Multicultural Counseling: Perspectives from Counselors as Clients of Color

By Aretha Faye Marbley | Go to book overview

Preface
Treading on Sacred Ground

They are coming to bare their souls before you. That’s sacred ground they are treading.

Mai Li

My hand trembled slightly as I turned the doorknob and entered the room. With major trepidation after many
days, perhaps weeks, of agonizing as to whether I should see a psychologist, I had finally gotten the nerve
and courage to visit the student counseling center. Before college, the only thing that I knew about psycholo-
gists (I am not sure if I even knew the word psychologist) was that they helped crazy people. No one in my
family had ever seen a mental health professional, unless you include my eldest sister, who, in 1968 at age
24, was confined to a mentally ill ward in Cook County Hospital on the west side of Chicago with a diagnosis
of paranoid schizophrenia, and Mama (my Aunt Johnnie), who, 40 years earlier in 1928, from ages 20 to 24,
was confined to what was then referred to as a lunatic asylum with a diagnosis of crazy.

To my knowledge, neither of them received therapy per se; my sister had extensive and massive shock
treatments, and my mama was caged and treated like a wild animal and watered down with hoses for
more than 4 years. Yet, unbelievably, here I stood frozen, a junior (a premed–psych major, in fact) at a
prestigious research institution with several psychology courses under my belt, fearful to enter the office of
a psychologist.

An old White man (looking back, he was probably about 41) stood up from behind a black reclining chair,
took a cigar out of his mouth with his right hand, motioned with his left hand for me to take a seat to his right,
and introduced himself as Dr. Schmidt. He then eased back down and slowly reclined back into his cushiony
chair, put the cigar back in his mouth, and folded his hands behind his neck.

Strangely, he did not ask for my name or what brought me to counseling, just sat staring at me with steel-
blue eyes. I waited for what seemed like 5 minutes before giving him my name. We sat another 5 minutes in
silence. Slowly and shakily, I began spitting out information about my background, possibly to explain why I
was there and partly to cover up my nervousness. As words rushed out, and I spilled my guts and told family
secrets to a complete stranger, he said nothing, not a damn thing. He never even acknowledged that I was
there, nor that I was human.

Exactly 50 minutes later, he stood up and said, “Your time is up.” I stood up at once, feeling invisible and
broken up inside from this inhuman experience; thanked him; and left hastily out of the door that I entered—
never to return. Following this encounter, it would be more than 25 years before I would formally step foot
into a White male therapist’s (or anyone’s) office for counseling.

Traditionally, the lack of success that people of color have experienced with counseling services has been accredited to factors such as inaccessibility, ethnicity and race differences, and Eurocentric epistemologies and axiology. Through counselors of color giving their points of view as clients, this book proffers an understanding of

-ix-

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