Psychotherapy with African-American Women: Innovations in Psychodynamic Perspective and Practice

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LESLIE C. JACKSON AND BEVERLY GREENE, (EDS.): Psychotherapy with AfricanAmerican Women: Innovations in Psychodynamic Perspective and Practice. The Guilford Press, New York, 2000, 298 pp., $35.00, ISBN 1-57230-585-1.

This edited book expresses support for psychodynamic techniques, although many therapists seem to think that they are not applicable to African-Americans. Indeed, the author points out that the stereotypes and historical pressures of racism and sexism prevent an accurate understanding of African-American women. The authors, African-American therapists, all share a psychoanalytic approach and, indeed, make a persuasive case that crosscultural understanding requires psychological, gender, and ethnic perspectives.

The first chapters (by Leslie Jackson and Shorter-Goodin) focus on the connections between cultural and intrapsychic issues. African-American women are doubly marginalized by race and gender, factors that impinge upon the therapeutic relationship. There is a special emphasis on the complex issues of transference and countertransference, especially the ethnic identities within the therapeutic relationship. Practical suggestions include the necessity to discuss the ethnic identity of the participants, i.e., "The elephant in the room."

One chapter (by Beverly Greene) is devoted to an especially marginalized group, the African-American lesbian, Here, I was introduced to a new pejorative term "heterosexist." A very well written, broad-based chapter (by Jessica Daniel) deals with racial trauma and its ugly and sometimes dangerous aspects, and its effect on women. A sensitively written chapter (by Michele Owen-Patterson) develops the theme of a complicated relationship between an African-American supervisor and a white therapist. The problems of black-white biracial clients and the complications of interracial group therapy are well discussed.

The concepts of the "Strong Black Women" and "Moral Masochism" are treated in chapters that attempt to go beyond the stereotypes into the intrapsychic processes and needs of these complicated people. I found the chapter by Francis Trotman on differences between feminism and psychodynamic psychotherapy to be very well researched and balanced with good practical clinical suggestions. Further helpful approaches were given in the final chapter (by Cheryl Thompson) in comparing the identity problems between African-American women and American Jews. …