Date of Conferral



Doctor of Social Work (DSW)


Social Work


Juanita White


The underutilization of mental health services amongst African American families has been a long-standing concern in the African American community within large metropolitan cities in Texas. The metropolitan cities are Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, San Antonio and McAllen. There remain experiences that impede families’ ability to engage in mental health services. These experiences involve the conflict between prayer and therapy, stigma, lack of awareness of local mental health services, and cultural competency. The purpose of this qualitative research study was to explore experiences of African American families and how those experiences affect mental health engagement, as well as how practicing social workers address the issue. Crisis theory, ecological systems theory, and sociocultural theory were used to explore this study and provide insight into the methods and practices social workers use to combat the problem. An interview protocol was developed via social media to interested social work practitioners, interns, and students who actively work with African American families in a mental health setting. Qualitative coding was the best method for data analysis of this study. This method allowed for the identification of patterns within the data collected by study participants. Regarding social change, the findings of this study may contribute to resolving experiences faced by African American families and lived experiences of social workers. Recommendations include bridging the gap between mental health organizations and the African American church, creation of new continuing education and training, and involving the African American community in promoting mental health wellness.