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Helm's White Racial Identity Model

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Kristen Heller

on 23 November 2014

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Transcript of Helm's White Racial Identity Model

Helms' Lens of Coping
A Multi-Lens Perspective
Divided Into Phases: One and Two
People are oblivious to racism because they
White Racial Identity Theory
Down to the Basics
Therapeutic Implications of the Model
Phase One: Abandonment of Racism
Phase Two: Construction of Non-Racist Identity
This model provides a framework to understand what it means to be White.

This model is a way to use different lenses for viewing our environment and how the dominant society copes and reacts to issues of race.

November 24, 2014
Kristen Heller, Jess Klicpera, Justin Slater
CNSL 525 - Ngazimbi
Brief Biography &
Description of Model
Janet Helms: A Race & Culture Advocate
Understanding Racism and Whiteness
Implications for Counseling
Professor of counseling and developmental/educational psychology at Boston College (Boston College, n.d).
Director of the institute for the study and promotion of race and culture (Boston College, n.d).
Serves on the editorial boards for a variety of publications (Boston College, n.d).

-The White Racial Identity Attitude Scale (WRIAS)
***Information & Importance****
-Assumptions related to the White Identity Model by Helms
1) Understand the different White Racial Identity Development models and why they are used in counseling.
2) Accept that racism still permeates our culture and being a White American in society means that you abide by the stereotypes, beliefs and behaviors that have been associated as the norm.
3) Work on understanding Whiteness and how you contribute to the definition of Whiteness.
4) Become culturally aware by surrounding yourself with different realities experienced in various cultures.
5) Be aware of the thoughts and feelings you may have when around an individual from a different background. Think about how those thoughts are race-related and why you feel the way you do.
6) Learn to become an advocate for minorities- this means acting and reacting when another White American makes racist remarks and correcting him or her.
Helms' White Racial Identity Model
Distinct lack of awareness with regard to racism in its many forms and to the existence of white privilege.

Beliefs are informed by the stereotypes expressed by family members, friends, the media, and various institutions; not derived from accurate information.

Information processing strategy (IPS): obliviousness or denial (Helms, 1995).

White’s may invoke “color-blindness” during this status and operate in ways that suggest ignorance is bliss.
Avoidance of racial issues is often demonstrated (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Example: “I’m a white woman, my ancestors experienced discrimination as immigrants and they didn’t blame others. Instead they worked hard and were able to succeed. Discrimination does not exist anymore in this day in age.” (Helms, 1995).

The transition to the next stage occurs when individuals acknowledge the differences in treatment of minorities versus white and break free from their denial (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Can be viewed as an awakening period fraught with conflict.

An awareness regarding White privilege develops with an emerging recognition of the advantages of being white.

Feelings of shame, guilt, and anxiety may arise in relation to the role that Whites play in maintaining a discriminatory society (Sue & Sue, 2013).
experience an internal struggle between wanting to maintain acceptance by the white group and feelings of distress about the unfair treatment of minorities (Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).

Information processing strategy of suppression and ambivalence (Helms, 1995).
Reflected in the struggle between being a part of the White group while at the same time experiencing distress about racial disparities.
To resolve this conflict, an individual might attempt to return to the ideals of the normative White group and its racist ideologies (Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).
This may be accomplished by “avoiding contact with people of color, not thinking about race, and seeking reassurance from others that racism is not the fault of Whites” (Sue & Sue, 2013 pg. 325).

When an individual has re-adopted the typical White ideals, it is believed that they have entered the reintegration status (Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).

Marked by a regression to beliefs of white superiority and minority inferiority (Sue & Sue, 2013).
Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson suggest that, for all intents and purposes, this status may be considered as the most outwardly racist status of the model with an idealization of the White group.

White individuals will often revert to the use of stereotypes and believe that success is based on effort; a reflection of the middle class work ethic.
Contained within this defense of white privilege and status quo, is the underlying belief that we have earned our privileges and should not be blamed held responsible for the failings of others.
This indicates a strong dichotomy between positive white identification and negative perceptions regarding minority groups.
Fear of, anger toward and the blaming of minority groups is typically exhibited (Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).

IPS: selective perception and negative out-group distortions

Examples of reintegration may be found in statements related to the unfairness of affirmative action, minimization of historical atrocities towards minorities, dismissal of own responsibility in oppression, etc.

A transition to the second phase of the model is likely to be a result of a significant event which challenges the individual in a personal manner (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Marks the beginning of a search for a new White identity. An individual typically experiences uneasiness with taking a racist stance and displays a misleading tolerance for minority groups (Helms, 1995; Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).

Concepts related to racism are intellectualized and an acceptance for the responsibility of Whites in past and ongoing racism occurs (Sue & Sue, 2013).
However, despite this new awareness, the individual continues to be in denial about their personal responsibility in maintaining a racist society.
Racism is viewed as separate and unrelated to their own actions. As such, the individual may continue to behave in ways that unintentionally perpetuate the racist system (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Due to the intellectualized nature of this status, a curiosity develops about other minorities.
To satisfy this curiosity, Whites will actively seek out interactions with people of color. Sympathy towards the plight of minorities will emerge along with efforts to help those who are targeted by racism (Sue & Sue, 2013).

IPS: reshaping of reality and selective perception (Helms, 1995).

Transition to the next status occurs when the individual experiences repeated positive reinforcement in their quest for a new White identity.

Reflects an active questioning stance.

It involves a search for accurate information about race as well as engaging in self exploration regarding racist socialization as Whites in the Unites States (Ponterotto, Utsey, & Pederson, 2006).
White privilege comes to the forefront of the individual’s awareness with a deeper understanding of the advantages enjoyed by simply being White.

The knowledge gained during this status is then used to construct a new definition of whiteness that leads to increased feelings of comfort with being White.

Additionally, one can expect to see active involvement in social activism to fight racism during this time (Helms, 1995).

IPS: hypervigilance and reshaping
reflected in the search for accurate information and in the formation of a new identity.

Helms believes that in order to transition from this status, an individual must experience an emotional catharsis that “forces the person to relive or reexperience previous emotions that were denied or distorted” (Sue & Sue, 2013 p. 326).
This is most likely a very uncomfortable and emotionally laden experience as it requires according to Winter, the recollection of personal memories associated with blackness and being black, racial stereotypes and images that have been witnessed, as well as any race related things that have personally been committed (as cited in Sue & Sue, 2013, p. 326).

White person enjoys positive feelings of being White.

The new identity is fully integrated and the capacity to relinquish white privilege has developed (Helms, 1995).

Diversity is valued and actively sought in order to learn more about other cultural groups.

The need for oppression is abandoned and a comprehensive understanding of racism and its many forms is demonstrated (Sue & Sue, 2013).

Direct attempts to eliminate racism in whatever form it may take is often associated with autonomy.

IPS: Flexibility and complexity are the information processing strategies utilized.

Each status reflects a representation of distinct information processing strategies (IPS) in response to racial stimuli (Helms, 1995).
**These involve obliviousness, suppression and ambivalence, selective perception of negative out-group distortion, reshaping reality and selective perception, hypervigilance and reshaping, and flexibility and complexity (Helms, 1995).

Model updated in 1995 to this model in which she addresses her use of the term “stages” as replaced by the term “statuses” (Helms, 1995).
**The new term implies a less rigid structure to the model that allows for a more fluid understanding of an individual’s journey and the interplay that often occurs between the different statuses.

lack an understanding of racism
(Janet Helms, 2014)
-Blair, M. (2008)."Whiteness" as institutionalized racism as conspiracy: Understanding the paradigm. Educational Review, 60(3), 249-251.
Blair, 2008; McDermott & Samson, 2005; Pope Davis & Ottavi, 1994
-Helms, J.E. (1995). An update of Helms’s White and People of Color racial identity models. In J. G. Ponterotto, J.M. Casas, L.A. Suzuki, & C.M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (pp. 181-198). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. Retrieved from ed-share.educ.msu.edu/scan/ead/renn/helms.pdf
-Helms, J.E. (2014, August). The 2014 Merle Jordan Conference. Retrieved from
-McDermott, M., & Samson, F. (2005). White Racial and Ethnic Identity in the United States. Annual Review of Sociology, 31, 245-261.
-Pope Davis, D., & Ottavi, T. (1994). The Relationship Between Racism and Racial Identity Among White Americans: A Replication and Extension. Journal of Counseling & Development, 72, 293-297.
-Ponterotto, J. G., Utsey, S. O., & Pedersen, P. B. (2006). European American (white) racial identity development, mental health, and prejudice. In Multicultural Aspects of Counseling and Psychotherapy Series: Preventing prejudice: A guide for counselors, educators, and parents. (2nd ed., pp. 88-109). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781452225678.n5
-Rowe, W., Bennett, S., & Atkinson, D. (1994). White Racial Identity Models: A Critique And Alternative Proposal. The Counseling Psychologist, 22(1), 129-146.
- Sue, D., & Sue, D. (2013). White Racial Identity Development: Therapeutic Implications. In Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and Practice (6th ed., pp 313-339). New York: J. Wiley & Sons.
Sue & Sue, 2013; McDermott & Samson, 2005; Helms, 1995
Helms, 1995; Ponterotto, Utsey, & Peterson, 2006)
Helms, 1995; Ponterotto, Utsey, & Peterson, 2006)
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