Date of Award


Degree Type


University or Center

Clark Atlanta University(CAU)


School of Social Work

Degree Name



Social Work Policy Planning and Administration

First Advisor

Dr. Margaret Counts-Spriggs

Second Advisor

Dr. Aisha Tucker-Brown

Third Advisor

Dr. Kimberly Farris


The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore the theoretical philosophical frameworks, treatment, engagement, and diagnostic approaches of private practice therapists who treat middle-class African-American women. This qualitative study consisted of eight in-depth interviews with private practitioners who were purposefully selected. The interviews took place over the course of three months and were the sole source of data for this study. An analysis of the data revealed categories and properties related to the theoretical philosophical framework employed by private practitioners and its influence when treating middle-class African-American women, the factors that impact the choice of interventions used, and what influences middle-class African-American women to seek treatment in the private sector. Grounded theory coding revealed a substantive level theory explaining the dynamics of mental health treatment for middle class African- American women in the private sector. Three general conclusions emerged from the findings: (a) Theory is not the sole influencer when approaching treatment with middle class African-American women; (b) A client-centered perspective which views the client as the expert as well as the development of a strong therapeutic relationship impacts the course of treatment; and (c) The intersection of race, class, and gender influences middle-class African-American women’s decision to seek services in the private sector. The findings, theory, and implications for social work policy, planning, and administration, and recommendations for future research were discussed.

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