Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Morgridge College of Education, Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Ruth Chu-Lien Chao

Second Advisor

Nicholas Cutforth

Third Advisor

Patton Garriott

Fourth Advisor

Shimelis Assefa


African American, Black doctoral students, Black students, Racial trauma, Racism, Trauma


Systemic and institutionalized racism is endemic to life in the United States and contributes to the daily marginalization of Black people. While the negative psychological and physiological effects of racism have been well-documented, the notion that racism can be experienced as a trauma is a newer theory. Racial trauma has been understudied and underappreciated, though it is a theory that clinicians should incorporate when working with Black clients and other clients of color. Exploring the ways in which Black doctoral students attending a predominantly White institution (PWI) have experienced racism is an essential contribution to the existing racial trauma literature. The current research also assists in identifying ways clinicians across the country can provide adequate and ethical care for Black clients.

The purpose of this study was to explore how Black doctoral students experienced racism in their program, the subsequent impact to their psychological wellbeing, and how they cope and/or utilize protective factors against such racism in order to complete their degrees. Using a phenomenological approach to qualitative research and the framework of Critical Race Theory, data was gathered from four Black doctoral students through two, 90-minute, semi-structured interviews both in-person and via Skype. Through the use of horizontalization, coding and literature, five themes emerged from the analysis: 1) Racial socialization, 2) Black Identity Development, 3) Experiences of Racism, 4) Impact of Racism, and 5) Coping and Protective Factors. First, the results of this study supported the existing literature about the ways in which racism has negative mental and physical health effects for Black people. Second, the results highlight the importance of Black American’s ability to identify racist acts, how racism can impact their mental well-being, and the various coping methods they may adopt to protect themselves from further psychological harm. Finally, the study underscores the need for practicing clinicians and training programs to put more time and energy into properly attending to the psychological trauma of racism in the course of their work with Black clients and clients of color.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. User is responsible for all copyright compliance.

Rights Holder

Jazmyne Markeeva Peters


Received from ProQuest

File Format




File Size

182 p.


Counseling psychology, Psychology