Childhood Traumas in African American Females suffering


In psychology there is a lot of variations of trauma in African American women from their childhood traumas that have a great impact on their lives in adulthood. These traumas have a life lifelong impact on the individual and be very crucial if treatment or counseling is not sought after. These traumas are, considered a complex interplay among behavioral, psychological, social, cultural, and environmental conditions appeared to influence the initiation and maintenance of substance abuse (Johnson and Young, 2002). Most therapists are not aware of what issues they may face when counseling a child; or how they may affect them in the future.

It is always important for any therapist to remain culturally competent and nonjudgmental; because according to research, many African Americans do not go to counseling because they believe that it is expensive (Murry et. al, 2011).

For many African Americans it is hard for them to talk about their situations with others; there are many generational stereotypical dogmas that hinder many African American families from sharing.

For instance, there has always been the saying of “whatever happens in this house, stays in this house.” African American women experience high rates of trauma which sometimes can result into substance abuse. While trying to understand this study and the therapeutic relationships built between the women and counselors, it’s important to look at the Relational Cultural Theory. RCT is a theoretical model that is based on the fundamental principle that relationships are the foundation of growth and human development (Blakely & Grocher, 2017).

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This saying is something that sticks with many individuals; however, it was not until recent years that people began to feel more open to speak with someone about their problems. These wounds, that these girls face, can be so deep mentally, emotionally and physically that resolving the issue may seem impossible. Also according to Johnson and Young (2002) one explanation for the relationship between sexual abuse and substance use is that self-medicating with substances provides some relief to the pain of sharp memories and of life difficulties. Childhood trauma increases risk for both depression and heavy drinking. Trauma may moderate the effect of stress on depression; the relationship between trauma, stress and heavy drinking is less clear (Coleman et al., 2013).

Relevant Review of Literature

Addiction is a very complex area in psychology. Addictions such as alcoholism can be difficult to treat. Alcoholism is a behavioral disorder in which genetics and environmental exposure play a part of the clinical condition. There seems to be two different subtypes of alcoholism, which are type I and type II. Women that are alcohol dependent from abuse seem to also have other problems, then women who were not abused. Substance use disorder in DSM-5 combines the DSM-IV categories of substance abuse and substance dependence into a single disorder measured on a continuum from mild to severe (Rural Health, 2019).

Woman face barriers that have to be overcome in order for treatment to be successful. When an individual seeks therapy for a dependency of alcohol and Marijuana, there is a greater chance for recovery of that addiction. In this process, there could be a variety of therapies that could be helpful. Therapists concur with each other, regarding substance abuse treatment for women (African American), that it should be approached by how the women lives her life. This could include her social and economic environment as well as her relationships with friends and family. We also must put into consideration the impact of gender and culture. According, to studies from both clinical and community-based samples have shown that severe childhood trauma, such as emotional, physical and sexual abuse, is associated with increased vulnerability to addiction (van et al., 2002). There seems to be a high association connected to childhood trauma and alcoholism; also there has been several other studies that show childhood trauma is associated with depression and heavy drinking in adulthood. Childhood trauma, possibly leads to depression due responses to stress. Those who experience trauma in childhood seem to have a low tolerance for stress as an adult.

Maternal behavioral health and recent maternal drug use and psychological functioning, on child behavioral functioning at 5 years of age (Accornero et al., 2002). It has been suggested that the link between childhood trauma and alcohol abuse is due to individuals using alcohol as a means to reduce the effects of a dysregulated biological stress response system or reduce the symptoms of depression (De Bellis, 2002). Females seem to have a great deal of depression. Age of the trauma does not seem to matter when it comes to heavy drinking. Alcohol abuse is very common in the United States. It is said that 7 to 12% of women are alcoholics. Female drinking is socially acceptable now- a- days. When girls and women do not have mutually empathic relationships, they may use substances to minimize the grief, loss, and pain associated with disconnection. Alcohol and drugs were also used as a way to endure the trauma and shame associated with the earlier sexual abuse (Brady et al., 2005). Increasing the ability to replace impulsive reactions with reflective reality-based decisions are critical to managing both intrusive trauma memories and the cravings for substances and automatic behavior patterns that sustain addiction (Johnson and Young, 2002).

Biological Factors

There are several different biological factors that can lead to organ damage when it comes to alcohol consumption. Women will have a higher vulnerability to the physiological effects of alcohol abuse, then a man; this is due in part of alcohol being more water soluble. A women’s body has more fat tissue than a man’s body and this means that a woman will have a higher blood alcohol content. For women that continued to drink after being diagnosed with alcoholic hepatitis suffered from severe liver disease. Here more women lost their lives to cirrhosis of the liver. This tells us that female alcoholics seem to be at a higher risk of death and permanent disability, and female alcoholics that suffer from cognitive damage (Hill, 1995).

There is also an enlarged number of female alcoholics that suffer from cognitive damage. This is a result of long-term alcohol use. There is much debate on whether or not alcoholism is genetically inclined or if this disease is just an individual choice to use as a coping mechanism. It may be also be affected by one’s environment and/or cultural influences, possibly all maybe a factor. Women with early onset type of alcoholism show a marked decrease in the amplitude of the P300, which is correlated with significant deficits in the information processing functions in the brain (Hill, 1995).

Psychosocial Factors

The psychosocial factors can only be acknowledged by a systemic perspective. Women are constantly suffering emotionally and socially when it comes to drinking. Female alcoholics also experience discrimination more so them men, it seems to be a double standard in society. Society has commanded that women play several different roles such as being the caretaker of the family, a mom, a wife, sex partner to name a few. If a woman strays away from these roles and chooses other things to do she is often chastised. Because of this demand women tend to turn to alcohol as a means of coping with stress and life overall. Women that drink heavily tend to internalize their feelings, which may lead to anxiety and depression. The etiology of alcoholism in women and societal perceptions of women who drink can be more fully understood in the context of Finklestein’s (1993a) relational model.

Society has commanded that women play several different roles such as being the caretaker of the family, a mom, a wife, sex partner to name a few. If a woman strays away from these roles and chooses other things to do she is often chastised. Because of this demand women tend to turn to alcohol as a means of coping with stress and life overall. Women that drink heavily tend to internalize their feelings, which may lead to anxiety and depression. Alcoholism in women is frowned upon and is said to be an eccentric behavior. In the early 1900’s women who drank heavily could be committed to what was called an insane asylum. Once committed, a woman would be subjected to what is called a hysterectomy without her given consent. This is just another form of abuse that a female would have to experience in her lifetime. No one should take your option of having children, it should be the choice of the individual (Finkelstein, 1993).

Women seem to develop substance disorders, quicker than men, this is due to the physiological effects of drugs and alcohol. It is known that women suffer with severe complications from alcohol use. Some of these complications are high blood pressure, heart problems, different cancers to name a few (Finkelstein, 1993). An examination of cultural protective factors that foster substance use abstinence among low-income, early adolescent, African American girls may be helpful in understanding how to promote resilience and reduce negative health outcomes.

Critical Analysis

In today’s era, there is a huge disapproval of women that drink heavily. The woman is said to be showing a sign of weakness. In recent studies, it said that woman that are alcoholics are prone to be a victim of sexual aggression towards others. This can lead to a world of destruction for the female. There was a National survey taken and adult women had the highest rate of alcohol problems, like driving under the influence or being belligerent. Early studies sought to seek if heredity and the females’ environment had any responsibility in their alcoholism. Records were compared in alcohol related problems with that of the individuals’ parents, for some of there was a relevance that was discovered.

Alcohol and drug dependent women have a high rate of sexual abuse reports, including rape and incest. A recent study showed 74 percent of alcohol dependent women had disclosed they were sexually abused (Wilsnack, 1984). Female children and adult women deal with many stressors, such as neglect and verbal abuse from a husband or father. Women tend to isolate themselves from others once the physical, sexual or emotional abuse begins. They begin to feel embarrassed or question if it’s their fault. With this being said, women will not seek therapy due to fear or not enough resources. They also go through a period of denial for the abuse and the addiction. This does them more harm than good. Most women, if married will wait until they are divorced before seeking treatment. It is sad but true that women endure a greater amount of death than men. The deaths are by suicide, violence, health issues such as cirrhosis of the liver and heart issues. Women will have more health and family problems for their reasoning of drinking. Community factors, specifically exposure to drugs, also affect drug use among adolescents and adults. “Although white women encounter sexism and class oppression, Black women are severely impacted by the triple effects of sexism, racism, and class exploitation” (Deborah & Easley, 1999).

Treatment Issues

When trying to diagnosis alcoholism in woman, the amount of alcohol that is consumed plays an important part. Even though the women may present as an alcoholic, she still drinks less than a man. Research in this field, is slim to none and pretty much goes by a lot of myths about women alcohol abuse. There is Gender-Responsive treatment that is very important for women seeking substance abuse treatment. There are some core principles with gender responsive treatment such as: realizing women’s relationships in life, knowing her SES, the health concerns, establishing a process for growth, and using a strength- based treatment model (Ford and Russo, 2006).

There are specific characteristics that are only for females and have to be included in their treatment. There is also several barriers and obstacles that women face when trying to seek treatment. Many women that struggle with alcohol use have children and they won’t seek treatment due to the fact that they fear losing their children. The department of social services look down upon this and will place the children in foster care. With that being said, most women will decline treatment or stop going altogether. This is why family services are also an important part of alcohol treatment. There is also a need for parenting skills training to improve the mother’s confidence.

The treatment for females has to be something understood by the therapists and the therapist has to realize that the women does have a role in society. A woman will get better results from a counselor that has more interpersonal skills and show more empathy. The therapist should be trained in social skills and problem solving and help the female with her self-esteem. Again, it is a fact that most females who abuse alcohol has been abused sexually or physically. So these are also issues that have to be worked through in the treatment. A treatment based on empowering the woman will be very helpful for those that suffered abuse. Possibly getting the client some additional counseling. There is vocational counseling and education that have to be sought after in gender treatment.

Planful decision making and effective emotion regulation require the ability to access long-term memory to draw upon past learning and short-term memory to formulate and follow-through with timely and organized immediate choices (Ford and Russo, 2006). Trauma Recovery and Empowerment Model is an educational group intervention (like Seeking Safety) for women or men with co-occurring major mental illness, SUD, and PTSD, focusing particularly on the cumulative effects of living with poverty and stigma following victimization trauma. There are several treatment options for alcoholism such as detoxification inpatient or outpatient and Intensive treatment depending on the individual’s needs. There is individual and group counseling as well (McNeece & DiNitto, 2012). There are several treatment options for alcoholism such as detoxification inpatient or outpatient and Intensive treatment depending on the individual’s needs. There is individual and group counseling as well (Nasim et al., 2007).

Counseling and Assessment

In order for a successful outcome of treatment therapy must address all of the issues at hand. Treatment can be done individually or in a group setting based on the individual preference. As, research indicates, there is a demonstrated multigenerational transmission of alcoholism; family therapy would be indicated to address the issues when they present themselves (Finkelstein, 1993b). Treatment can be outpatient or inpatient depending on the individual preference and the severity of the addiction. There has to be a positive family support team for the individual. It is very important for the female to attend AA meetings on a regular. A difficult part of therapy is making sure the client is paired with the appropriate counselor for their addiction.

The sooner a woman enters into rehabilitation, it will be better for her. There may be some contemplating from the individual, but she should be reassured that she makes a commitment to help save her life. Here is when the help of a professional will make the process a reality and let one know of the difficulty involved in recovery. At this point a plan of action is put into play. There is always the possibility of relapsing so the female has to fight through the temptations, by making sure she attends her meetings regularly.

There are several instruments that need to done. A full assessment needs to be done by doing a complete psychological and physical history. This will help the therapist write up a plan of action and integrate the individuals’ goals as well. This will also tell the therapist of the client’s strengths and weaknesses. Spirituality is another part of treatment that can help the females’ addict. Spirituality gives the addicted woman a more constructive purpose for her life during this vulnerable time in her life. All issues should be addressed during counseling to make sure every aspect is covered for a successful outcome. A client’s biopsychosocial strengths should always be discussed often during treatment. This will help in her sobriety. The therapist cannot just focus on the alcoholism because it does not bring forth a positive outcome.


Alcoholism and Substance Use Disorder (Marijuana) in African American women is a problem that has been getting much attention in the last decade. The more support that females get for alcohol addiction and SUD the better. Keep in mind that women are caretakers for us all and that these women usually have been abused in some sort of way emotionally, physically or sexually. There should always be a continuum of care for these women and it should be very comprehensive, this is called a transitional period. For some, there are many trials and difficult times, which may result into a relapse; however, this depends on the individual and their desire to really want to stay sober.


There are several jurisdictions presently working to improve alcohol and SUD treatment issues. Brief interventions are and can be effective, which can also coincide with other treatments and a referral may not be required. Evidence based treatment is fairly new but has spread throughout psychology. This type of treatment is used once data is collected from various options of treatment that has been tested. There is a very low percentage of drug rehabilitation centers that use this form of treatment. There comes a time when the brain will lose control to the addiction and when this happens sometimes behavior therapy may be necessary. Trying to overcome any addiction is never easy and constantly requires continuous therapy in order to have lifelong success.

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Childhood Traumas in African American Females suffering. (2019, Dec 15). Retrieved from

Childhood Traumas in African American Females suffering
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