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Publication Date


First Advisor

Joanne Corbin

Second Advisor

Kathryn Basham

Third Advisor

Johnnie Hamilton-Mason

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School for Social Work


Internalized racism, Oppression, Liberation, African American women, Psychodynamic therapy


Internalized racial oppression is an understudied form of oppression that has detrimental effects on individual and interpersonal functioning. Yet, there is an absence of literature on psychotherapy interventions toward liberation and healing from this phenomenon. This qualitative study focused on the perspectives of African American women clinicians and explored whether the awareness and understanding of internalized racial oppression influenced their clinical work with African American women clients. Twenty-two African American women clinicians were interviewed regarding their experiences of internalized racial oppression and their perceptions of their clients’ experiences. The five key findings from this study are: 1) Clinician’s awareness and understanding of internalized racial oppression constitute the matrix from which therapeutic work develops with clients experiencing internalized racial oppression; 2) Clinicians recognize that Black women’s experiences of internalized racial oppression are differential and includes an intersectional perspective; 3) Clinicians and clients both hold greater expectations for the therapeutic work, based on expectations that Black women clinicians have a certain level of awareness of Black women’s lived experiences; 4) Clinicians are attuned to the relational dynamics of the transference and countertransference; 5) Clinicians engage in a relational, intentional and action- oriented process toward liberation from internalized racial oppression. These findings from the analysis resulted in the development of a middle range grounded theory that offers a conceptualization regarding the awareness and understanding of internalized racial oppression by Black women clinicians that integrates both the psychological and social theories in a way that has not been present in the literature.


@2020. LaTasha T. Smith. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




286 pages : color illustrations. Includes bibliographical references (pages 255-264)