body image

What does it take to be beautiful?

Individuals with a high level of self-compassion are mindful and typically kind as well as nurturing toward themselves.  Essentially, self-compassion allows individuals to be okay with imperfections and resistant to threats of inadequacy.  Self-compassion is a holistic concept, which correlates to individuals’ frequency of body comparison, level of body appreciation, and appearance of self-worth.  When an individual frequently compares their body to others and/or allows their appearance to weigh-in on their self-worth, they are less likely to have an appreciation for their body.  However, high self-compassion helps individuals appreciate their bodies and curbs the negative effects of both body-related social comparisons and self-worth contingent on appearance.

Many of us value and enjoy attraction—physically, socially, and psychologically.  Indeed, culture and media play a role in the development of what we are attracted to, but that influence should not negate our sense of ownership of our attractions.  Likewise, external influences affect our view on care, concern, compassion, and acceptance.  If we looked differently than we currently do, we would consequently think, behave, and feel differently.  This understanding should allow us to remain cognizant of the influence of society.  The fact is, others’ acceptance of us shapes who we are.  Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.  Aside from the simple fact that “belonging” is a human need, self-actualization is not likely to occur during our pre-teen and teen years (and can arguably never be fully attained).  Thus if verbal instruction, imitation, and prosociality positively correlate with performance and success, as children and teenagers, we are influenced to be acceptable to others.

Before any of us begin the process of self-actualization, we have embarked on the navigation of self-compassion and sought esteem through recognition and/or achievement.  What is commonly not addressed concerning the relationship between the media, self-compassion, and body image, is the simple fact that our bodies are one of the best indicators of the fulfillment of physiological needs.  Parenting and family dynamics play a substantial role in the progression of one’s self-compassion.  Beyond all of the research and barring psychological abnormalities, parents are responsible for being responsible, which means understanding the negative influences of life, including those stemming from society at large, and educating and empowering their children.  Though as a society we continue to “advance” in our understandings of the world, we often get wrapped up in “what’s next” versus tradition.  We often think of “how things use to be” as simplistic, unenlightened artifacts; in reality, your grandmother pronouncing delight in how “plump” you looked was likely an expression of her contentment based on you appearing healthy.

As a society, we seem to be more and more conscious of how others feel.  The voices of the masses are being heard through social media at a rate I am not sure we are ready for.  This is likely due to those voices rarely telling us to look inside of ourselves.  Those voices seldom blaming themselves or taking responsibility.  Those voices all too often resemble a cantilever towards a problem they can’t change versus projected inward, at the one thing they matter-of-factly can (change).  Is it realistic or helpful to blame candy bar commercials for obesity, the clever design of a cigarette package for cancer, or someone who is fit for an unhealthy person’s shame?  By the end of every day, until the end of time, individuals will be faced with external factors and in each instance, each individual has a choice.  Until we accept responsibility we will find it very difficult to achieve self-compassion and nearly impossible to obtain self-actualization.  I am not suggesting any other steps or efforts are unnecessary, rather merely highlighting where we should begin.

Additional Resources (paid links)

Dean, L. G., Kendal, R. L., Schapiro, S. J., Thierry, B., & Laland, K. N. (2012). Identification of the social and cognitive processes underlying human cumulative culture. Science, 335(6072), 1114-1118. doi:10.1126/science.1213969

Homan, K. J., & Tylka, T. L. (2015). Self-compassion moderates body comparison and appearance self-worth’s inverse relationships with body appreciation. Body Image, 151-7. doi:10.1016/j.bodyim.2015.04.007

Koltko-Rivera, M. E. (2006). Rediscovering the later version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: Self-transcendence and opportunities for theory, research, and unification. Review of General Psychology, 10(4), 302-317. doi:10.1037/1089-2680.10.4.302

Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Advantages of Group Counseling

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The advantages of the group counseling setting versus the individual setting are often thought of quantitatively.  More opinions, more support, more scenarios, more interactions and more opportunities to learn.  When asked, “What do you think are the advantages of a group format for delivering counseling services?” I understand that it is my instinct to merely look at what is “good” about group counseling.  In doing so, my mind is framed around a hypothetical and quintessential group session.  In challenging myself to look beyond the multiplication of the benefits of individual counseling, I have arrived at a few other areas where the group format can be advantageous.

First, is cost.  Group sessions are often more affordable than individual sessions.  In this format, individuals who would not otherwise arrive at counseling are able to retain those benefits because it is simply less expensive.

Secondly, the group format curtails the impacts of “no shows.”  In an individual session, if a client does not arrive, the counselor is (typically) not able to use that time frame to directly assist another client.  While there are a myriad of ways to utilize such a schedule opening, in the group format, it is likely that some members of the group will be present even if all are not.  Thus the counselor’s time is spent facilitating the progression of the clients present, as per the group’s agenda (e.g. healing).

Additionally, group counseling has less uninstructed silence.  Counseling groups may on average range from 8-12 participants, in most cases someone from the group will have an answer, a question or a comment.

Furthermore, group therapy provides clients the opportunity to bear witness.  One such instance is the sharing of goals.  The ability for people to witness the progression of others towards a goal can be motivational.

Let’s look at a common reality.  All too often, individuals look up to people who are successful but without understanding the process for such success.  Goal sharing is powerful in the group setting because it provides practical insight regarding goal attainment versus empty aspirations, hopes, and dreams.  In group counseling, success is witnessed realistically and in a manner that can truly provide influence.

Lastly, in the group setting, clients and counselors are less likely to participate in inappropriate or unethical engagement.  Not only does the presence of others increase ethical accountability, it also provides a much less intimate setting than one-on-one counseling.

For further thought and despite the outliers, I simply think about the human needs as prescribed by Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef.  Of those, affection, understanding, identity, participation, subsistence, and identity are all benefits of group counseling.  In that light, group counseling is a synergistic satisfier, thus arguably by nature a better form of counseling than the individual counseling format.

I realize that every coin has two sides.  For instance, the absence of group members (“no shows”) does affect the group dynamics, and can be a limiting factor in group counseling.  Perhaps that’s a topic in itself for another day.  Better yet, leave a comment to start a discussion centered on both the pros and cons of the group counseling format.  Additionally, no particular group counseling theory or technique is the basis for this article, and each maintains its own set of advantages and disadvantages.  As always, thanks for visiting

Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

Murray Bowen’s Passion

I recently wrote about Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, and while reflecting on his professional achievements I began to marvel at the underlying story his work told.  I find that Bowen’s motivations for his personal and professional goals intertwined and, as a result, propelled him toward success.  I assert that his professional interest in helping families came from his personal observations of his own family of origin.

To me, Bowen epitomizes his own theory.  One of Bowen’s foundational thoughts was that individuals must acknowledge generational patterns and make necessary changes accordingly, in an effort to extinguish the transmission of foul patterns to present and future generations.  In true form, Bowen’s motivation was derived from his own family of origin issues, which provided him the determination to examine and rectify those issues.  In doing so he provided other families, outside of his own, the tools to do the same (in part due to his ability to construct and record the relevant information).  Though some have offered the opinion that portions of Bowen’s work are convoluted, his research and theory paved the way for academicians since their derivation.

I think of Bowen as a person whose passion for his work is reflected in his success.  To me his work speaks for itself, but it is in the light of his recipe for success that I believe he is a beacon for therapists.  Those associated with the helping professions (therapists and academicians alike) should be individuals who have a passion for their work.

In my opinion, passion associated with a therapist consists of several attributes, to include enthusiasm and excitement.  However, therapists with too much passion (better stated as an inappropriate level of passion) for their work may be pushed to make unethical decisions such as diagnosing for the purpose of treatment (concerning health insurance), creating unhealthy client/clinician relationships, or pressing for progression with clients while disregarding the nuances of the process of their particular approach.  Likewise, an academician or researcher may be able to use the extremes of passion to their advantage if the energy is properly harnessed.  But there is often a fine line between working hard at discovery and proving one’s own worth…between fertilizing a mind and molding it.  The progression of the field through theory and research often requires a person to cut against the grain or take a seemingly blind leap.  For these professionals, a heightened sense of passion can prove essential.

While this article is directed towards helping professionals, the points extend to any individual who may be on the journey of self-discovery.  We all from time to time ask ourselves, “Who am I?”   We all wonder about our own level of success and seek to discover purpose.


bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

So I ask you to examine whether you have taken something personal and made it a profession, or simply allowed your profession to overshadow your person?  Are you determined, motivated, enthusiastic and excited about what you do?  Whether you are a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, despite the vast age difference, you are likely looking for significance.  You should look inside and outside.  You should look at the past and the future.  You may start by asking yourself what you have to offer and compare that with what the world around you needs.  Align your passion with your purpose and find the fulfillment you are searching for.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory

Bowen Family Systems Theory

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory is centrally focused on families as an emotional unit within the context of nature.  Bowen systems theory serves as a guide for family therapy, and is moreover the cornerstone of family systems therapy.  Bowen’s theory is robust; however, there are several key concepts and assumptions that construct its framework.

One such concept is triangulation–the basic arrangement of all existing relationships—which specifies that the initial relationship is between two individuals, then, after an undetermined period of time, a third person is inevitably included.  The relationships between these three individuals will constantly shift, and one will consistently become the “outsider” of the triad and continue to push for change.  De-triangulation occurs when a member of the system is successful at differentiating herself from the emotional system and gains personal control over emotionality and reactivity.  This feat results in a sense of responsibility “to” the system as opposed to a responsibility “for” the system.

The primary focus of Bowen systems theory is the establishment of a differentiated self.  Bowen declares that for one to operate at their highest level of functioning in any relationship system, it is necessary that differentiation from the system be reached and maintained.  To function at a high level of differentiation, one must have well-resolved emotional attachments from previous family systems, not be dependent on reactivity from others in their relationships, and have the ability to remain objective regarding themselves as well as their current system involvement.  This concept is introduced to clients at the beginning of therapy in order for their treatment to be optimally received.

When reviewing such concepts as triangulation and differentiation, it is necessary to understand the fundamentals of relationship systems.  The nuclear family emotional system is the most basic of the relationship systems, and involves the parents and children only.  This is when triangulation and shifts in relationships have the potential to change most frequently, and have the most significant impact on the individuals involved.  The causes for the shifts in this system would most likely be from a persistent escalation of tension and anxiety within the system (i.e. between the parents, between a parent and child, or among the children), or the reactivity to significant events by the members of the system.

Concerning relationship systems, a key concept includes family projection which occurs within the nuclear family emotional system.  Bowen proposes that a parent—most often the mother—projects her emotions onto a child as a result of the tension and anxiety she is currently experiencing and absorbing from her other relationships.  The adaptive parent commonly becomes over-emotionally involved with one of the children, potentially leading to the child having differentiation issues and unresolved emotional attachments to this system as well as being prone to emotional cutoff from family.  This is typically the result of the parent attempting to anticipate any insecurities or issues they may have, wrongly diagnosing these issues, and then “fixing” the dilemma, which ultimately leads to the child developing a strong, unnecessary dependence on the parent for the resolution to the issue.

Furthermore, the ability to function at a high level of differentiation is pivotal when studying the multigenerational transmission process.  The multigenerational relationship patterns (positive and negative) exist when an individual enters new relationships with others who are functioning at a similar level of differentiation.  This behavior perpetuates the cycle of parents attempting to shape the child, the child responding to the parents’ anxiety level, and the establishment of a significant dependency on the emotional reactivity of others in their system.  Understanding the transmission of multigenerational patterns is a concept that Bowen placed at the forefront of his therapeutic approach.  He would have clients construct a genogram depicting not only their nuclear family, but also their extended family system in an attempt for them to objectively see the behavioral patterns among all of the individuals involved, as opposed to simply possessing an emotional response to their family issues.  When the children affected by the tensions of their nuclear family system become adults, and possible anxiety regarding their family of origin begin to surface, it is common to experience a negative emotional reaction and elect to completely separate themselves from the system.  These individuals are functioning at low levels of differentiation so they are unable to de-triangle from the system, and feel they are only left with the option of emotional cutoff.  By cutting themselves off they are leaving all of their emotional attachments unresolved, leaving them more likely to become overly dependent in other relationships; thus increasing the likelihood of significant levels of fusion—considerably lowering their functioning potential in the relationship.

A major factor in determining how each child in a nuclear family system absorbs tension and reacts to their parents’ anxiety is their birth order.  Sibling position is a determinant for certain characteristics that individuals gain during adolescence, and maintain throughout adulthood.  Bowen presented the concept that a first-born child may have a purposeful niche in the family.  It is likely that this child will absorb the most anxiety produced by the parents’ relationship (i.e. the child provides a new focus for the mother’s emotions; the child provides an excuse for the father to spend additional time at work, etc.).  The emotional responsibility of this child is so much more significant than that of his subsequent siblings, that although having been raised in the same household by the same parents, they will develop different personalities and characteristics.  For example, a first-born child will be more likely to develop a stronger leadership role, have more unresolved emotional attachments, and function at a lower level of differentiation; whereas, the middle and youngest children will have been exposed to less anxiety, may function at higher levels of differentiation, and experience less dependency in adult relationships.

In addition to the emotional system that individuals experience with their nuclear and extended family, Bowen suggested that there also exists the presence of a societal emotional process that individuals are involved in as well.  He emphasized that the current and future condition of society can have an effect on emotional systems.  For example, if society’s current state is regression, then additional anxiety is likely to arise in family systems, creating more tensions that may not be present in the system if society was in a more consistent state.

Aside from the major concepts of Bowen’s theory, there are several background concepts and assumptions that must be taken into consideration when studying the theory or applying it to the clinical environment.  The first of which is chronic anxiety.  According to Bowen, one of the primary ways to create a balanced and fulfilling relationship in an emotional system is to regulate chronic anxiety.  Chronic anxiety is a result of one’s emotional reaction to an imagined threat that has become sustained in the relationship, and has to potential to be detrimental to a relationship as one member will begin to disproportionally absorb the anxiety produced by the relationship.  They become the “adaptive” member of the system, which prevents an individual from functioning at a high level of differentiation due to their overfunctioning in the relationship—spending so much of their energy anticipating negative reactivity from the other members of the system that they are incapable of free-thinking or taking a desired objective position on the relationship.  As a result of being adaptive, social, mental, and physical symptoms may surface.  These symptoms can surface in the form of depression, avoidant behavior, and medical ailments ranging from the common cold to cancer, just to name a few.

In addition to chronic anxiety Bowen presents the idea that humans are innately driven by two basic forces in life:  individuality and togetherness.  He suggests that individuals naturally seek to feel a sense of belonging, whether in a general social or working environment, or in a relationship system.  This is his basis for introducing the concept of reactivity dependence, and that one who does not feel the desired belonging that they are searching for will develop an increasing dependency on the affirmation of their partner, and will continuously become more fused to that relationship.  Also, if an individual does not have a clearly defined self, they will consistently be in search of their individuality.  They will also seek relationships that cater to this aspect of themselves that they are lacking; most likely prematurely fleeing from their family of origin to do so.

Additionally, systems theory operates under the assumption that emotional systems are uncontrolled, and typically unconscious, reactions to events and situations experienced by humans.  Bowen makes a distinction between emotions and feelings, insisting that feelings are the conscious reactions that surface when beneath lies a significant emotional issue.  He also specifies that both feelings and emotions should be secondary to an individual’s objective perspective when observing their own relationship systems.  In conjunction, Bowen addresses the concept that one’s family is an emotional unit, inferring that any changes within any of the systems can result in an unconscious emotional reaction affecting the entire multigenerational unit.  This approach also assumes that any symptoms that develop in one individual can be a product of the anxiety absorbed from another part of the system, not just that individual’s nuclear family.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Adler the Conqueror

Alfred Adler Adlerian Theory

When investigating the theory of Alfred Adler, it is essential to consider the impact his childhood experiences had on his cognitive development, and consequently his work.  Adler’s life in Austria was plagued with traumatic events.  These conflicts, along with the multi-cultural surroundings, influenced his conceptual development of social interest.  Adler first went into practice as an ophthalmologist, later to become a psychiatrist.  For all the Thundercats (1985-89) fans out there, I suppose he graduated to “sight, beyond sight.”  At any course, he would eventually link up with Sigmund Freud as a member of a psychoanalytic circle.  He began to write psychoanalytical articles for journals; his views emphasized the subjectivity of perception and the importance of social factors more so than biological considerations.  He later broke away from Freud’s group, cementing the differences he and Freud held.  World War I impacted Adler as well, due to his service obligation, he had a first-hand view that confirmed his socialist perspectives.  Adler’s life experiences not only shaped his views of the world but were the crucible for his development of personality and psychotherapeutic theories and practices.

Kurt and Alexandra Adler continued their father’s (Alfred’s) work upon his death in 1937.  Though his children continued to make advancements and modifications to the work of their father, many of the influential contributors came prior to their generation.  One such influence was Immanuel Kant.  Adler developed, from Kant, a desire to aid individuals in acquiring practical knowledge of themselves and others.  Hans Vaihinger, another contributor to Adler’s developments, influenced Adler by way of the concept of “factionalism”.  Though Freud and Adler separated never to reconcile, Freud had a large impact on Adler’s developments as well.  Freud provided Adler with a basic framework that allowed Adler to develop his own ideas.  Adler was noted to have given credit to Freud for his emphasis on dreams and the unconscious.  However, due to Freud’s popularity in Europe and the United States, Adler was less productive at drawing attention in those places.  The American psychiatrist, Rudolf Dreikurs, was a heavy proponent for Adlerian theory.  Dreikurs was responsible for many innovations in the application of the theory, with additions such as the concept of multiple therapy and systematic analysis.  The influences and contributors to Adlerian therapy have been many.  Adlerians today continue to strive to guide the theory in new directions.

As imagined, with so many influences the Adlerian theory is multi-faceted and complex in nature but retains several key concepts.  Alder pulled from Vaihinger’s “factionalism” to develop the concept of “fictional goals.”  In this concept, fictions are considered to be ideas that are useful tools for individuals to deal with life’s realities.  The practice of using attitudes and values as truths aids humans’ interactions with each other on a day-to-day basis.  Adler as well as Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher) used the concept of “will to power.”  Adler took the concept in a different direction than Nietzsche in that Adler described “will to power” as humans attempt to gain competence.  Adler entangled the concept with his views on equality, as he opposed socialism by violence.

Adler did extensive study in personality though his views in this area are very broad and open.  He focused on the individual as a whole as well as individuals interactions with society.  His theory uses the individual’s style of life to evaluate the coping mechanisms they use when faced with adversity.  He also breaks social interest into three stages: aptitude, ability and secondary dynamic characteristics.  Tied to Adler’s theory of personality are the concepts of inferiority/superiority and birth order.  The concepts of therapy and counseling, as pertains to Adlerians, directly affect the impact of goals on treatment.  The therapeutic relationship is valued by Adlerians; they believe the goals of the patient and therapist must be synonymous.  Adlerians begin assessments at the commencement of the client relationship and continue those evaluations as the relationship builds.  During assessment the therapist chooses key timing to integrate interpretations and insight leading the client to a phase of reorientation.  Adlerians’ pragmatic approach to psychotherapy can be seen through their interactions with individuals suffering from psychological disorders.  Vivid examples of the approach are seen through Adlerians work with depression, eating disorders and borderline disorders. Within these processes, Adlerians assess the disorder and seek to ameliorate the affects the disorder has on the individual.  Almost as an ode to Adler, Adlerians believe disorders stem from personality conflicts that occurred early in life.  These key concepts of the Adlerian theory have been refined over time and continue to be developed today.  The strong framework set by Adler has given current Adlerians a firm foundation that is sure to have an impact on psychotherapy for generations to come.

I credit much of Adler’s success to his trials in childhood.  He displayed a strong will and work ethic, which should be revered by all.  It is my belief that individuals will be rewarded for their efforts to aid society, despite and in many cases as a result of, the challenges and adversities they may face along the way.  Adler had thoughts of his own regarding this subject as he believed individuals have a responsibility to function in society.  He surmised all individuals will face challenges, and it is essential that they learn to cope with these challenges and continue to seek success for individual accomplishment as well as societal enrichment.  Adler embraced choice and responsibility, which are directly inline with my beliefs.  Though certain factors in the early stages of life influence the development of each individual, they retain the responsibility to make ethical decisions.  Adler showed respect for human responsibility, individuality and capacity to change.  These concepts have essentially been the theme for American society for the past decade, and while we are often so busy trying to get ahead by moving forward, the best explanations may very well be history.

For more about Adler and his work, I suggest Understanding Life: An Introduction to the Psychology of Alfred Adler (paid link), one of the modern translations of Adler’s work by (Adlerian) Colin Brett.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Alcoholism: Disease or Behavior

Criterion A.2. of Alcohol Use Disorder, as presented in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), is the foundation for my conceptualization of alcoholism as either a disease or a behavior.  Obviously a person who meets the criteria for a mental disorder warrants a diagnosis of a mental disorder, right?  Isn’t the DSM gospel?  Okay, so cynicism aside, the criterion of which I am referring is as follows: “There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.”  In short, if a person is behaving in a manner that they do not wish to behave, and they have put forth significant honest efforts to stop that behavior (or emotion, etc.) then they need help.  If help is most effective by way of mental health intervention, then I believe that the mechanisms should be in place for that assistance to be received (thus a diagnosis be present within the DSM).

It is in the assessment of the criterion of reference where the distinction is made between people who are engaging in an irresponsible manner versus a person who is “ill”.  I would almost go as far as to say that the criterion should be listed separately from the others and be required in addition to “at least two of the others.”  The reality is that due to its subjectability, the criterion is not a foolproof method for determining “disease.”  What a person says they have done to stop, cut down or control alcohol is unfortunately not always factual in nature.  This in itself creates a conflict with therapeutic approaches that the clinician accepts the client’s reality (regardless of truth), similar to the process of dealing with victims of violence or abuse.

Gaining an understanding of the hopelessness a client feels is often a prerequisite for intervention (which sometimes proves therapeutic in itself); however, validation of the hopelessness should not be required of a clinician.  With this thought process in mind, which is often best, clinicians commit due diligence to understanding the problem as the client sees it, and make some efforts to validate the claims the client makes with regard to their unsuccessful efforts to control their alcohol use.

During this validation process it is useful to understand the means by which the client has presented themselves to therapy.  Was it court-ordered, were they pressured or did they come on their own accord?  The reason for a client sitting in your office is oftentimes a predictor of the level of expected success, though asking the client directly may be illuminating as well.

With the work of Michele Weiner-Davis in mind, a therapist should also search for evidence of pretreatment change.  These are all factors that are associated with determining the “classification” of alcoholism and more importantly the need for intervention.  Regardless of how it’s classified, as a clinician, with a client sitting in front of you, you have an obligation.

Consideration of the factors mentioned above may also serve as a guide to a therapist evaluating which approach to intervention may best suit a particular client.  Due to my affinity for Marriage and Family Therapy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an assessment of the effects of the alcohol use, regarding the family (if present), should also be a factor in determining the goals of therapy.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.


The Racial Identification Development Model (R/CID)

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.

If this blog is of interest to you, I recommend adding some popular titles to your reading list such as the ones below (paid links).  Click a particular image for more information and thank you for taking a look at what has proven to be one of my more popular blogs.

Jordache Williams

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.

Counselor, Therapist, Coach, or Lifeline

Discover the Niche Life Coaching for Leaders

People need help.  A better tool, more time, less stress, more money, the right word in the closing paragraph of a thesis…humans from time to time get in a pinch.  We ask our spouse, our friends, our parents, our co-workers and the tall person walking down the grocery aisle for help.  Sometimes help is readily available, other times it’s scarce, if accessible at all.  So how is it that people go about getting help?

We evaluate the situation.  What exactly do I need and how much time do I have?

We evaluate our resources.  Who’s available, knowledgeable, and trustworthy?

We evaluate the costs.  What am I giving up, or going to owe, by reaching out?

Some of us don’t ever evaluate costs in a monetary sense as they relate to acquiring help with “life”.  This may be due to a lack of finances, but can also be attributed to a perceived sufficiency of available and free resources.  On the other hand, we often don’t mind paying for other services, even services we can accomplish ourselves (e.g. a car wash).  We use money to pay waiters to bring us food from the kitchen to the table…something we could do ourselves but “it’s just not the way it works.”  We accept these things, most of the time without question.  Why is it then, that so many of us question our own need for counseling, therapy and coaching?  How is taking care of our emotions, feelings, and mental health different?  Let’s look at the aforementioned evaluation process again.

We evaluate the situation.  It’s not that serious.  It’s nothing I can’t handle.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

We evaluate our resources.  I don’t know any therapists, counselors or coaches.  Since I don’t know any, how can I possibly assess their knowledge or trustworthiness?

We evaluate the costs.  It’s not remotely feasible for me to pay for this kind of help.  It has to be expensive.

True enough, if we don’t already have a relationship with a helping professional, it proves difficult to just pick up a phone to get help with a situation, especially immediate help.  We already anticipate a long, drawn-out process with a great deal of paperwork and the scheduling of an appointment (which we already believe will occur well past the amelioration of our current conundrum).  These understandings generally leave us fending for ourselves and, more times than not, we get by.  But many of these times we actually are “worse for the wear.”

If you want to avoid learning hard lessons, missing opportunities and wasting time and resources, it may be prudent to take a closer look at some viable resources you’ve been skipping out on.  In reality, counselors, therapists and coaches should be staple, not stigma.  The services offered by these types of professionals are similar to any other services you don’t think twice about paying for…they provide something you want or need and some are better than others.  The key to finding the right kind of help is to look for it when you don’t need it.  Similar to grocery shopping when you’re hungry, what often happens is individuals get into such a bad place before they reach out for these types of services.  At that point, there has not been a solid evaluation of potential service providers, which may mean the individual you reach out to is not the best fit.  Not to mention, whoever that provider is, they are working an uphill battle, late in the game, with no history of you.  These factors lead to a meager success rate and you lacking confidence not only in that person, but oftentimes in the industry as a whole.

So if you’ve ever found yourself in a pinch with “life” and have felt like you haven’t had a person to turn to, take some time to visit a few local helping professionals.  Find out what they do.  Peruse the internet, evaluate the costs, research the accessibility and answer ALL of the questions you have regarding these professionals.  If you do this, you’re most likely going to find that someone for you.  That someone who is relevant, available, knowledgeable, trustworthy, affordable…that lifeline.

Ready to get started researching your options?  Need help distinguishing the differences between the types of helping professionals?  My latest eBook, Discover the Niche: Life Coaching for Leaders (paid link), may help.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Sharing as a Leader

sharing leader leadership

If You’re Not Sharing these 5 Things, You Could be a More Effective Leader…

Your insecurities.  The competent leader understands dominance is not the same as authority.  Attempting to be perceived as dominant by hiding your insecurities only ensures you won’t receive any aid with them.  When you are overly concerned about your own job security, it is difficult to not make every attempt to avoid being viewed as weak or vulnerable.  Sharing your vulnerabilities allows you to connect with those you lead, and also results in being provided for in ways (and by individuals) you otherwise would not.  The alternative (hiding your insecurities through dominance) actually promotes insecurities in other individuals throughout the organization, which creates an extremely unhealthy environment.

Responsibility.  Often individuals in leadership roles find themselves demanding actions of those structurally subordinate.  Simply articulating these demands in a manner which suggest they are a shared responsibility changes the dynamic of the request (e.g. delegating responsibility).  Your pride may be standing in the way of you allowing yourself to be perceived as sharing your workload.  Here again, those consumed with protecting their job find it difficult to share.  Remember, as a leader your litmus for success is the success of those you lead.

Rewards.  If you are getting them, it’s likely that your team is deserving of them as well.  Even when you are not receiving rewards it is possible that the members of your team are worthy of them.  Be innovative when rewarding productive associates.  If it’s feasible, distribute your own bonuses among your team, or simply use a portion of your income to buy a new Keurig for the office.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool useful in promoting achievement and fortifying relationships.

Updates, changes, and notifications.  The flow of information within an organization can be illustrated through the principles of hydraulics.  The confined space at the top of the organization often allows information to flow much more rapidly than the typically more voluminous lower tiers of the same organization.  Considering today’s technology, there is little excuse for the flow of information to become canalized.  Changes affect individuals differently and, as a leader, providing timely information is a great way to foster inclusiveness and afford individuals the necessary time to react.  If knowledge is power, then, as a leader, empower with knowledge.

Your time.  As a leader, you are likely busy undertaking managerial duties and keeping yourself organized, maybe even building processes and analyzing statistics.  You also, as an experienced leader understand the value of those you lead, especially in terms of productivity.  If you do make time for those structurally subordinate, it’s easy to find yourself spending that time protecting and encouraging those who are most productive.  Avoid the projection of favoritism by encouraging comradery.  Do this through spending meaningful time with all of those you lead.

Jordache Williams


Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.



5 Things to Avoid as a Leader

Losing the confidence of those you lead.  If you, as a leader, have ever been shocked by comments your supervisor reveals were made by your subordinates, you’ve likely made this mistake.  This may mean you have not made yourself available or you have not been accommodating.  In either course, those you lead have lost faith in your ability as a leader and have reached above you for aid.

Referring to those you lead as “people who work for you.”  Those you lead are constituents, associates, coworkers and, above all, individuals with just as much value as you.  Undervaluing those structurally subordinate isn’t a way to validate your authority, and by doing so, you adversely undermine your ability to motivate them.

Tasking those you lead versus sharing responsibility.  This is likely a result of your focus on your own success rather than the success of the team.  A productive environment thrives on inclusiveness, honesty and synergy.  “Making” someone do something creates dissonance, on the other hand, sharing responsibility perpetuates effectiveness and efficiency.

Losing sight of the human element.  Individuals you lead are comprised of more than a job description.  In order to be an effective leader you must possess the 3 Cs: care, concern, compassion.  Don’t believe a hard outer shell establishes your dominance.  There is little that pushes others away more assuredly than neglect.

Not listening.  As a leader, insights come from a variety of sources, none more important than those coming from the individuals you lead.  Feeling pressed for time, being arrogant and, again, undervaluing those you lead are all causes of dismissing recommendations from those structurally subordinate.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.