Counselor attitude and racial consciousness: Their relatedness to perceived severity of client pathology
Rendering a diagnosis is one of the most difficult parts of assessing clients. Before an intervention can begin, it is of utmost importance that a bias free decision be made since a clinical diagnosis will dictate the course of treatment. As noted by Westermeyer (1987), factors such as clinical misdiagnosis and overestimation or underestimation of a client's presenting problem often arises when clinicians and clients of different cultural backgrounds engage in this therapeutic process. This study sought to examine the relationship between a clinical trainee's racial consciousness and his or her ratings of a client presented in vignette form. Out of 125 research packets distributed to five colleges or universities in the southeastern portion of the United States, 55 were completed and returned. Each participant completed a rating scale (B-DPRS) and questionnaire after reading a case vignette. Participants also provided demographic information. The race of the vignette was manipulated (i.e., Black and White) and results were compared for specific symptom dimensions on the B-DPRS. Also, once the participant's racial consciousness attitude was determined, specific symptom dimension rating scores these individuals assigned his or her client were compared. The results of this study suggest individual bias does not significantly interfere with the clinical process of rendering a diagnostic impression. The Black client did not receive higher ratings on any of the symptom dimensions examined (i.e., Hostility, Paranoid Ideation, Psychotocism, Depression, and Anxiety) which was inconsistent with the work of previous researchers (e.g., Bulhan, 1985; Cannon, 1977; Garretson, 1993). When the relationship between racial consciousness attitude and pathology ratings were examined, no significant results were identified. It is likely that a minimization of client pathology (i.e., halo effect) may have been present in participants' ratings of the minority client. However, it is also possible that individuals may be able to compartmentalize biases and rate clients of different racial backgrounds impartially.