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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Influence of client social class on therapists’ perceptions and evaluations Hutchings, Anita Clare


This study was designed to explore whether initial information on client social class would impact negatively on the therapist's perception, evaluation and proposed treatment of the client. Respondents were randomly selected (N= 300) from the membership lists of the British Columbia Psychological Association and the Canadian Guidance and Counselling Association (British Columbian members). The return rate was 37% (N= 111). Of these, 49 were returned from the British Columbia Psychological Association and 62 from the Canadian Guidance and Counselling Association. Each respondent read the client information forms. They then filled out a questionnaire containing a seven-point Likert scale, a qualitative response section, a semantic differential of opposing adjectives, a respondent relationships form, and a demographics section. Half of the questionnaires contained the description of a lower social class client, and half contained the description of a middle class client. All remaining information was identical. Examination by total sample population, association and gender all produced significant results linked to client social class. The lower class client was evaluated as less intelligent, less knowledgeable, less capable, less clean, less hostile, louder, and more emotional than the middle class client. The CGCA respondents produced lower frequencies of presenting problems for the lower class client. Doctoral degree respondents produced less significant bias than respondents with master's degrees. An unusual pattern of evaluation linked to respondents' years of experience was apparent, however results by client social class were not significant. Caution is advised when translating results to real-life situations since counsellors may not necessarily respond in the same way in a real counselling setting as they would to a hypothetical client.

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