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The Perception of African American Female Therapists in Television.
AuthorDupree, Taylor Kourtney
Counseling and Educational Psychology
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The study explored eight African American men and women’s perceptions of three African American female therapists featured in television. Employing the social norm approach and Black Feminist Thought lens, participants were invited to share their perceptions of the portrayals of Dr. Akopian from My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, Dr. Pine from Insecure, and Dr. Jamison from She’s Gotta Have It, as they relate to Hill Collins’ (2000) theme of archetypes/controlling images and African Americans’ engagement in mental health. The study was a phenomenological qualitative study, utilizing semi-structured interview questions to answer the following research questions: 1) How are portrayals of African American female therapists in television perceived by African Americans? 2) How do African Americans’ perceptions of African American female therapists in television impact their views of mental health? Eight participants were selected for this study. Pseudonyms were provided to protect participants’ identities. Selected participants consisted of Imani, an intake counselor at a substance abuse clinic; Deja, a jewelry designer and small business owner; Antonio, a medical support assistant at a Veterans’ Hospital; and Quincy, a residential coordinator at a university, all living in the Southern region. Omar, a special education instructor at a high school; Joy, a fitness director at a university; Nicole, a physician’s assistant; and Marcus, an education coordinator at a university all living in the Western region. The participants varied in their level of engagement with mental health services. From the interviews, the following themes emerged: When They See Us: Perceptions of Dr. Akopian, Dr. Pine, & Dr. Jamison, What We Had, We Clung To, and Progress, But We Still Have Work to Do. The subthemes consisted of: Dr. Pine, Reflexive Challenges, Dr. Jamison, Comfort without Judgment, Dr. Akopian, Aggressively Upfront, This Is Family Business and What It Would Have Meant to Us. The results of the study reveal participants’ perceptions of the three African American female therapists. Participants indicated that family and early exposure to representations on television shaped their initial perceptions of mental health. Participants suggested that the current portrayals were a step in the right direction, but could still be improved.