Toldson, I. A., & Toldson, I. L. (1999). Esoteric group therapy: Counseling African American adolescent males with conduct disorder. Journal of African American Men, 4(3), 73-88.
The psychosocial development of African American adolescents is complicated by an intricate system of ecological factors that have been neglected by many mental health professionals who are fixated on intra-psychological phenomena. In search of mechanisms to foster their intrinsic styles of relating, many young African American males create deviant, peer-based microsystems, such as gangs and gang-like cliques, in contempt of the dominant culture, presented as an unjust macrosystem that partially ascribes power and privilege to white society. The consequences of these adverse ecological forces, and lack of guidance for adolescents who rebel, is reflected in the disparaging numbers of young black men who are murdered and incarcerated daily. The often violent outcry of the African American male response to this social dynamic yields little sympathy from a society that seems relentless in its pursuit of oppression to many of these young men. Black youth who more appropriately express their frustration and trepidation in the incensed lyrics of rap music are often accused of contributing to the problem that society created, instead of praised for proclaiming public awareness of their predicament.Peer-group affiliation is the core of adolescent social learning. As mental health professionals establish more structured, peer-group “microcosms,” more corrupt microsystems of gangs and gang-like cliques will dissipate. The successful structuring of such microcosms however, demands the ability to relinquish exclusionary therapeutic tenets and employ culturally specific therapeutic modalities. Esoteric group therapy was born out of the assumption that combining Afrocentric principles with classic group therapeutic modalities helps group leaders to innovate treatment with African American adolescents and heighten therapeutic change. Innovating therapeutic practices to accommodate African American youth who rebel, not only better serves to improve the lives of individual clients, but produces a more inclusive and functional society.
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