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The attitudes of counsellors towards their client : does foreign accent make a difference? Alexander, Linda Jean


This research addressed the nature of mainstream counsellors' attitudes towards their culturally different clients. This investigator conducted two separate studies in which all of the subjects were students in the Department of Counselling Psychology at The University of British Columbia. The counsellors in the first study were in the first year of the counselling program (novice) while those in the second study were in their final year (mature). The research design was an experimental post-test only control group. Counsellors' attitudes towards their culturally different clients were investigated by presenting a client who had a foreign accent. In each study one group was exposed to a non-accented client in a counselling situation and the other group was exposed to a foreign-accented client. A matched-guise videotape of a client presenting a counselling problem was shown to the two groups of counsellors in each study. Each counsellor in the control group viewed a non-accented client and each counsellor in the experimental group viewed the same client but with a foreign accent. To measure the attitudes of counsellors towards their clients, a Semantic Differential Attitude Scale was constructed utilizing 50 bipolar adjectives. In addition, the counsellors responded to a written Interview Questionnaire designed to investigate what may influence the attitudes of the counsellors, such as: similarity of beliefs; perception of the client's motivation and an awareness of cultural differences. In both studies all counsellors rated the client in the accented and non-accented situations with an overall positive attitude on the Semantic Differential Scale. However, the counsellors exposed to the accented client, in Study One responded with a more positive intensity of attitude than the counsellors who viewed the non-accented client (p≤.001). The counsellors in the second study did not differ in their attitudes towards the accented or non-accented client (p>.05). In response to the Interview Questionnaire, the novice, beginner counsellors in Study One generally reacted to the client on a more personal level with the mainstream counsellors in the accented situation reporting more affinity towards the client. Those more mature counsellors in Study Two were less involved and attended to the external influences on the client (accented or not). Recommendations for future counselling research are suggested in the areas of the attitudes of counsellors towards their accented clients; similarity of experience as a variable which influences the cross-cultural counselling process; and the utilization of the matched-guise videotape in training and education.

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