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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Restricted entry : do Punjabi Sikhs have equal immediate access to counselling and psychotherapy services? Stahre, Maria Karin


Research has shown that despite mental health practitioners’ intentions to provide unbiased service access to clients regardless of their race, gender, or culture (Truong et al., 2014), disparities persist in access across client sociocultural variables (Kugelmass, 2016; Kugelmass, 2019; Outadi, 2020; Moscovitz et al., 2023; Shin et al., 2016; Shin et al., 2020). One variable that has rarely been the subject of investigation in context of psychological treatment access disparities is religion. Since the Air India 182 and September 11th terrorist attacks, in Canada and the U.S. respectively, the Punjabi Sikh community in Canada has been subject to high rates of discrimination and hate crimes (Ahluwalia & Alimchandani, 2013; Mann, 2017). The current prevalence of general community prejudice against Sikhs could extend to the attitudes of counsellors and psychologists, constraining entry to the latter’s services. The objective of the current study was to examine if prospective Punjabi Sikh clients’ (men’s and women’s, specifically) access to counselling and psychotherapy services is impeded compared with non-Sikh clients, who represent the majority racial-religious group in Canada (i.e., White Christians). The study utilized an experimental design approach called a correspondence audit study as this method is commonly employed to assess for discriminatory behaviour and overcome social desirability bias. The independent variables under study were religion and ethnicity (Sikh or non-Sikh) and gender (man or woman). The main dependent variable was mental health practitioner receptiveness, which was determined by the type of response received by the prospective client requesting an appointment from the mental health practitioner. The secondary dependent variable was mental health practitioner responsiveness which was determined by whether the prospective client received a response back or not. The sample consisted of 853 licensed counsellors and psychologists in private practices located in Metro Vancouver, BC. It was found that being a woman meant a significantly higher probability of getting a practitioner response back to a request for services and being a non-Sikh man client meant a much lower probability of securing an appointment. The results suggest that mental health practitioners do vary in how responsive or receptive they are to a client based on the client’s gender and religious identity, which is consistent with practitioners potentially possessing gender-based or religion-based implicit biases, which impacts how accessible mental health services are to clients requesting appointments.

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