African American Patients in Psychotherapy: Understanding the Psychological Effects of Racism and Oppression, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

African American Patients in Psychotherapy

Understanding the Psychological Effects of Racism and Oppression, 1st Edition

By Ruth Fallenbaum


200 pages

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African American Patients in Psychotherapy integrates history, current events, arts, psychoanalytic thinking, and case studies to provide a model for understanding the social and historical dimensions of psychological development across African American communities. Among the topics included are psychological consequences of slavery and Jim Crow, the black patient and the white therapist, the toll of even “small” racist enactments, the black patient’s uneasy relationship with health care providers, and a revisiting of the idea of “black rage.” Author Ruth Fallenbaum also examines the psychological potential of reparation for centuries of slave labor and legalized wage and property theft.


"Dr. Fallenbaum approaches her work with African American patients with humility, as well as a deep awareness of their racialized histories and ongoing traumatic stress and her positionality as a white therapist. Her poignant clinical examples make it clear that engaging with history and sociopolitical contexts is essential to psychoanalytic psychotherapy. This book is an outstanding resource with an important call for all therapists to recognize racial injustice and bear witness to racial trauma as necessary steps to healing."

Pratyusha Tummala-Narra, PhD, associate professor of counseling, developmental, and educational psychology, Boston College, and author of Psychoanalytic Theory and Cultural Competence in Psychotherapy

"African American Patients in Psychotherapy is essential reading for clinicians engaged in racial justice. This rare volume breaks the constricted individualistic paradigm of psychodynamic therapies and calls instead for a practice situated in cultural contexts. The author entwines psychology, history, politics, and social critique with decades of experience working across racial lines with her black patients. The result is a revelatory book that is always compassionate yet challenging to its audience. Readable and complex, this book is always animated by the voices of her patients, whom we follow throughout. This is a must read for clinicians concerned with social justice."

Sue Grand, PhD, author of The Reproduction of Evil: A Clinical and Cultural Perspective and The Hero in the Mirror: From Fear to Fortitude

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments 1. The Psyche in History & Dramatis Personae 2. Chains 3. From Lash to Backlash: Invisible Chains 4. Identity and the Discovery of "Race" 5. Black Rage Revisited 6. The Color of Psychotherapy 7. In Session 8. Reparations

About the Author

Ruth Fallenbaum, PhD, is a psychoanalytically oriented clinical psychologist in private practice in Berkeley, California.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
PSYCHOLOGY / Psychotherapy / General
PSYCHOLOGY / Mental Health