The purpose of the Racial/Cultural Identification Development model is for therapists to provide the foundation for an individual of a specific culture to positively progress toward their own cultural identity. The desired end state being that they foster an appreciation for their own cultural lineage while developing their own personal set of beliefs and values. Clinicians use the R/CID model to distinguish a client’s current stage of cultural identity, and then provide objectives and guidance that the client can use throughout their journey to understanding and accepting their own culture and evolving their personal identity within their culture.
The stages of the model are comprised of the conformity, dissonance, resistance and immersion, introspection, and integrative awareness stages. The series of stages represent every possible mindset of an individual from the extreme negative to the final acceptance and appreciation of one’s culture. In the case of African Americans, extremes of their cultural views would include either a complete disregard or shunning of their minority culture, or the opposite, in which they would display a total unacceptance of the majority (White) culture, displaying a significant level of racism toward the majority culture members. The stages are definitive, and the ideal is for an individual to progress through them; however, it is not required that an individual be in the first stage before they can begin their advancement toward the desired end state.
Although the first stage of the R/CID is the conformity stage, it is not necessary for an individual to be present in this stage to seek and proceed with therapy. This stage is identifiable in a person by their overt rejection of their own culture. This occurs by the individual attempting to adopt and uplift the values of White culture, while simultaneously demeaning the value system of their cultural group. African Americans would depict their presence in the conformity stage by their attitudes regarding themselves.
In my personal life, I have witnessed quite a few instances of this; most notably was a twenty-four year old African American friend of mine who harbored a hatred of all people and things attributed to be African American related. He was also excessive in his acceptance of all things related to White culture. He would only wear clothing brands typically associated with Whites, only date White or Asian females, and refused to have any African American friends; and this type of behavior is common in African Americans who are present in this stage.
As an individual, an African American would adopt White cultural aspects such as mannerisms, speech pattern, dress, and goals in an attempt to not only mimic these attributes, but also to make themselves more attractive to the members of the dominant culture. If their individual “acceptance” is gained, then they can prove to the other members of their minority group that they are “better” than they are. In this stage, an individual’s perceptions involving the other members of their minority group would include their overall shunning of these persons as they operate on the views of the majority culture.
African Americans, in this instance, would view themselves as the exceptions of their racial group. To them, they supersede any African American typecasts because they hold differing views than the other group members. For example, a college-educated, employed black male would hold himself in a higher regard than other members of his group because he is not “lazy, ignorant, unemployed and criminal.” They would view the members of other minority groups a similar way—as if he were in the majority culture. In the conformity stage, a minority individual would either rank other minority groups on oppression level, or view them all as equally “below” him. For instance, an African American’s thought process may be that he is in competition with an Asian American individual to gain majority approval because, “White’s already know an Asian is smart.” Finally, persons functioning in the conformity stage view the majority group as the ideal culture. They hold the majority culture in a superior light, and view full acculturation to the majority group as his or her ultimate achievement.
The stage of dissonance is defined by just that, a period of time in which a previously conforming individual is now faced with a disagreement between his or her self-concept and the attitudes of his culture. It is typical for an event to delegate one’s shift from the conforming stage to the dissonance stage, and this event usually appears in the form of overt racism or discrimination. An African American male in a professional environment could be participating in a work-related event among White individuals he perceives to be his equal colleagues, and while at the event could be faced with a discriminatory comment (aimed at him) that could immediately begin to alter his views regarding his place in his minority culture group.
In this stage, one’s views regarding themselves would entail a great deal of questioning in reference to why they even desired to be acculturated into White culture since there are clearly aspects of it that are not as positive as they once thought. Their attitudes towards members of their minority group will begin to take the form of acceptance, and the realization that their views are not as negative as they previously perceived. It is likely that this individual would experience shame and regret at the thought of their repelling all of their minority group’s values, simply to adopt all White culture ideals. Their views regarding other minority groups would shift as well, although not as significantly as it would among their own minority group; however, this individual would gain a new sense of acceptance among other minority groups.
Another significant change would be the one between the individual and how they now view the majority culture. This adjustment would surface in the form of the depreciating value of the majority culture’s ideals. The dissonant individual now realizes that they were never completely accepted as a member of the majority culture, and that race remains to be a contributor of discrimination, no matter how educated or accomplished the minority culture individual may be.
Resistance and Immersion is the next stage in the sequence. While in this stage, it is noted that individuals experience a strong gravitation toward their minority culture and begin to dissolve any connection to their previously upheld views of, in this case, White culture. The individual also dissipates any validity of the majority culture. The person’s guilt and shame surface as they understand their role of oppressive enabler of the majority culture. Their reflective attitude regarding their personal role encourages them to begin to seek knowledge regarding their own culture with ferocity. And by obtaining this new knowledge base, these individuals increasingly experience a sense of pride for their own cultural group. Their opinions regarding their same minority group shifts in the sense that they now focus on unraveling previous doubts and identifying a sense of connectedness among its members. This begins the process of upholding their own cultural group’s values as opposed to the majority group. Among other minority groups, individuals in the resistance and immersion stage begin to seek similarities within the other groups, typically in the form of joining together in a united front with opposition of the racism and oppression exhibited by the majority culture. For example, African Americans may seek out likenesses between themselves and Hispanics, attempting to forge relationships based on the commonality that they have both experienced a great deal of discrimination from White America. Their views toward the majority group change significantly in that distrust, anger, and disdain emerge as the individual reasons that the source of discrimination lies in White culture. Henceforth, the individual vows to function in total opposition to majority culture.
The therapist attempts to guide persons in the Resistance and Immersion stage toward understanding their own functionality, emotionality, and level of differentiation. This is achieved, in part, by the therapist aiding the individual with creating their own objectives and ideals. Once this framework is established, one can transition into the Introspection stage. It is during this stage that a minority individual acknowledges that the energies they have been delegating towards being angry and distrustful of the majority group are futile. They begin to understand that these emotions are a hindrance to the efforts that could be allocated toward gaining knowledge regarding their own cultural group. It is during this stage that individuals aspire to create their own autonomy, and are discouraged from defining themselves based specifically on a cultural group. Their attitude toward their own cultural group changes in that they begin to understand that total immersion or resistance to a certain group may not be the appropriated route.
While gaining a more neutral position, the individual’s allegiance to his own group will begin being questioned by its members. The introspective person will understand the importance of gaining knowledge regarding other minority groups. It is in this stage that their focus will not be on oppressive likenesses, but instead will be on the differences. The individual will be interested to learn more about other minority groups’ discriminatory experiences. For the African American, the attitude toward White culture would still remain greatly underdeveloped. In the introspective stage, the individuals are continually seeking more information to validate their acceptance of any White values. Their disdain for White culture dissipates to form a more curious, knowledge-seeking, and general questioning of the reason for many of the ideals that White culture upholds.
In the final stage of the R/CID model the minority group individual has progressed significantly toward establishing his or her own autonomy within their cultural group, as well as in relation to the majority culture. In this Integrative Awareness stage the individual possess the ability to identify the benefits as well as disadvantages of the ideals of the majority culture, without concentrating on solely the oppression aspect of, in this instance, White society. They harbor no discourse with their own minority culture, nor do they hold any disconcerting feelings toward the overall values of the majority culture. From this point forward, the individual possesses an increasingly strong feeling of empathy toward the cultural group in which they belong, as they have absorbed it’s belonging values and delineated which values they choose not to abide by, without the feeling of discouragement that they are not all-absorbed in the entirety of the culture. Individuals in the Integrative Awareness stage tend to welcome forging relationships among other minority cultures. Adhering to the mindset of multicultural awareness, they continue the aspiration to obtain more knowledge regarding other minority cultures as well as the oppression experienced by each group. They have also evolved into an appreciation of the positive aspects of the majority culture, and have created an inviting attitude toward understanding and identifying with individuals in that culture. This stage involves finding the likenesses and benefits of multiple aspects of the majority culture.
The potential implications for clinicians involved in using the Racial/Cultural Identity Development model includes the unpredictability regarding when a client is actively transitioning from one stage to the next. In this light, it is difficult to understand or estimate when a client is emotionally and psychologically prepared to advance from one stage to the next. This is when the importance of cultural competence and the therapist-client relationship peaks. When the therapist is functioning at a high level of cultural competence, there is an increased likelihood that the client’s transition between stages becomes seamless. As the therapist increases his or her own awareness they can identify the client’s culturally objective status, and then proceed to guide them throughout their next transition fluidly.
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Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the CEO for Atlas Concepts, LLC. Jordache is a Licensed Professional Counselor Associate and Certified Life Coach.