Date of Award

Spring 5-20-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Work

First Advisor

Richard Lyle, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Benjamin Downs III, Ed.D.

Third Advisor

Daniel Teodorescu, Ph.D.


Racial encounters can be direct, subtle, or ambiguous. They can occur on an interpersonal level or be the effect of systematic acts. Current and prospective African-American college students across the United States are constantly and consistently deprived of a quality education due to inadequate mental health care to address the horrific and insidious effects of post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between race-based trauma and PTSD among African Americans and to explore stressors related to PTSD. Participants in the study were African-American college students residing in the Metropolitan Atlanta area. Quantitative and qualitative research methodologies were both applied to the study in order to answer the research questions. The results have shown that there was a gender difference in perceiving the race-related trauma; household income level also negatively relates to the degree of trauma experienced by participants. On the other hand, academic performance and the willingness to seek counseling were not affected. For the qualitative aspect of the study, most participants reported that although they did not personality experience race-related trauma, it is understood that it happens to others. Findings in the present study suggested that African-American students may not be aware of cultural bias against mental health professionals but may nevertheless underutilize counseling services when a legitimate need exists. It is therefore recommended that college counselors who serve African-American students conduct outreach work to familiarize these students with race-related trauma and its potential effects, to counteract a pervasive delegitimization of valid and potentially disruptive experiences that may prevent students from seeking the help they need. In addition to conducting informational and awareness-raising outreach, it is imperative that mental health professionals address the need for culturally sensitive care.