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Soc Work. 1994 May;39(3):314-23.

The challenge of racial difference: skills for clinical practice.

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Washington University, St. Louis, MO 63130.


Just as racial injustice negatively affects the plight of minorities in society, racial tensions impede professional helping. Often, the racially dissimilar social worker and client approach each other with little understanding of each other's social realities and with unfounded assumptions. Unfortunately, professionals find it difficult to acknowledge such differences or their effect on their relationships. Yet the fruitfulness of the helping encounter often depends on the ability to develop and invest in a trusting relationship. This article identifies the societal roots of the stresses associated with cross-racial relationships. Three concerns commonly experienced by clients whose workers are racially different are identified: (1) Is the helper a person of goodwill? (2) Is the helper trained and skilled? (3) Is the help offered valid and meaningful for me and my social reality? Case vignettes are used to illustrate how each concern is typically mishandled. The importance of successfully managing each concern is stressed, and skills for successful management are illustrated.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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