To See or Not to See - Clinical Implications of Black Women’s Experiences of Invisibility and Hypervisibility In Psychology Doctoral Training Programs: A Qualitative Study
Date of Award
Doctor of Psychology (PsyD)
Linnea Mavrides, Psy.D.
Jill Rathus, Ph.D.
It has previously been documented that, in psychology doctoral programs, Black women are considered hypervisible due to their distinctiveness and “otherness” (Ryland, 2013) and that this “otherness” is compounded by their intersecting identities as non-prototypical women and Black people (Hancock, 2007). Simultaneously, Black women can also be rendered invisible, or viewed as not belonging to, either of their two subordinate groups due to their non-prototypical status in each group (Purdie-Vaughns & Eibach, 2008). As a result of their visibility, Black women are often subjected to higher levels of scrutiny and discrimination (Wilkins-Yel, Hyman, & Zounlome, 2019). Given that experiences of discrimination correlate with poorer mental health outcomes (Carter, 2007; Mossakowski, 2003) and that clinical psychology training necessitates students contending with the same systems and the same possible ramifications as their patients, it is especially important to understand the experiences of Black women in graduate psychology training programs and how these experiences may inform their clinical development and practice (Ronnestad and Skovholt, 2003). However, no studies exist currently which examine the implications of the experiences of Black women in psychology doctoral training programs. As such, the purpose of this study was to facilitate a deeper understanding of how Black women’s training experiences can have legitimate, noteworthy effects on their clinical and overall development. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with twelve individuals who self-identify as Black women. Participants were asked to describe their training experiences, with specific consideration of themes such as hypervisibility, invisibility, and clinical skill set development. Auerbach and Silverstein’s (2003) qualitative methodology was utilized to code and organize interview responses, generate constructs, and ultimately create a theoretical narrative. Six theoretical constructs were yielded: 1) Black women experience several challenges within the context of doctoral training, both interpersonally and developmentally; 2) As a result of these challenges, Black women form opinions about themselves, their clinical abilities, and those of others; 3) Black women’s relationship to visibility in training varies over time due to experiences of hypervisibility and/or invisibility; 4) Many of the challenges experienced by Black women are uniquely magnified by their double minority status; 5) Structural failures in doctoral training and higher education inform the challenges Black women face; 6) Support, in its many forms, is paramount to Black women’s success in doctoral training. This study’s findings provide deeper insight into the role of visibility with respect to Black women psychologists-in-training and highlights its role in their clinical development. Specifically, the need for more internal support staff, a greater number of culturally sensitive training curricula and faculty, and more diverse admittance practices emerged as potential ways to address the challenges discussed herein. More specific recommendations are offered in order to improve the training experiences of Black women, and, in so doing, provide useful and important information for both doctoral training programs and larger professional bodies, such as the American Psychological Association, with respect to acknowledgment and improvement of Black women’s experiences in clinical training with the potential to increase matriculation and better serve the mental health needs of an ever-growing, diverse population.
Romulus, Angelique Evanna, "To See or Not to See - Clinical Implications of Black Women’s Experiences of Invisibility and Hypervisibility In Psychology Doctoral Training Programs: A Qualitative Study" (2022). Selected Full Text Dissertations, 2011-. 52.