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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Racial Dynamics Among Clients in Residential Substance Use Disorder Treatment Facilities

  • Author(s): Huang, Jo (Mulun)
  • et al.

Previous studies have outlined the importance of culturally competence practices, such as racial match between client and counselor and counselors’ knowledge of racial issues, for racial minorities who seek treatment for substance use disorders. Racial identities play a crucial role in defining social interactions in correctional facilities and homeless shelters, which have overlapping  population demographics with residents of residential facilities for publicly-funded substance use disorder treatments, suggesting that racial dynamics may also affect clients’ experiences in this setting. This study seeks to investigate the racial dynamics among clients in residential substance use treatment facilities by interviewing clients in a facility in South Los Angeles about their interracial interactions, perceptions of clients of race and ethnicity different from their own and discussing how racial dynamics might affect their progression and outcome with treatment. 9 semi-structured interviews with clients in a female-only residential facility were conducted. Based on analyses of transcribed interviews, clients recounted that racial differences do not play a significant role in their experiences in treatment, especially compared to the street environment or correctional facilities, although racial identities are salient in social group formation. Motivation to recover from addiction and other shared lived experiences facilitate interracial solidarities within the treatment setting. This study suggests that treatment facilities could take advantage of clients’ similar experiences and interracial solidarity to create a sense of connectedness and inclusion in treatment.

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