An Exploratory Analysis Of Attitudes Toward Religious Help-Seeking Among African-American Christians
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Type of WorkText
ProgramDoctor of Philosophy
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This dissertation used an exploratory, cross-sectional research design to: (1) understand African-American Christians' attitudes toward religious and professional help-seeking; (2) understand whether or not African-American Christians are seeking help from their church leaders to assist in the amelioration of serious personal and/or mental health issues in lieu of mental health professionals; and (3) understand the dynamics of the religious help-seeking relationship. Using an electronic survey, a sample of 146 self-identified African-American Christians participated in the study. The findings revealed that the sample had favorable attitudes toward professional help-seeking, which contradicts previous literature indicating resistance to seek professional care. Also, the sample held favorable attitudes toward religious help-seeking albeit slightly. Correlation analysis revealed a weak, positive correlation between the religious and professional help-seeking. The Attitude Toward Religious Help-Seeking Scale (ATRHSS) was designed for use in the study as no other instrument was available to measure the attitudes of African-Americans regarding religious help-seeking. The ATRHSS had good internal consistency with a Cronbach alpha of .720. Specifically designed to reveal the attitudes of African-American Christian members of the Black Church, a principle components factor analysis revealed the latent components of Significance of Faith and Pastoral Disapproval as factors associated with an unexpected reservation toward religious help-seeking. This is content not discussed previously in the social work literature. Additionally, the concepts of mistrust (related to the confidential nature of pastoral counseling) and skepticism (related to the pastoral counselor's professional ability to render such services) were prevalent among those surveyed. Lastly, when presented with 22 issues which could be the focus of clinical intervention and the choice of professional resource to address them (social worker, counselor, psychologist/psychiatrist, pastoral counselor), social workers were never chosen as the preferred provider. Ultimately the findings suggest two things: (1) that social work's wholesale abdication of clinical responsibility for African-Americans in favor of a perceived preference for informal, indigenous sources of support may be inaccurate and (2) that the lack of preference for social work practitioners among respondents necessitates an examination of the professional shortcomings that keep potential clients from seeking out social work services.