Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Gary H. Bischof

Second Advisor

Dr. Stephen E. Craig

Third Advisor

Dr. Earlie Washington


The disciplines of counseling and counselor education have expressed a commitment to greater multicultural competence. Existing research points toward greater study of Black American females; however, for some the call for equity and change in the societal perceptions of Black women has largely gone unanswered. For others, emerging research has started to change the perception of Black American women. Current counseling literature is limited in the exploration of gender identity development from a Black woman's perspective. This study fills a gap in the literature concerning gender identity development for Black American females by exploring the phenomenon of womanhood and how Black American women have come to view themselves as women.

The study is comprised of two main parts: Individual interviews with Black women, followed later by focus groups of counselor educators/counselors who discussed the implications of the interview findings. All participants resided in an upper Midwestern state. Ten Black American females ages 35 and over engaged in two separate interviews that explored their views of womanhood, how they came to see themselves as women, and their perspectives on contemporary Black women. Phenomenological qualitative methods were used to analyze the interview data. The emergence of a womanhood identity occurred through motherhood, other lifecycle transitions, maternal family influences, and by cultivating wisdom through life experiences and formal education. Qualities associated with womanhood included responsibility, independence, self-sacrifice, overcoming challenges and resilience, spirituality and faith, and sexuality. Contemporary views of Black women were influenced by societal messages that both uplift and weigh down, and participants were inspired by the presence of Michelle Obama as the nation's first lady.

A total of six focus group participants addressed the implications of the findings for counseling and counselor education. Several themes that were relevant to both counselor training and counseling practice included: multicultural competence, viewing Black women in multiple dimensions of context, shifting from a deficit to strengths focus, effective use of counseling theory, understanding Black struggle and rethinking resilience, religious and spiritual resources, and tensions between race and/or gender. Implications for counseling practice and counselor education are discussed, and future research recommendations are made.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access