The Adaptive Life Processing model (ALP) is a universal therapeutic model for nurturing productive coping, effective adaption, positive reframing, and maximized life processing. The IAAP strongly affirms the appropriateness of contextualizing the ALP approach around the psychosocial experiences of Black males. (Note: The Adaptive Life Processing Model can also be contextualized to other specific populations of clients based on race, culture, gender, psychological challenges, life experiences, etc.).
The racially-contextualized ALP platform is a strategically contextualized model that serves the specific purpose of building resilience, adaptive coping, confidence, and hope into the minds of the highly stigmatized Black male client. This contextualized approach works to teach Black males effective approaches for perceiving, evaluating, interpreting, responding, and ultimately coping with racism, stigma, and discrimination. The racially-contextualized ALP platform can provide Black males with a safe and supportive setting where he can to practice newly acquired reasoning skills and coping behaviors. The racially-contextualized ALP intervention makes a deliberate, intentional, and strategic effort to use a strength-based approach that identifies and capitalizes on the psychological strengths and assets of Black males.
The racially-contextualized racially-contextualized ALP approach therapeutically captures and treats the intersection between experiences of stigma, coping behavior utilization, psychological dysfunction, and poor life outcomes. Specifically, the racially-contextualized ALP framework places a deliberate focus on identifying how the utilization of maladaptive coping negatively impacts the life trajectory of Black males. The racially-contextualized ALP model makes an intentional effort to outline strategies that effectively instill into Black males the adaptive behaviors necessary to cope productively with the challenges of racism, stigma, and discrimination.
The racially-contextualized ALP model is a psychological processing model utilized for the treatment of accumulated stigmatic experiences. Race-conscious adaptive life processing is the act of re-psychologizing racism, stigma, and discrimination in a manner in which past racialized experiences become fuel and empowerment for achieving success in America. In therapy, a client is fully engaging in Adaptive Life Processing when they are thinking with the purpose of re-thinking, re-feeling, re-framing, re-conditioning, and re-covering. The goal of the racially-contextualized ALP approach is to replace disempowering thoughts and teach strategies for productively coping with the uncomfortable emotions that result from experiencing race-related stress.
The racially-contextualized ALP model serves as a prescriptive race-based therapeutic model designed to minimize the damaging impact of racism, stigma, discrimination, and maladaptive coping on the psychological functioning of Black males. This goal is accomplished by instilling in Black males the psychological skill set and developmental assets necessary to productively cope with and process their experiences with racism (i.e. not internalizing stigmatizing and inferiorizing messages).
Reality is made up of people, places, and things. People, places and things come together to create social events. The social events that we experience make up our life experiences. We have evolved psychologically according to the social experiences that make up our life history. Our social experiences serve as psyche and schema shaping mechanisms. By allowing a client an opportunity to give a descriptive account of their life experiences, memories, and interactions with the people, places, and things in their personal reality, you are helping them connect present thoughts and emotions with past experiences. By allowing a client to narrate the movie of their life, you allow them the opportunity to explain in descriptive wording how they psychologically see, touch, hear, and feel reality.
It is imperative in therapy that a Black male client has the opportunity to review problematic circumstances that may have been a direct or indirect result of his racial features. By verbalizing the list of experiences that have caused psychological discomfort and presently intrude on life satisfaction, a Black male client will increase his ability to think critically about his life experiences. Verbalization is a type of verbal journal entry that gives the client an opportunity to detail the exact nature of the life events that have caused set-back, disappointment, regret, remorse, fear, and pain. Structured verbalization opens the door to deeper levels of psychological processing.
One’s life story is equal to the sum total of one’s social interactions. Early experiences of social neglect, rejection, and abandonment influence the personality, temperament, and disposition of Black males. Most of a Black male’s presenting problems will be related to dysfunctional attempts to deal with the frustration caused by unmet socio-emotional needs. Humans are naturally driven to seek connection and a sense of belonging. Black males for half a millennium, have failed in their attempts to belong and connect to American culture. The emotional pain that results from an inability to fulfill the relational and socio-emotional drives of humankind, can lead to desperation, distorted thinking, and dysfunctional behaviors.
In the SIT driven ALP process, the Intellectualization of life events means critically reflecting on the problematic social events that have negatively affected perceptions, emotions, and behaviors. Intellectualizing helps a Black male find understanding as it relates to how experiences with racism, stigma, and discrimination have led to bad decision-making and maladaptive coping. Intellectualization not only helps the Black male client find understanding but it also helps him recognize his need for healing.
The goal of Intellectualization is to critically analyze life experiences with the goal of discovering unanswered questions, challenge stigma-informed perspectives, and confront maladaptive attributions via enhanced self-awareness. Intellectualization in the SIT driven ALP process allows for the intellectual confrontation of dysfunctional interpretations, counter-productive defense mechanisms, and disempowering associations. By intellectually processing how racism, stigma, and discrimination have affected how a Black male client defines manhood, blackness, life, and his American experience, a therapist fosters the critical information needed to help the client educate himself on the impact of these experiences on his thinking, feeling, and behaving. Such enlightenment will help the Black male client gain an intellectual understanding of the consequences of these negative events. By providing the Black male client with a platform for critically analyzing his life experiences, a therapist is providing their client with a chance to develop a theory or hypothesis on why things have happened the way that they have and how these experiences have negatively impacted his life.
Black males, like all males, are socialized to suppress their feelings by deliberately avoiding discussions, conversations, and interactions that elicit emotional experiences. Blocking out the emotions Black males have experienced as a result of racism is a consuming task that monopolizes energy that should be devoted to self-actualization. The purpose of Emotionalizing in the SIT driven ALP process is to give Black males the opportunity to unclog or release built-up and unprocessed emotions that relate to general life issues as well as race-related life issues. This type of emotional cleansing is restorative as it allows the Black male an opportunity to acknowledge that life in America has been stressful, frustrating, hurtful, and sometimes enraging. This opportunity for masculine vulnerability frees the client to come to terms with the pain and begin the process of problem solving. This cleansing of unexpressed pain, fear, and disappointment allows for the purging of repressed emotions that have become detrimental to the self-actualizing process. This emptying of emotions cleanses the soul and allows for a clearer connection to cognitive restructuring.
Men are not generally comfortable expressing emotions (especially sadness and fear, while anger is sometimes acceptable as it gives a false sense of power). The mass of unresolved emotions related to being engulfed in a system that violently assaults a Black male client’s racial characteristics, negatively impacts the thinking and behavior dimensions of his psychological system. Many Black men, as a result of “thugalized machismo”, bottle their emotions or channel them towards unproductive behaviors. Emotional processing involves talking about issues with the purpose of identifying the emotional toll connected to living in a racist nation. The release of emotion by itself, is ineffective in terms of psychotherapy if it does not play a productive role in cognitive restructuring. Emotionalizing should lead to enhanced thinking (aided by guided questioning and conversation) as well as be used as motivation for change and achieving closure.
Emotionalizing provides the opportunity to capture the knowledge, wisdom, and inspiration embedded in a client’s feelings. It allows the opportunity to learn effective strategies for the productive emotional registering and emotional responding of stigmatizing life experiences. Although emotional catharsis may not always take the form of sadness, emotional catharsis will usually manifest itself in some form of verbal venting and/or tears. Recognizing, communicating, and expressing painful emotions that are linked to stigmatic experiences results in a type of cognitive liberation as pain is released and emotional debris is cleansed from the soul.
Spiritualizing involves establishing a chosen course of logic, reasoning, and interpretation that brings purpose and meaning to life’s craziness and randomness. The spiritual processing of negative life events is not about religion but about finding meaning. A therapist using the SIT driven ALP process utilizes guided questioning to incite productive reasoning that confronts irrational thinking and disempowering interpretations of racism, stigma, and discrimination. This should ultimately lead to the inception of a more positive and productive reframing of the typical Black male’s life history.
In the spiritual processing phase, a client serves as a tour guide walking the therapist through their system of logic and reasoning as it relates to the negative perceptions and dysfunctional assumptions they have acquired as a result of stigmatic experiences. By discussing their stigma-driven conclusions, the therapist can work to help the client construct more purposeful, empowering, and productive conclusions about their past and present life challenges. By helping the client make sense and bring a higher purpose to the movie of their life, the therapist is helping instill a dimension of resilience that will help the Black male client overcome his personal and social challenges. Such purpose-driven processing will increase the client’s sense of security and personal worth. The Spiritualization of life calls for the gradual development of a meaning-making system that protects the self-esteem and psychic energy of the Black male client. This portion of a Black male’s psychological defense system will improve his capacity for meeting life’s general demands while he continues to thrive despite the challenges of a racist society.
When spiritualizing life, a client is giving an empowering explanation to his social trials and a purpose-driven meaning to his cultural struggles. By giving deeper purpose and meaning to his American struggles, a Black male is slowly internalizing a belief system that allows him to interpret racism, stigma, and discrimination in a manner that will multiply his resiliency levels. This spiritualizing helps the client focus his attention on the potential positive outcomes of his struggles in America. This is in stark contrast to focusing only on the possible negative outcomes of his American struggle. With such an empowering messaging system playing in his head, life situations seem a little less intimidating and this Black male client will be more capable of sustaining positive perspectives and esteem levels.
In conclusion to spiritual processing, life struggles that appear to have no rhyme or reason leads to despair and a sense of hopelessness. Replacing randomness with reason minimizes stress, despair, and the sense of victimhood. When Black males lack spiritual information (meaning) regarding their struggle, they fill these areas of lack with fear and doubt. By connecting meaning to a Black male’s challenging American experiences, you are expanding and enhancing his psychological defense system.
The resulting shame, secrets, and fears produced by social trauma govern the perceptions of Black males. These perceptions govern Black male behavior at the individual and collective level. When we think of individuals who are immersed in stigmatic environments, we think of people who eventually evolve into persons who have a propensity to utilize a specific set of dysfunctional behaviors. We assume that this person’s eventual outcome will be the by-product of their environmentally acquired weaknesses, personality flaws, and character defects. In the Actualizing stage of the SIT Driven ALP approach, the focus is turned away from the negative psychological attributes that a Black male may acquire as a result of being indoctrinated by stigmatizing cultural conditioning. In a dramatically different twist for counseling Black males, the focus of therapy is to identify the acquired talents, strengths, and abilities these struggles have built into their personhood.
Achieving Actualization requires mental, emotional, and spiritual empowerment. The goal of the Actualizing phase of the SIT driven ALP approach is similar to every other phase in the ALP process - holistic processing that leads to personal empowerment. The ALP model defines closure as “closing the door” on the ability of the past to negatively impact the present and the future. The goal of the Actualizing phase is for the Black male to discover the strengths, assets, and skill set for living he has developed as a result of his trials with stigma. Increased focus on acquired strengths results in a stigmatized Black male identifying and ultimately utilizing the mental, emotional, and spiritual strengths he has acquired as a result of his American struggles. The Actualization phase furthermore assists clients in strategically transporting and superimposing their psychological strengths over their general life challenges. During the Actualizing phase, a therapist should make an intentional effort to help the client practice newly acquired life skills that will help him overcome his exterior barriers. These life skills include problem-solving, conflict-resolution, assertiveness, effective communication, critical thinking, decision-making, and emotion management.
The purpose of the Utilization phase of the SIT guided ALP intervention is to psychologically “un-handicap” Black males so that they keep pace in the Information Age. Black males have to “dig deep” within themselves to discover both the raw talent and abilities they are blessed with, as well as the talents and abilities they have acquired as a result of struggle. This strategy for building resilience involves teaching Black males how to adjust to stigma, racism, and discrimination by making an intentional effort to aim their struggles at the areas of their personality that have the most cognitive muscle. This channeling of struggle assists the Black male in effectively sustaining productive functioning and adjusting “life-flexing”.
When a Black male has a predetermined outline for managing and utilizing his strengths, he is preparing himself with a system of ideas, concepts, and framing processes that will allow him to accomplish a series of psychological steps necessary to thrive despite extreme social resistance. This utilization of acquired mental, emotional, and spiritual muscle, serves as an internal fortitude and foundation for responding to life in a racist environment. These newly acquired cognitive muscles again can be transported and utilized as a means of remaining resilient in the face of future life challenges. By keeping the Black male thinking, feeling, and participating in the process of utilizing his growth in the areas of emotional intelligence, problem solving, and conflict resolution, you are realigning his trajectory towards self-awareness, self-actualization, and a positive self-image.
Most of a Black male’s dysfunctional behaviors come from insecurities that are birthed out of unmet socio-emotional needs. These insecurities are the fuel that drive Black dysfunctionality and destructive decision-making patterns. Systems by nature resist change. Utilizing the internal strengths and external resources available to Black male clients is pivotal in order to sustain optimal functioning. This system modification is accomplished via the correcting of misperceptions that hinder attempts towards forming a positive identity, making good decisions, and living a life of meaning and purpose. When working to psychologically Stabilize the Black male, you are essentially working to build into his mind the capacity to sustain productive functioning in a racially-dysfunctional environment.
In order for a Black male to sustain equilibrium or productive functioning in such a socially assaultive environment, he must be taught how to utilize intentional fortitude and guided resilience. Furthermore, he will need to become capable of psychologically preparing for racially-charged social experiences by having a pre-determined plan for remaining mentally and emotionally stable when tasked with the process of interpreting and filtering experiences of racism, stigma, and discrimination. The goal is to foster within the client the ability to psychologize his racial encounters through the lens of confidence and hope. Finally, in order for the Black male client to remain psychologically stabilized, he will need to effectively utilize his external resources and assertively access his support network.
The tumultuous emotional experiences produced by the acceptance of responsibility in the face of social discrimination can sometimes serve as a failure trigger for those who are trying to pursue success while at the same time deal with the fear of having what they will work so hard to attain withheld or taken away. It is important that a Black male develops the cognitive tolerance necessary to cope with the fears and emotions that accompany pursuing progress – otherwise he will malfunction and the Dream will diminish.
The goal of the Desensitization phase in the SIT driven ALP approach is to assist the Black male in constructing a strategy for desensitizing himself from negative environmental elements. In the Desensitization phase, a plan is established for self-management in order to protect the client from internalizing and identifying with the many negative elements seeking to negatively define his personhood and his future. Furthermore, this decreased psychological sensitivity to general life-stress, as well as race-related stress, will work to decrease the Black male client’s chances of retreating into maladaptive coping and other forms of destructive emotion management.
In this phase, it is pivotal for the client to understand that he has a history of functioning and responding to reality in a counter-productive manner as a result of social conditioning. As the client begins to conceptualize his dysfunction and underachievement through the lens of stigmatic conditioning, he is made more competent at connecting moments of poor decision-making to social engineering and cultural conditioning.
The awareness of the ability of past memories of stigma to stunt positive development can help motivate the Black male client to take responsibility for modifying how he responds to life and reality. In this stage, the client has to create an area of psychological defense that prepares him to protect himself from being overwhelmed by the sadness, anger, and anxiety he may experience as a result of feeling powerless, socially abused, and abandoned. If this psychological defense system is not in place and the client is not desensitized to stigmatic elements, he will resort to the compulsive use of dysfunctional coping when encountering uncomfortable emotions.
Desensitization requires a therapist to help the Black male client develop a thorough understanding of both his internal triggers (perceptual and emotional) and his external triggers (people, places, things, and events). This understanding will endow the client with the power to take control of his response style, critical thinking, and decision-making when facing life hardships. Without such a degree of ego strength and voluntary control, a client will, out of a compulsive need for emotional pain-alleviation, use people, places, things, and behaviors as a means of self-medicating. Eventually, if left unchecked, this can lead to an addiction to relationships, dysfunctional behaviors, and dysfunctional habits.
In Black males, people, places, and things are both consciously and subconsciously used to manage the pain that comes with national rejection, loneliness, and isolation. Debilitating levels of stress, anxiety, and fear can be produced when Black male begins to invest personal energy in long-term goals that can be potentially denied. In an effort to alleviate this stress and anxiety he may begin to consciously and subconsciously self-sabotage his progress. This lapse into failure and ultimate relief from stress can become an addictive cycle of failure. Therefore, Desensitization requires decreasing the client’s psychological vulnerability. Desensitization also requires the deliberate construction of a failure relapse prevention strategy, is critical for the accomplishing of psychological invulnerability.
The Adaptive Life Processing Model (ALP)
The 8 Dimensions of the Racially-Contextualized Adaptive Life Processing Model
Adopted from The Psychology of Racism (Vol. I)
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