Association of Black Psychologists

The Association of Black Psychologists is a professional organization born out of the need to have issues of mental health and the psychological well-being of persons acknowledging African descent addressed more effectively. In the social context of racism and monocultural hegemony common in the United States, the profession of psychology had not escaped historic bias. The need for a cultural relevance and cultural congruence had not been acknowledged in a meaningful manner. The Association of Black Psychologists is the first organization of ethnic-minority professional psychologists to step forward and demand the American Psychological Association begin to address and better meet the mental health needs of people of color.

The foundation upon which Western psychology, and European American psychology in particular, rests with regard to its capacity to identify, address, and respond appropriately to the mental health needs of persons of African descent, more specifically those whose ancestors’ forced labor built the wealth upon which the U.S. economy is built, is quite tenuous. Such a history in the evolution of psychiatry and psychology cannot be ignored because it has a great impact on the mental health and well-being of those African Americans in the society who have been and are reliant on the mental health system, its institutions, and its professionals for meeting their mental health needs.

Further, great consideration must be given to the issue of the training, policies, and practices in place, or not in place, designed to address and overcome the monocultural bias that has characterized the development and delivery of mental health services for nondominant populations. The Association of Black Psychologists would encourage practitioners and researchers to ask themselves the following series of questions: What has been and is the historical relationship between strongly held societal beliefs and professional mental health practices? When did these biased, self-serving, oppressive perspectives change? What has caused or can cause a shift toward greater recognition and appreciation of the full humanity of these people of African descent and their progeny? To what extent are the prevailing societal beliefs and attitudes reflected in current mental health perceptions, policies, and practices?

History of the Association of Black Psychologists

The Association of Black Psychologists was founded in San Francisco in 1968 by a number of Black psychologists from across the country. They united to actively address the serious problems facing Black psychologists and the larger Black community. Guided by the principle of self-determination, these psychologists set about building an institution through which they could address the long neglected needs of Black professionals. Their goal was to have a positive impact upon the mental health of the national Black community and, later, international community by means of planning, programs, services, training, and advocacy. This goal was to be met by pursuing the following objectives: (a) to organize their skills and abilities to influence necessary change, and (b) to address themselves to significant social problems affecting the Black community and other segments of the population whose needs society has not fulfilled.

The Association of Black Psychologists has grown from a handful of concerned professionals into an independent, autonomous organization of over 1,400 members. Its membership now comprises people of color from all over the world.

Mission, Purposes, and Goals of the Association of Black Psychologists

African American psychologists were the first group of ethnic minority professionals to take the courageous step of forming an organization focused on identifying and meeting the mental health needs of persons acknowledging African descent. Articulating a mission to liberate the African mind, illuminate the African spirit, and empower the African character, the Association of Black Psychologists has charted its destiny based on very high goals and ideals. In that regard, it is committed to improving health and mental health, promoting social change toward a more just and sustainable society and world, and advancing African psychology and the capacity of humanity to heal and become holistically sustainable.

The Association of Black Psychologists is committed to solving the plethora of problems confronting Black communities and the communities of other ethnic groups. To accomplish these aims, the association is governed by its board of directors and organized into local chapters. Dedicated to fulfilling its mission, the association performs several functions geared toward the establishment and maintenance of a strong core and critical mass of Black psychologists organized to support and advance research, scholarship, and practice. This agenda has included publishing the Journal of Black Psychology and also offering various professional and paraprofessional training programs to address the critical needs of African descent people. Among the organization’s other foci are recruiting students to the field, supporting and mentoring faculty in the field, developing and promoting community mental health care programs, articulating and disseminating psychological research and knowledge grounded in the African cultural tradition and cultural frame of reference, and pursuing its mission via all available avenues.

The organizational goals of the association are many and varied, and enhancing the understanding and psychological well-being of people acknowledging African descent in the United States and throughout the world is high among them. This goal is furthered by the promotion of solid, culturally congruent and consistent research methods, strategies, and approaches to the study of Black people, their experiences, and the impact of extended oppression and multigenerational trauma. Requiring the development of theories and constructs consistent with the experience and cultural realities of Black people, the association has been a key forum for the dissemination and proliferation of such knowledge. It has also led to the establishment of guidelines and standards for researching and treating persons acknowledging African descent. A strong international component and network of support systems for Black psychologists has been developed and is being maintained for professionals and students.

The Association of Black Psychologists has also worked to develop policies on the local, state, and national levels to improve mental health outcomes, provide culturally competent services, and support effective human service delivery methods. Much of this work has come about because of the keen awareness of the pervasive racial biases and discriminatory social policies and practices common to U.S. society and evidenced throughout the world, making the association a key force in monitoring and promoting the survival and well-being of members of the racial and ethnic communities it represents. The association works with other organizations sharing its vision and mission to aid in the development and support of institutions geared toward enhancing the psychological, cultural, educational, social, and economic health of persons acknowledging African descent and their communities.

References:

  1. Association of Black Psychologists: http://www.abpsi.org/
  2. Belgrave, F. Z., & Allison, K. W. (2005). African American Psychology: From Africa to America. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
  3. Bynum, E. B. (1998). The African unconscious: Roots of ancient mysticism and modern psychology. New York: Teachers College Press.
  4. Guthrie, R. (2003). Even the rat was white: A historical view of psychology (2nd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  5. Jones, R. L. (Ed.). (2003). Black psychology (4th ed.). Hampton, VA: Cobb & Henry.

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