trauma, cultural assessment, multiracial identity, feminist therapy, and eating disorders. One of the leading authorities in the field of racial and ethnic identity, Dr. Root published the first contemporary volume on mixed-race people, Racially Mixed People in America (1992). Including this book, she has edited two award-winning books on multiracial people and produced the foundational Bill of Rights for Racially Mixed People. The U.S. Census referred to these texts in their deliberations that resulted in a historic "check more than one" format to the race question for the 2000 census.
Dr. Root is past-president of the Washington State Psychological Association and the recipient of national and international awards from professional and community organizations.
- Root, M. P. P. (1990). Resolving "other" status: Biracial identity development. In L. Brown & M. P. P. Root (Eds.), Complexity and diversity in feminist theory and therapy (pp. 191–211). New York: Haworth Press.
- Root, M. P. P. (Ed.). (1992). Racially mixed people in America. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Root, M. P. P. (1994). Mixed race women. In L. Comas-Diaz & B. Green (Eds.), Women of color and mental health: The healing tapestry (pp. 455–478). New York: Guilford Press.
- Root, M. P. P. (1996). A Bill of Rights for racially mixed people. In M. P. P. Root (Ed.), Racially mixed people in the new millennium. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Root, M. P. P. (1996). (Ed.). The multiracial experience: Racial borders as the new frontier. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Root, M. P. P. (1997). Mixed race women. In N. Zack (Ed.), Sex/race. New York: Routledge.
- Root, M. P. P. (1997). Multiracial Asians: Models of ethnic identity. Amerasia Journal, 23 (1), 29–41.
- Root, M. P. P. (1998). Amerasians. In L. C. Lee & N. W. Zane (Eds.), Asian American psychology handbook. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
- Root, M. P. P. (1998). Preliminary findings from the biracial sibling project. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health, 4, 237–247.
- Root, M. P. P. (1999). The biracial Baby Boom: Understanding ecological constructions of racial identity in the 21st century. In R. H. Sheets & E. R. Hollins (Eds.), Racial and Ethnic Identity in School Practices: Aspects of human development (pp. 67–90). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Root, M. P. P. (2001). Love's revolution: Racial intermarriage. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
- Root, M. P. P. (2001). A Bill of Rights for racially mixed people. In P. Essed & D. Goldberg (Eds.), Race critical theories: Text and context (pp. 355–368). New York: Blackwell Publishers.
- Root, M. P. P. (2003). Five mixed race identities: From relic to revolution. In L. I. Winters & H. Debose (Eds.), New faces in a changing America: Multiracial identity in the 21st century (pp. 3–20). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Root, M. P. P. (2004). From exotic to a dime a dozen. In A. Gillem & C. Thompson (Eds.), Biracial women in therapy: Between the rock of gender and the hard place of race (pp. 19–31). New York: Haworth Press.
- Root, M. P. P. (2004). Multiracial families and children: Implications for educational research and practice. In J. A. Banks & C. A. McGee Banks (Eds.), Handbook of research on multicultural education (2nd ed., pp. 110–124). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- Root, M. P. P., & Kelley, M. (Eds.). (2003). The multiracial child resource book. Seattle, WA: Mavin Foundation.
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