Helm’s Model of White Identity Development 

Brief Overview

This theory assumes all individuals who identify as White begin with views of racism. Additionally, student affairs professionals will most likely interact with students in stage 3 & 4.

Printable Summary (PDF)

Previous cohorts of FSU students have developed these printable summaries and used them to prepare for test and papers.  We hope they’ll be of help to you too.

About the Author

Dr. Janet Helms introduced the White Identity Development model in 1990. Based on the work of William Cross it explores White identity development.

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory

Stages, Levels, Phases, and Components of the Theory:  

  • Abandonment of racism – acknowledge their complicity in maintaining a racist society
  • Evaluation of a non-racist identity – attempts to interact with other racial groups – trying to be white without being racist, evil, or bad
Application of Theory to Practice

This section is designed to provide student affairs professionals, staff, and faculty members with tips and tools to apply theory to practice.

Student affairs professionals should allow these students to speak their minds, make mistakes and have intentional conversations with these students as events occur. Unfortunately, some of the situations and words that may come to our campuses have been institutionalized or socialized without the students’ being aware.

Annotations of Associated Literature




Information submitted by Erica Wiborg

Original Citation

Helms, J. E. (1995). An Update of Helms’ White and People of Color Racial Identity Models. In J. G. Ponterott, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, and C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of Multicultural Counseling (pp.181-198). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Additional Resources

The following Prezi reviews Cross and Fhagen-Smith’s Model of Black Identity Development, Helms’s Model of White Identity Development, Ferdman And Gallegos’s Model of Latino Identity Development, Kim’s Asian American Identity Development Model, and Horse’s Perspective on American Indian Identity Development. The prezi includes critiques, application, and an activity. The prezi also includes a short preview of the movie Crash (2004) which displays many examples of racial identity development, though the prezi does not state them explicitly. The activity includes an extension of the video, which asks students to identify a fictional or a real character who portrays racial identity development. This is useful in providing alternate, tangible understandings of the various theories.
Link: https://prezi.com/mbvzdvjfrvwm/racial-identity-development/

A presentation of the theory and how it can be used and applied to students in higher education settings.                                             Link: https://prezi.com/4tcvcb5qpnb4/ferdman-gallegos-latino-identity-development/

Information submitted by Hollie Daniels

This page was written and created by Michelle Robinson. The webpage is maintained by Amanda Peerce and Jesse Ford.  For information on the page, please contact Amanda Peerce at apeerce@fsu.edu or Jesse Ford at jford3@fsu.edu.