Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Lonnie E. Duncan

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary Z. Anderson

Third Advisor

Dr. Susan V. Piazza


Clergy, help seeking, attitudes, African-American, views, barriers


The help-seeking tendencies of African-Americans, as a whole, have long been a source of confusion to the field of counseling. Moreover, in the available literature on help-seeking, in the African-American community there is an apparent deficit of information on the help-seeking habits of its clergy members. Current literature focuses primarily on African-American clergy and their roles in facilitating the development of professional counseling relationships for their parishioners rather than on their ability to seek out professional counseling relationships for themselves.

The focus of this study was to gain a deeper understanding of the lived experiences of African-American clergy related to their views, attitudes, and barriers to help-seeking. This research study utilized a qualitative phenomenological methodology. Eight self-identified African-American licensed and ordained clergy members participated in an initial face-to-face or phone interview and a brief follow-up phone interview.

The data were analyzed using a modified form of the Stevick-Colaizzi-Keen method that was originally put forth by Mousakas (1994) and later modified by Creswell (2007). Six themes emerged from the participants’ narratives: (1) the humanness of clergy, (2) mental health stressors and experiences, (3) wearing the mask of health, (4) taking everything to God first, (5) issues of confidentiality, and (6) personal expectations for therapists. These six themes fit into one of three domains: views on help-seeking, attitudes toward help-seeking, and barriers to help-seeking.

The meaning of these themes was discussed in relationship to how the field of psychology could better understand and serve this population therapeutically.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access