African American Couples in the 21st Century: Using Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) to Translate Science into Practice

Anthony L. Chambers*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


The complexity of the African American community in the United States continues to evolve. The growing number of professional African Americans who grew up in the postcivil rights era combined with the persistent reminders of inequity paints a complex backdrop for understanding African American relationships. The majority of our knowledge about African American couples disproportionately comes from nonclinical social science fields such as sociology and demography. Unfortunately, the scholarly literature on how to work with African American couples is relatively scant. This paper seeks to add to this limited literature by providing clinicians and scholars with a proposed set of issues to consider when conceptualizing and treating African American couples. In particular, the complexity and nuance needed to work with African American couples are best done by using an integrative model. Thus, this paper will discuss how the Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) model is particularly well suited for working with African American couples. This paper will summarize the science on African American marriages with a focus on salient factors such as gender, SES, and trust, which will then be translated into clinical practice by utilizing a case example. The case example will be of a middle-class couple in order to delineate the challenges and the growing heterogeneity of African Americans. The article will conclude with a commentary on the evolving heterogeneity of African Americans, which sheds light on how an integrative perspective is important for disentangling and embracing the growing complexity of African American couples.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)595-609
Number of pages15
JournalFamily process
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019


  • African American couples
  • African American marriage
  • Couples therapy
  • Integrative systemic therapy
  • Integrative therapy
  • Middle class

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'African American Couples in the 21st Century: Using Integrative Systemic Therapy (IST) to Translate Science into Practice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this