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A grounded theory exploration of clergy's counseling referral practices in Black churches

Morgan R.C McCain, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


According to the National Institute of Mental Health (2008) nearly one-third of American adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in any given year. Of those who experience mental illness only one in three will actually seek professional help (Obasi & Leong, 2009). This number becomes even smaller for people of African descent. African Americans are less likely to seek professional help for their personal problems (Cramer, 1999) because of barriers like inadequate health insurance and stigma. However, there are fewer challenges associated with African Americans seeking help from religious leaders (Chiang, Hunter, & Yeh, 2004). By their involvement in different communities, religious leaders are reasonably respected and trusted by many African Americans (Taylor, Chatters, & Levin, 2004). Therefore, many of their congregants may turn to them for help dealing with their personal issues. Religious leaders are presented with mental health concerns similar to that of counselors (Larson, 1988), but unlike counselors they may not recognize symptoms of serious mental illness (Farrel & Goebert, 2008). Consequentially, in addition to other factors, religious leaders may fail to make counseling referrals when appropriate. The purpose of this study was to explore the referral process religious leaders engage in at Black churches. The Clergy Referral Process Model was developed using the information the participants of this study provided. The themes that make up the Clergy Referral Process Model include: understanding self, discussing mental health, relationship with parishioners, including staff, arranging a meeting, assessing need, spirituality, referring, barriers, and follow-up. The model developed from this study provides a framework for understanding the referral process clergy in Black churches engage and it can be used to encourage clergy to begin making counseling referrals or increase the number of referrals being made.

Subject Area

Clerical studies|Black studies|Mental health|Ethics|Pastoral Counseling|Counseling Psychology

Recommended Citation

McCain, Morgan R.C, "A grounded theory exploration of clergy's counseling referral practices in Black churches" (2016). ETD collection for University of Nebraska-Lincoln. AAI10100905.