Date of Conferral





Health Services


Kelly Chermack


According to the American Psychiatric Association, Black women engage in formal mental health services at a lower rate than White men and women. In addition, the issues faced by Black women engaging in mental health services are multiplicative, major, and often divisive. Much of the research to date has centered on the barriers to, and negative experiences of, Black women in mental health. Grounded in critical race theory and Black womanist thought, this study investigated the lived experiences of Black women who voluntarily engaged in mental health services. The study included a purposive sample of 6 Black women from 2 urban communities in Connecticut who (a) identified as Black, (b) were 18 years of age or older, (c) had continuously and voluntarily used mental health services for at least 3 months, and (d) and had been discharged from mental health services. Colaizzi’s phenomenological method was used to code and analyze the data. Five themes emerged: (a) engaging in mental health services is a last resort; (b) marriage, children, and work-related issues are reasons for seeking out mental health services; (c) overcoming stigma, stereotypes, and cultural myths is necessary for treatment; (d) finding the right fit in a provider is a challenge; (e) coping skills, empowerment, and self-efficacy are outcomes of engaging in mental health services. The results of this study may positively affect social change by directly affecting the work of psychologists, social workers, mental health professionals, doctors, and Black women who are ambivalent about seeking mental health services. Understanding the lived experience of seeking, engaging, and completing mental health treatment can be a catalyst for change among Black women.