Multiple Minority Identities: Applications for Practice, Research, and Training (Book Review)

Authors:  Nettles, Reginald and Rochelle Balter
Publisher:  Springer Publishing Company, 2012, 280 pp., New York
Reviewed by:  Yamile Molina

At a time when the intersectionality of identities has gained increased attention, Nettles and Balter offer an important set of readings to understand multiple-marginalized individuals through a holistic lens. They write for a diverse set of audiences, including researchers, clinicians, and educators. The book provides important insights with regard to the shared and distinct experiences of different forms of oppression, with a focus on race, ethnicity, LGBTQ identity, and disability. It emphasizes the need to address unique experiences of individuals with multiple stigmatized identities, including experiences of discrimination within their own communities (e.g., ableism among communities of color). Toward these ends, an introductory chapter and three major sections on research, practice, and training engage the complexity of intersectionality.

The introductory chapter and section one provide an overview of stigma theories through the lens of three forms of oppression: racism, heterosexism, and ableism. Shared and distinct aspects are described in historical and contemporary contexts, with an emphasis on the challenges of visibility and concealment. Social hierarchies and the influence of broader societal attitudes are offered to indicate both the additive nature of stressors for multiply marginalized individuals as well as experiences with discrimination among one’s own social network. For example, LGBTQ individuals of color experience racism and heterosexism from broader societal networks and also face heterosexism within communities of color and racism within LGBTQ relationships and communities. Consequences are described with regard to stigma management and mental health. Clinicians and educators will particularly appreciate this section, which offers clinical vignettes to support the reviews of different lines of evidence.

The second section illustrates several opportunities to employ therapeutic techniques for multiply marginalized populations. It focuses on the strengths of different standardized practices, including flexibility and ways to approach identity within clientclinician relationships. Different components and strategies toward cultural competence are discussed. They include being aware of the multifaceted nature of different forms of stigma and attending to tensions experienced between or within support networks (e.g., religion, family, and the LGBTQ community). The strengths of diverse approaches are highlighted with regard to the cooperative nature of therapy and the emphasis on activism and action that can be taken by clinicians. These techniques include self-reflection of prejudices, feelings, and beliefs. As well, clients can be active in terms of the direction of therapy and incorporate their needs in order to develop resilience as multiply marginalized individuals.

The third section incorporates the challenges of multiculturalism within the context of clinical training. Vignettes provide rich opportunities to understand individual responses to multiply marginalized statuses and the learning experiences that can arise from working with diverse populations (e.g., gay deaf individuals). Learning objectives include the ability to negotiate conflicts between different forms of identity as well as the potential vulnerabilities of experiencing microaggressions from well-intentioned authorities within educational contexts.

In conclusion, Nettles and Balter offer a worthwhile springboard from which to engage diversity issues through the emerging perspective of intersectionality. Indeed, this book offers opportunities to generate collegial and classroom conversations for individuals at different levels of understanding and experience on these topics.

The need to address multiple forms of stigma occurring between and within individuals at multiple levels further emphasizes the need for collaboration and cooperation across psychology to approach these complex societal issues. In addition, interactions within clinical and educational contexts are needed to incorporate existing research on multiculturalism into evidence- based practices that will allow for cultural adaptation.