Academic journal article Social Work Research

Claiming Your Connections: A Psychosocial Group Intervention Study of Black College Women

Academic journal article Social Work Research

Claiming Your Connections: A Psychosocial Group Intervention Study of Black College Women

Article excerpt

The emergent psychosocial competence practice model in mental health represents an innovative strengths-based paradigm with potential relevance and applicability to black college women struggling with problems of psychological and social adjustment. Using an experimental design, with pre- and posttest measures, this study investigated the effectiveness of a culturally congruent group intervention program called "Claiming Your Connections," involving 76 undergraduate black college women, aimed at enhancing psychosocial competence (that is, locus of control, active coping, and stress reduction). Counseling implications and directions for the development of future culturally relevant practice interventions with this population are discussed.

KEY WORDS: black college women; group work; practice research; psychosocial competence


For many students, attending college involves a period of adjustment and adaptation that requires them to navigate developmental tasks, focusing on emotional adjustment, interpersonal relationships, and academic concerns (Adan & Felner, 1995; Solberg & Villarreal, 1997; Tomlinson-Clarke, 1998). Black college students at predominately white institutions typically encounter similar developmental tasks; they also may experience additional stressful events in their daily lives, such as racial discrimination and feelings of isolation caused by racial exclusion (Jay & D'Augelli, 1991; Jenkins, 2002). Black women in particular report feelings of alienation, questions of racial and gender identity, concern for interpersonal relationships, and stress (Brown, 2000). These distinct challenges add a layer of complexity to the psychological and social adjustment of black female college students. Unfortunately, traditional college mental health approaches have overlooked the psychosocial realities of black women in the United States (Rhodes & Johnson, 1997; Wingo, 2001). The field of college mental health is faced with the critical task of providing culturally congruent programs that meet the complex psychological needs of black women (Clairborn, LaFromboise, & Pomales, 1986; Shonfeld-Ringel, 2000).

The current literature suggests that to enhance mental health treatment outcomes for black college women, programs must be culturally congruent and include ancillary services that are more helpful than standard college counseling programs. The "Claiming Your Connections: Life Affirming Strategies for Women of Color" (CYC) culturally congruent group intervention serves this need (Jones, 2004). The culturally congruent nature of the intervention protocol is based on treatment techniques that both directly and indirectly address specific aspects of black women's psychosocial experiences in the United States (Belgrave, Chase-Vaughn, Gray, Addison, & Cherry, 2000; McNair, 1996; Miranda et al., 2003; Randall, 1994). For instance, cultural congruence in this study refers to the integration of cultural attitudes, beliefs, and values of black women into the intervention and the continuous promotion of skills, practices, and interactions throughout the group process to ensure that sessions are culturally responsive and competent.

The CYC group intervention includes the strengths perspective of psychosocial competence that calls attention to the positive resources (that is, skills, abilities, and knowledge) that help people cope with stressful events, as well as those that contribute to goal achievement and psychological well-being. This framework is offered as an alternative to traditional views of human functioning that identify psychological and social deficiencies as the cause for adjustment issues among black women in college. Although psychosocial competence is at the forefront, an Africentric paradigm provides a contextual framework for understanding and addressing the psychological and social adjustment difficulties of black college students. …

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