Sunday, June 17, 2012

Attitudes and Beliefs

Brief Summary of Results

I took the Religions and the Race implicit association tests (IAT). I took both tests twice to check the construct validity. I did, however, score similarly both times. The Religions test revealed negativity toward Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, although less negativity toward Buddhism. On the race test, I scored with little to no preference between Black and White faces, or between Black and White races. Although I was initially hesitant to accept the construct validity of the IAT, Carney, Banaji, and Krieger (2010) explain how implicit measures, such as the IAT uncover intrinsic and unconscious discrimination. In effect, this type of testing suggests a mental incoherence in how people discriminate compared to how they believe they discriminate (Carney, Banaji, & Krieger, 2010). Perhaps this is the essence of such testing; to provoke a personal acknowledgment of intrinsic bias and prejudice to which individuals might otherwise never concede.

Insights Gained

Little to No Preference of Black or White Faces

I was surprised that I scored with little to no preference toward Black or White faces. I have not consciously experienced any particular racial preference, neither have I had racist thoughts, but I have had only one close relationship with a Black person. I am certainly aware of racial differences and am acutely aware of my White identity, although according to Sue and Sue (2008) the level to which one identifies his or her White identity is predictive of racism: "the less aware subjects were of their White identity, the more likely they were to exhibit increased levels of racism" (p. 265). Regardless of preference identified in the IATs, or any lack thereof, I have recently gained a more accurate perspective of the experiences of diverse populations as well as how counselor attitudes affect their ability to counsel effectively (Sue & Sue, 2008). Personally poignant was Dermer, Smith, and Barto's (2010) contention that minority populations cope with "the constant bombardment of negative attitudes from society" (p. 329).

Prejudice and Bias Toward Religions

Although not a newly gained insight, I am well aware of my bias and prejudice toward religions - specifically Abrahamic doctrines that subtly but pervasively promote the subjugation of women as well as their tendency to effect individual's tendency toward rational thinking. I have had to practice withholding judgment and refraining from making assumptions and biased, prejudicial evaluations in social contexts. More important than containing my bias, I believe it is important to examine it, perhaps as a bit of my own unprocessed emotional experiences that, without exploration, may affect my relationship with clients, or cloud my ability to embrace their worlds. Like an emotional shortcoming, such prejudice and bias contribute to counselor ineffectiveness (Sue & Sue, 2008). Buckley (Laureate Education, Inc., n. d.) suggests counselors' values are always affecting clients. Knapp (2007) acknowledges that personal beliefs, attitudes, and values contribute to counselors' personal limitations and must be kept in check.

The Affect of Insights on Technique Delivery

Without making a conscious effort to acknowledge and maintain an awareness of personal preferences, biases, and belief systems, it would be a natural tendency to impose a personally biased evaluation onto clients. In some circumstances, such as when working with a religious individual, a counselor with my personal bias inclination needs to remain conscious of the imposition of personal beliefs. This will be especially difficult if I believe my client is being limited or exploited by the canons of his or her religion or imposed upon by the religious beliefs of others. Although providing clients with resources can be critical in the therapeutic relationship, it is equally important to refrain from inflicting clients with personal values (ACA, 2005). Similarly, when working with people of color, I must also be aware of the cultural differences between myself and my clients, and be vigilant that I do not make assumptions that their experiences, beliefs, and values are similar or inferior to my own. Although I do not directly experience bias and prejudice toward any race, I have become aware of my personal mental incoherence that may indicate otherwise (Carney, Banaji, & Krieger, 2010).


The conscious and unconscious effects of cultural influences significantly affect the way societies, cultures, nations, and individuals relate (Sue & Sue, 2008). In many circumstances, diverse human populations remain separate or ostracized, sequestered only by a psychological impasse created by a nebulous composition of bias, prejudice, and inflexible belief systems. "As counselors, we do not have the option of ignoring cultural influences" (Hays, 2008, p. 218). Rather than supporting and conforming to traditional fixes that merely support the dominance and superiority of one group over another, helping professionals must squarely confront diversity and its surrounding conflict. Developing and perpetuating the ability to empower and respect cultural differences is critical. Although fallibility is inherent in learning, the more counselors recognize and confront personal bias, the further removed from its limitations they will be.


American Counseling Association (ACA). (2005). 2005 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from the ACA website: f98489937dda

Carney, D., Krieger, N., & Banaji, M. R. (2010). Implicit Measures Reveal Evidence of Personal Discrimination. Self and Identity, 9(2), 162-176.

Dermer, S. B., Smith, S. D., & Barto, K. K. (2010). Identifying and correctly labeling sexual prejudice, discrimination, and oppression. Journal of Counseling & Development, 88(3), 325–331. doi: 10.1080/13594320902847927

Hays, P. A. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Knapp, H. (2007). Therapeutic communication: Developing professional skills. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Laureate Education, Inc. (Producer). (n. d.). Attitudes, Values, and Beliefs [Streaming Video]. Baltimore: Author.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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