As a female who identifies as biracial and African American, I found this book to be a critical read for any clinician working with, or desiring to, treat African American couples. The book is reader-friendly for therapists at all levels of training with its coherent language, organized chapters, and smooth flow. Unlike other texts, I found that I was able to flip to any chapter that piqued my interest and not feel lost. Each chapter begins with an overview and explains everything from pertinent African American history to the strengths and weaknesses of African American relationships without feeling redundant.
Every chapter spoke to the importance of understanding the oppression, racism, and stereotypes that African Americans endure as threats to their ability to function in romantic relationships. The contributors to this volume stress the importance of clinicians discussing these issues with their couples early on in treatment. I valued the emphasis some contributors placed on the importance of the therapist gauging a couple's ability to engage in such dialogue, as I agree that this conversation may not be suitable for every couple.
I also appreciated the text outlining the pitfalls in relationships that are exclusive to African Americans, which relates to why culturally sensitive couple therapy is most effective with this population. I applaud the editors and contributors for not solely focusing on the negative attributes of African American relationships but listing their strengths as well, including the importance of kinship.
In my opinion, Chanté D. DeLoach's chapter on intervention techniques contained the most valuable information as she outlined various theoretical orientations and provided instruction on how to implement treatment within a specific theory. She presented the strengths and weaknesses of each theory, addressed evidence-based practices, and reviewed the efficacy with and applicability to African American couples. As did the majority of the chapters, she ended with a case example. I found the case studies to be a very beneficial attribute of the book, as it felt authentic when the authors spoke to the challenges and the successful techniques concerning real-life cases. Similarly, the interviews with experts in the field provided specific advice for treating African American couples.
In working with gay/lesbian and other intercultural couples, the text outlined specific concerns in treatment rather than generalizing treatment. The text even devotes a chapter to non-Black therapists to explain how they can educate themselves to best treat this population.
This book exemplifies the need for culturally competent clinicians and does a great job in addressing this issue directly. In closing, I found this book to be a great resource for working with African American couples.
Love, Intimacy, and the African American Couple. Edited by Katherine M. Helm & Jon Carlson. New York: Routledge, 2013. Paperback, 978-0-415-65649-8, $37.38