Counseling Multiracial Families


Bea Wehrly, Kelley R. Kenney & Mark E. Kenney

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Multicultural Aspects of Counseling Series


    Paul Pedersen, Ph.D., University of Alabama at Birmingham


    • J. Manuel Casas, Ph.D.
    • University of California, Santa Barbara
    • Harold E. Cheatham, Ph.D.
    • Clemson University
    • William E. Cross, Jr., Ph.D.
    • University of Massachusetts
    • Candace Marie Fleming, Ph.D.
    • University of Colorado
    • Health Sciences Center
    • Nayda A. Fouad, Ph.D.
    • University of Wisconsin
    • Prem S. Fry, Ph.D.
    • University of Calgary
    • Mary Fukuyama, Ph.D.
    • University of Florida
    • L. Sunny Hansen, Ph.D.
    • University of Minnesota
    • Allen E. Ivey, Ed.D.
    • University of Massachusetts
    • Teresa D. LaFromboise, Ph.D.
    • Stanford University
    • Don C. Locke, Ed.D.
    • University of North Carolina at Asheville
    • Amado M. Padilla, Ph.D.
    • Stanford University
    • Joseph G. Ponterotto, Ph.D.
    • Fordham University
    • Derald W. Sue, Ph.D.
    • California State University–Hayward
    • Norman Sundberg, Ph.D.
    • University of Oregon
    • Joseph E. Trimble, Ph.D.
    • Western Washington University
    • Melba J. T. Vasquez, Ph.D.
    • The University of Texas at Austin
    • Clemmont E. Vontress, Ph.D.
    • George Washington University


    • Increasing Multicultural Understanding (2nd edition): A Comprehensive Model

      by Don C. Locke

    • Preventing Prejudice: A Guide for Counselors and Educators

      by Joseph G. Ponterotto and Paul B. Pedersen

    • Improving Intercultural Interactions: Modules for Cross-Cultural Training Programs

      edited by Richard W. Brislin and Tomoko Yoshida

    • Assessing and Treating Culturally Diverse Clients (2nd edition): A Practical Guide

      by Freddy A. Paniagua

    • Overcoming Unintentional Racism in Counseling and Therapy: A Practitioner's Guide to Intentional Intervention

      by Charles R. Ridley

    • Multicultural Counseling With Teenage Fathers: A Practical Guide

      by Mark S. Kiselica

    • Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Assessment, Education and Training, and Supervision

      edited by Donald B. Pope-Davis and Hardin L. K. Coleman

    • Improving Intercultural Interactions: Modules for Cross-Cultural Training Programs, Volume 2

      edited by Kenneth Cushner and Richard W. Brislin

    • Understanding Cultural Identity in Intervention and Assessment

      by Richard H. Dana

    • Psychological Testing of American Minorities (2nd edition)

      by Ronald J. Samuda

    • Multicultural Counseling Competencies: Individual and Organizational Development

      by Derald Wing Sue et al.

    • Counseling Multiracial Families

      by Bea Wehrly, Kelley R. Kenney, and Mark E. Kenney

    • Integrating Spirituality In to Multicultural Counseling

      by Mary A. Fukuyama and Todd D. Sevig

    • Counseling With Native American Indians and Alaska Natives: Strategies for Helping Professionals

      by Roger D. Herring


    View Copyright Page

    Series Editor's Introduction

    Our families have typically been the source of those culturally learned assumptions that control our lives, with or without our permission. For that reason it is especially important for us to include Wehrly, Kenney, and Kenney's excellent volume in the Multicultural Aspects of Counseling book series. All families are complicated, but some families are more complicated than others. This is particularly true when those families are multicultural and/or multiracial and when all the complications associated with multiculturalism have been treated as “problematic.” These complications, however, offer opportunities as well as special problems, and Wehrly et al. go into some detail about those special opportunities in the historical and sociopolitical environments of our multicultural society.

    When I was a faculty member at the University of Malaya during the race riots of 1969, the faculty members were recruited to continue teaching courses in the university dormitories so that the students would not become involved in the riots. In one of my classes, we decided to use creative problem solving techniques in small groups to “solve” the racial problem in Malaysia. The criterion was to identify solutions that had never been tried. The group that was identified as having the most creative solution suggested (a) that something be put into the drinking water changing everyone to the same color, whichever color that might be; (b) that kissing replace handshakes as the proper form of greeting in society; and (c) that the only legal marriages would be bicultural or biracial marriages! Wehrly et al. also emphasize the importance of bicultural or biracial marriages to the formation of a multicultural society. Changes in the legal system, demographic distribution, and population migration all favor the likelihood of increased multicultural and multiracial families in the future. The data supporting these trends are identified in detail by Wehrly et al.

    According to Wehrly et al., we are living in a “transition period.” By looking at the strengths and weaknesses of multiracial families we are looking at our own future, both locally and globally. The pretense that monocultural families are standard is less and less viable, as culturally defined special interest groups protect their identities more vigorously and as the need to pretend that “one size fits all” becomes less practical. The myths and stereotypes that attempted to impose monocultural perspectives on multiracial families are documented in detail by Wehrly et al. in the historical context where that imposition was demanded.

    The current conditions and challenges demonstrate the up side of membership in a multiracial family, especially when we focus on the broad definition of culture, which includes the cultural categories of gay and lesbian populations (often not perceived as cultural groups). The practical emphasis of Wehrly et al.'s book comes through in examining specific issues within the multiracial family, including the perspectives of both adults and children. Eight popular theories of identity formation are applied to the multiracial family to identify patterns within the family that indicate positive growth and development.

    The whole nature of family seems to be changing in both form and function with the increase of single-parent families, families that include unrelated persons, and homeless families, to name a few of the new forms that are increasing in number. The appropriate application of intervention and treatment competencies is addressed directly, as it must be adapted across the wide range of family alternatives. These competencies are applied to five case study examples, where theory is grounded in fact to help the reader see how these innovative ideas can be applied.

    There are many positive features of Wehrly et al.'s book. The most important positive feature is the practicality of approaches that are presented so that when you, the reader, meet your client tomorrow morning, you will be better prepared to understand the multiracial context in which that client learned the assumptions that control his or her life. You will find a framework for understanding the family, which might otherwise be confusing. You will be more competent in helping clients manage the problems and opportunities facing them.

    PaulPedersenUniversity of Alabama at Birmingham


    A host of people provided support and assistance in putting together this manuscript. First, we extend our gratitude to Paul Pedersen for suggesting that a proposal be submitted to the Multicultural Aspects of Counseling Series on the topic of counseling multiracial families. Our special appreciation goes to the Sage staff, particularly to Jim Nageotte, Kassie Gavrilis, Heidi Van Middlesworth, and Wendy Westgate. To Catherine Chilton, our copy editor, we extend our gratitude for her meticulous work. Collectively, this staff helped us to surmount the many barriers to completion of our book. Our special appreciation is extended to the numerous individuals from across the country who participated in our research interviews of multiracial individuals and couples. Several of their stories are included to help to make didactic content come alive.

    Insightful suggestions for revision of early drafts of chapters of this book were offered by Paul Clark, Brian Wlazelek, Suzanne Nickeson, Sonia Assad, and Laurie Silverstein. Prepublication reviews by Paul Pedersen, Roger Herring, and Carolyn Tubbs gave valuable insight on ways to strengthen the book.

    To these individuals we extend our sincere “thank you.” Karen Hicks provided insurmountable assistance as we attempted to blend our voices into one, adding to the richness of this manuscript. To Susan Reffie, our clerical assistant, we extent our deepest gratitude and appreciation. Across over 800 miles she (amazingly) coordinated this project. Her understanding, patience, flexibility, and organizational and computer skills were astounding. To Melanie Rawlins, Chair of the Counselor Education and College Student Personnel Department at Western Illinois University, the senior author expresses special appreciation for providing graduate assistant support for locating relevant resource materials and conducting and transcribing taped interviews of multiracial individuals. Western Illinois University graduate assistants Joan Moore, Shannon Garrison, Janet McDaniel, and Amy Kreider participated in these endeavors.

    The senior author also wishes to extend her special gratitude to her husband, Jim, for his half century of support to her as a nontraditional wife, mother, grandmother, career woman, and retiree.

    Kelley Kenney would like to extend a thank you to her research colleague, Jo Cohen, for the tireless hours she put into their joint research venture on Black-White interracial marriage. Our work together offered a special contribution to the completion of this manuscript. To Connie Hwang, a thank you is expressed for her frequent delivery of interlibrary materials from Lehigh University. To her other colleagues at Kutztown University, Kelley would like to offer sincere appreciation for their support and encouragement through this process. To her husband, who also shared in the writing of this book, Kelley would like to express her genuine gratitude for his unending love, trust, and belief in her and in all that she does.

    Mark Kenney would like to extend thanks to the Albright College Library staff, specifically Sandy Stump and Rose Mary Deegan, for their assistance in identifying relevant resources. He also extends his appreciation to Roger Herring and Cindy Yee for their response to his request for resource materials. To his wife, Kelley, he would like to express his deepest feelings of love and appreciation for all that she is and all that she means to him and their family.


    Why This Book Was Written

    Multiracial families (families in which at least one member of the family has a different racial heritage than the other member[s] of the family) comprise a rapidly growing part of the United States' population. There is still a dearth of counseling literature addressing this unique population.

    Counseling Multiracial Families expands and updates the extant professional literature on counseling multiracial people and families. This book broadens the perspectives of helping service personnel on the historical background and the contemporary issues, needs, and strengths of the multiracial population. Culturally sensitive counseling interventions for work with multiracial individuals and families are presented.


    Chapter 1 provides a historical overview of the concept of racial mixing in the United States. In so doing, the chapter provides an introduction to the multiracial population, along with definitions and demographic trends. Myths and stereotypes that have often been associated with this population are examined and discussed. Recommendations are made for the counseling profession in its work with this population.

    Chapter 2 explores the lives of contemporary interracial couples, including gay and lesbian interracial couples. Issues and concerns that are salient to interracial couplings are discussed, with special emphasis on parenting and childrearing. Racial difference is considered for the possible significance it has on the dynamics of interracial relationships, and counseling implications are provided.

    Chapter 3 discusses issues faced by multiracial individuals across the lifespan, reviews racial and ethnic reference group identity models for multiracial individuals, and translates biracial identity development theory into counseling practice with the children, adolescents, and adults in multiracial families.

    Chapter 4 examines significant issues of other multiracial families. Included among these multiracial families are those that have become multiracial through foster home placement, cross-racial adoption from inside the United States, transracial adoption from foreign countries, and gay and lesbian multiracial partnering.

    Chapter 5 examines current multicultural counseling competencies and discusses their relevance in working with the multiracial population. Approaches, interventions and strategies that may be effective with the multiracial population are presented.

    Chapter 6 includes 5 case studies delineating application of content presented in the preceding chapters to work with an elementary-school-age biracial child, a transracially adopted college student, a multiracial adult, a multiracial couple, and a gay multiracial family.


    To Olivia and Elena, our peace and our light, a kiss from big woman, a hug from big man

    Love from all, including Grandma Bea who joins our family with all the colors of the rainbow

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    Author Index

    About the Authors

    Bea Wehrly, Ph.D., N.C.C., has 40 years of experience in teaching and counseling, the last 25 of which were at Western Illinois University. She is the author of Pathways to Multicultural Counseling Competence: A Developmental Journey (1995) and Counseling Interracial Individuals and Families (1996). She developed and taught the multicultural counseling course at Western Illinois University for the 8 years before she retired. Most recently, she has been conducting seminars on multiracial counseling in the United States, Canada, and Europe. She is the 1999 recipient of the ACA Professional Development award.

    Kelley R. Kenney, Ed.D., is Full Professor and Counselor at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania and Adjunct Professor at Chestnut Hill College of Philadelphia. She has over 15 years of counseling, supervision, teaching, and consultation experience. Her areas of interest and specialization include college student development, sexuality and HIV/AIDS awareness, diversity and multicultural issues, and multiracial individuals and families. She has presented programs, conducted workshops, and published on a number of these issues for local, regional, national, and international conferences and meetings. She will serve as Chair of the North Atlantic Region American Counseling Association for 2000–2001.

    Mark E. Kenney, M.Ed., N.C.C., is a counselor at Albright College in Reading, PA. His professional experince includes teaching in special education, secondary education, and higher education settings. As a counselor, he has worked in both private practice and college settings. His areas of specialization include academic intervention and mediation, adolescent male identity development, gay and lesbian issues, children coping with divorce, and fathering issues. He is a certified diversity trainer for the National Coalition Building Institute, as well as a certified presenter for the STEP Parenting program. He has done a significant amount of research on the historical context of interracial marriage and multiracialism and has been called upon as a consultant and presenter on these topics. He is the husband of Dr. Kelley Kenney.

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