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Examining Mental Health Practitioners’ Perceptions of Clients Based on Social Class and Sexual Orientation

Abstract

There is negligible research exploring mental health clinicians’ perceptions of clients based upon client social class and sexual orientation (McGarrity, 2014; Whitcomb & Walinsky, 2013). The purpose of this study was to examine how licensed mental health clinicians’ perceptions of clients were influenced by a hypothetical client’s social class and sexual orientation using a 2 (lower social class vs. higher social class) 2 (lesbian vs. straight) quasi-experimental vignette-based design. Results from 257 practitioners demonstrated that the hypothetical client portrayed in the video was rated differently on levels of depression, anxiety, and flourishing, as well as job satisfaction and meaningful work. Participants who viewed the client portrayed as having a lower social class rated her as having more symptoms of depression and anxiety, as being less satisfied at work, as having lower levels of meaningful work, and as having lower levels of flourishing as compared with the participants who viewed the client portrayed as having a higher social class. Participants did not rate the hypothetical clients differently on symptoms of depression, anxiety, meaningful work, or job satisfaction based upon client sexual orientation. The lesbian client was rated as being significantly more attractive to work with and as having significantly higher levels of flourishing as compared to the straight clients. No interaction effects were demonstrated. Implications of these findings and directions for future research are discussed.

Keywords: vignette-based experimental design, social class, psychotherapy, therapist perceptions

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Thompson, M. N., Chin, M. Y., & Kring, M. (2019). Examining mental health practitioners’ perceptions of clients based on social class and sexual orientation. Psychotherapy56(2), 217-228.

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