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Counseling Gifted African American Students: Promoting Achievement, Identity, and Social and Emotional Well-Being

Donna Y. Ford

The educational and socioemotional status of African Americans is a major concern of educators, counselors, and reformers. Much of this concern stems from the unfortunate reality that African American students represent a significant portion of the educationally and socially disenfranchised. Educationally, African Americans have disproportionately high rates of dropout, high representation in special education, and high rates of poor academic achievement; vocationally, they have disproportionately high rates of unemployment and underemployment; and socially, African American have disproportionately high rates of incarceration and teen pregnancy.

If efforts to help African American students lead rewarding lives are to be effective, there must be a collaborative partnership among families, educators, and counselors. Too often, however, the crucial role of counselors in this partnership has been limited to providing academic assistance to teachers. This unidimensional focus ignores the many contributions counselors make to the overall well-being of students, particularly African American students.

Historically, counseling gifted students has not been an important part of educational and counseling discourse. Misperceptions and stereotypes of gifted students as being immune to social, emotional, and academic problems have contributed to the lack of counseling for these students. When counseling has been provided, it has been limited primarily to academic counseling, and assessment and placement issues. Because more children are entering school with serious personal and academic problems, the roles and responsibilities of counselors must change and expand to meet the needs of all children who seek their guidance and assistance.

The purpose of this monograph is to help bridge the fields of education and counseling, focusing in particular on the academic, social and emotional, and psychological concerns of gifted African American students relative to achievement issues, social and emotional issues, and psychological issues. Also discussed are gender issues between African American males and females relative to social and educational variables; barriers to counseling for African American students, including those identified as gifted; and recommendations for counselors who work with these students.

Counselors are in an ideal position to ensure that African American students remain in gifted programs once identified and placed. Counselors represent an important component of both the recruitment and retention of students in gifted programs. Because a major goal of counseling is to promote healthy self-concepts and to ensure psychological growth, counselors must have an awareness and understanding of the many issues that hinder gifted African American students' psychological, as well as social and emotional well-being.

Ford, D. Y. (1995). Counseling gifted African American students: Promoting achievement, identity, and social and emotional well-being (RBDM 9506). Storrs: University of Connecticut, The National Research Center on the Gifted and Talented.


Counseling Gifted African American Students: Promoting Achievement, Identity, and Social and Emotional Well-Being
Donna Y. Ford


  1. Focus on and acknowledge the strengths of gifted African American students.
  2. Help gifted African American students to build positive social and peer relations.
  3. Promote social competence and encourage biculturality among African American students.
  4. Teach African American students how to cope with social injustices.
  5. Adopt broader and more comprehensive definitions of underachievement.
  6. Involve families, African American professionals, and community leaders in the learning and counseling process.
  7. Explore the quality and quantity of support systems and resources available to African American students.
  8. Integrate multiculturalism throughout the learning and helping process.
  9. Counsel African American students using their preferred learning styles.