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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Counselling clients with foreign accents : a comparison of counsellor anxiety with the accented and non-accented client Rungta, Susan A.


This research project was designed to determine whether anxiety in counsellors was higher with clients with foreign accents, and if so, whether this resulted in counsellors being less effective within the counselling session. Other feelings experienced by counsellors specific to counselling accented clients were also examined. Two separate, but related studies were conducted in which a comparison between two groups of counsellors-in-training was made. One group counselled a client with a European accent, while the other counselled a client with a Western Canadian speech style, typical of the region in which the study took place. Subjects in both groups were presented with a 20-minute video training tape of a client presenting a problem. Each subject was asked to respond verbally as they would in a real counselling session. The video tapes shown to the two groups were identical with the exception of the accent variable. The findings in both studies were similar. No statistically significant differences were found between the two groups in level of state anxiety as measured by the A-State of the STAI. Results from a questionnaire constructed specifically for this research project supported these findings. It did appear, however, that counsellors presented with the foreign accented client may have experienced more anxiety in the first few minutes of the session resulting from their inability to fully understand the accent. An unexpected finding emerged when both studies were examined together. It was found that a lower proportion of counsellors exposed to the foreign accented client expressed feelings on a frustrated/thwarted dimension (p<.05). More expected however, was the finding that higher levels of counsellor state anxiety were correlated with lower levels of counsellor functioning in the session (p<.001). The results of this study are discussed in relation to cross-cultural counselling, the anxiety-counsellor competence relationship, and sociolinguistic accent research. These results question several assumptions prevalent in the cross-cultural literature and suggest that a new set of issues may be emerging for the counsellor working with the minority client.

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