Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Applied Clinical Project (ACP)

Degree Name

Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Christine A. Beliard

Committee Member

Kara Erolin


African Americans have been acknowledged as a group that utilizes mental health services inconsistently (Thompson, Bazile, & Akbar, 2004). Numerous barriers to mental health service utilization by African Americans have been identified such as lack of access to care, mistrust of the helping professions, and stigma and shame; this study focused on the barrier of stigma and shame. African Americans prefer to seek guidance for psychological concerns from non-mental healthprofessionals such as clergy more frequently than from professional mental health resources. While there is a growing body of literature on the mental health help-seeking attitudes of the African American community, scarce is the research regarding the influence of the African American pastor in the promotion of positive mental health help-seeking attitudes within the African American community. This study investigated how African American pastors conceptualize their role incombatting stigma and shame associated with professional mental health help-seeking attitudes in the African American community. Thematic analysis was used to analyze perceptions of five African American pastors and identify themes between and among all participants. As a result of the analysis, three essential themes and eight sub-themes were established. This study will enhance the field of family therapy by providing insight on how to better serve the African Americancommunity while filling the gap within the literature regarding the role of African American pastors in normalizing and promoting the use of professional mentalhealth services by the African American community.