Women of Color: Integrating Ethnic and Gender Identities in Psychotherapy Lillian Comas-Diaz & Beverly Greene (Eds.). New York: Guilford Press, 1994; 518 pages; $44.95.
A holistic perspective to the psychotherapy of women requires therapists from all backgrounds to be culturally competent about identity issues that shape women's mental health. The principle framing every chapter in this book of comprehensive perspectives is that women of color are not a single entity to be understood collectively or dealt with stereotypically.
The editors have collected the writings of contributors who exclusively address identity factors contributing to participation by women of color in psychotherapy.
Each chapter in Part I includes a background discussion of multiple factors, including ethnicity and gender, that must be considered by psychotherapists for women from various cultures.
The reader is provided an understanding of the historical and social similarities and differences between and within cultures.
Chapters consider women whose cultural contexts are African American, American Indian, Asian and Asian American, Latinas, West Indian and Indian subcontinent. Examinations of subcultures further clarify the diversity among women of color.
Chapters address unique client and therapist issues contributing to perceptions about psychotherapy and dynamics of the therapeutic relationship.
Psychotherapeutic frameworks that emphasize an individualized approach to mental health services have long been accepted by clinicians. Chapters in Part II challenge the reader to expand beyond traditional psychotherapeutic orientations to integrate realities that enhance effectiveness of mental health services for women of color. Authors provide ample explanations of why traditional approaches may propose incompatible changes in a client's life leading to barriers in the therapeutic relationship, if not withdrawal from services.
Part IQ takes the reader beyond the usual point of discussions about diversity. Some of the special groups examined in chapters include professional women, lesbians, battered women, mixed-race women, and Southeast Asian refugee women.
Women of Color is a book for all mental health professionals - no exceptions. Could it be that some women of color fall between the cracks for services because traditional approaches to psychotherapy limit effectiveness?
After reading Women of Color each reader can determine if he or she is maintaining frameworks of limited use or extending one's own cultural competence to be an approachable and effective psychotherapist.