Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Interdenominational Theology Center (ITC)

Degree Name


First Advisor

Edward P. Wimberly, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Skip Johnson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Emmanuel Lartey, Ph.D.


The dissertation will seek to advance the hypothesis that pastoral counseling can make greater inroads into the African American community by revisiting the use of silence in establishing therapeutic relationships with clients. This discussion will explore how practice informs theories about the use of silence versus a more interactive, relational model of dialogue in the initial stages of the therapeutic process—how it enables the transference of power, and when it interferes. My desire is to promote a sense of being at home for African American clients within the therapeutic milieu.

This study is intended to lay a foundation for a revision of the therapeutic stance to a shepherding model, which is more interactive and conversational. Once a dialogue is established, silence can be used to create and maintain a sense of connected-distance, while still promoting a will to share.

As a philosophical departure from the abstinence stance theorized by Freud, this research will serve to demonstrate and substantiate ways in which more effective therapeutic alliances can be established with African American clients that are built upon the idiom of community and a desire for creative fidelity.

Prior to examining the usefulness of theological and psychological concepts there will be a discussion of the “psychology of oppression,” brought about by the horrific mantle of slavery, which still permeates the hearts and souls of most African Americans, presenting a challenging dynamic for pastoral counselors in which to address the psycho-emotional nuances and relational patterns that exist within the culture.

The study will focus on three distinct phases of the therapeutic process, all are related with theoretical and theological justification and supported by cross-cultural literature. The anticipated outcomes will be the identification of the theoretical and theological bases that support linkages between clinical psychology, pastoral counseling practices, oral tradition and biblical hospitality.

The research for this study will use a qualitative method of phenomenology in which two case studies will be described, wherein issues of silence and feelings of victimization are present. The dissertation will address how successful transitions were achieved to enable these clients to move forward with new meanings of life’s contradictions. I submit that African Americans and, perhaps, other oppressed minorities, actively resist positions of leverage over their central beings such as those created by the traditional silent therapist-client relationships.

The basic conclusion drawn as a result of this research is that the use of silence, in the neutral stance, can be informed by the idiom of the oral tradition in the establishment of optimum therapeutic relationships in the counseling of African Americans.

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