Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Brian J. Dew - Chair

Second Advisor

Kris Varjas

Third Advisor

Barbara Gormley

Fourth Advisor

Catherine Cadenhead

Fifth Advisor

Leslie Jackson


African American women, in particular those who are economically marginalized, are disproportionately subject to surveillance by social service and criminal justice agencies (James et al., 2003) and are vulnerable to race- and gender-biased policy implementation (Chibnall et al., 2003; Zerai, 2002). They also experience population-specific personal (Ehrmin, 2001, 2002), social (Riehman, Iguchi, Zeller, & Morral, 2003; MacMaster, 2005), and economic barriers (Tighe & Saxe, 2006) to accessing and entering substance abuse treatment services. These factors contribute to lower rates of treatment entry follow-through (Siqueland et al., 2002) and higher drop-out rates (Scott-Lennox, Rose, Bohlig, & Lennox, 2000) than women from other racial and ethnic groups. This qualitative study explored African American women’s perceptions of mandated referral to substance abuse treatment and the impact of those perceptions on their treatment entry. The sample included 17 women age 18 years and over who were currently enrolled at three gender-specific treatment programs (one intensive outpatient and two residential) in a major southeastern urban area. This naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln and Guba, 1987) was informed by Black feminist epistemology (Collins, 2000) in accordance with recommendations for culturally sensitive research with women of color (Landrine, Klonoff, & Brown-Collins, 1995). Participants completed one-time, in-depth (one to two hour) interviews in which they were invited to explore their experiences with mandated substance abuse treatment referrals from state agencies (child protective services and the criminal justice system). Results indicate that participants generally perceived the treatment mandate as helpful. However, they also indicated that their willingness and ability to follow-through with treatment entry were influenced by multidimensional (Marlowe, Merikle, Kirby, Festinger, & McLellan, 2001) and interacting factors. Participants identified influence factors that included intra- and interpersonal concerns, the quality of interactions with state agencies, and treatment-specific issues. Results are presented along with suggestions for counselors and future research.