Sunday, August 5, 2012

Issues of Social Class

Although there is nothing inherently wrong with being from one social class or another, differences in perspectives and attitudes can become insidious platforms for creating in-group and out-group affiliations (Sue & Sue, 2008). This separation usually comes from a force that remains, for the most part, invisible. Having to reflect on one's social class can be daunting when one perceives the inherent shortcomings of the American class system and the superficial, albeit real, constraints that limit members from each class. Lower, middle, and upper class are labels with tremendous implications regarding one's quality of life, opportunity, and access to resources, such as money, knowledge, and power (Kraus, Piff, Mendoza-Denton, Rheinschmidt, & Keltner, 2012). The insidious nature of these social classes is reflected in their provocation of social and personal assumptions of superiority as well as inferiority. These assumptions pervade worldviews and basic perceptions, and contribute to misunderstandings (Sue & Sue, 2008).

Implications in Therapy

I am acutely aware of challenges that may arise when working with clients from different social classes, and I continue to evaluate the perspectives that are a product of my social class. I also understand that perceptions related to my unconscious worldview are, most likely, of little consequence to some clients and could hinder my ability to be effective. My perceptions and worldviews are colored by the lens of my socialization, and although I do not believe I have specific biases or prejudice toward individuals of other classes, I am often starkly aware of my differences and how others perceive them.

According to Kraus, Piff, Mendoza-Denton, Rheinschmidt, and Keltner (2012), observable symbols of wealth, education, and occupation signal social status in dyadic communication. I will remain aware of signals I may unconsciously present so clients do not judge me as different and unable to understand their world. Although my perceptions could be a liability, I believe they are surmountable. I will continue to re-evaluate my own perceptions and acknowledge my differences. As I become more comfortable with my ability to help others, the effects of my socialization will become less intrusive in my work with clients from other social classes.


Kraus, M. W., Piff, P. K., Mendoza-Denton, R., Rheinschmidt, M. L., & Keltner, D. (2012). Social class, solipsism, and contextualism: How the rich are different from the poor. Psychological Review, 119(3), 546-572. Retrieved from

Schwarzbaum, T. S., & Thomas, A. J. (2006). Chapter 14: Anthony's story. In Culture and identity: Life stories for counselors and therapists (pp. 217-237). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

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