Author ORCID Identifier

Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Educational, School, and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Danelle Stevens-Watkins

Second Advisor

Dr. Candice Hargons


The current phenomenological study aimed to explore how counseling psychology faculty’s understanding of whiteness informs their definition of multicultural competence and practice of psychology. The study presents a conceptual model for researching multicultural competence informed by critical race (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001), feminist standpoint (Smith, 1987, 1997), and intersectional (Collins, 1986; Chrenshaw, 1989) paradigms. Twelve counseling psychology faculty (N=12) teaching in APA-accredited programs were nominated by graduate trainees who deemed them multiculturally competent. Participants’ understanding and experiences of whiteness are described, including the dispositions, behaviors, and academic socialization that propagate whiteness. White faculty’s experience of whiteness and that of faculty of color were expectedly divergent given their positionality. Results reflect the need to expand current definition, application, and operationalization of multicultural competence from awareness, knowledge, and skills (Sue et al., 1982; 1992) with focus on race and culture across foci of competence (Sue, 2001) to a positional practice of psychology informed by a critical understanding of whiteness. Whiteness-informed aspects of multiculturally competent psychology practice noted by participants are: (a) multicultural competence being considered an area of specialty and expertise that can be achieved (b) through adoption of universal dispositions and competence during graduate study, (c) the use of scientific standards of neutrality and objectivity that (d) lead to disconnection from self and others, and (e) assumption that psychology can be reduced to academic and intellectual study. In contrast, positional practice of psychology emerges as a need to consider how whiteness and psychologists’ relation to power are foundational to all psychology endeavors. Counseling psychology faculty assumed an orientation of cultural humility, embraced ambiguity, sought connections, and engaged in advocacy when aware of their position and relation to whiteness. Dispositions and behaviors participants engaged in to foster ongoing systemic and personal reflexivity about whiteness are discussed. Implications of findings for the profession of counseling psychology, institutions of higher education, psychology training and education, research and clinical practice are delineated.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)