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Study finds evidence of racial and class discrimination among psychotherapists

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firemonkee57

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Study finds evidence of racial and class discrimination among psychotherapists

WASHINGTON, DC, May 25, 2016 -- A new study suggests that psychotherapists discriminate against prospective patients who are black or working class.

"Although I expected to find racial and class-based disparities, the magnitude of the discrimination working-class therapy seekers faced exceeded my grimmest expectations," said Heather Kugelmass, a doctoral student in sociology at Princeton University and the author of the study.

Among middle-class people who contacted a therapist to schedule an appointment, Kugelmass found that 28 percent of whites and 17 percent of blacks received appointment offers. Appointment offer rates for both black and white working-class therapy seekers were 8 percent.

"The fact that this study uncovers discrimination in the private mental health care marketplace is consistent with previous audit studies that have revealed discrimination in other marketplaces, such as housing and employment," said Kugelmass, who noted that her research provides insight into ordinarily private exchanges that may subtly perpetuate disadvantage.

Study finds evidence of racial and class discrimination among psychotherapists | EurekAlert! Science News
 
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la femme foufolle

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This comes as no surprise. Therapists are biased just like everyone else. I recall my psychologist trying to obtain an appointment for me with a sex therapist once and he was told that they did not offer the services to people with mental health problems. Even my psychologist was surprised. It is not directly related but shows how prejudiced therapists in general can be.

I know that certain ethnic groups are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia than others, so why should psychotherapists be any different from psychiatrists? I think also this shows that they want what they think is going to be a more affluent customer who can provide more money if it becomes necessary and maybe they think they will find it easier to work with someone 'on their level'. Most psychotherapists, I would imagine, will be middle class and white, and possibly female, so it explains why they prefer white middle class female clients. It is blatant snobbery but what is also shocking is the low response rate from them to all potential clients. To not receive a call back seems rude and unprofessional but also as the article says brings the profession into disrepute. Psychotherapists are ridiculed anyway so it seems strange to bring further criticism on your discipline. I have never attempted to contact a private psychotherapist but although I live in a different country this does not inspire me to ever do so.
 
Rod Whiteley

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The study seems to have been based on phoney telephone calls, not on real people seeking real help. Only around a quarter of these callers were offered appointments at all, which suggests that either the therapists were extraordinarily busy or that they often suspected the calls were phoney. Successful therapy depends on a close working relationship—a therapeutic alliance—with the therapist, so that very busy therapists would be acting responsibly if they devoted their limited time to patients who appear to be a good cultural match to themselves. This seems to be exactly how they behaved. The study didn't appear to record the race and class of the therapists, but it seems likely that it tends to be a white middle-class profession. I think the study was unethical and the reporting of its results overblown.
 
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la femme foufolle

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Maybe, but you couldn't be completely honest about your intentions in this study as otherwise its validity would be ruined and the results would be false. If it's all about a perfect match then what do people other than the white middle classes do for psychotherapeutic help if all the therapists are white and middle class? It's still discrimination one way or another. I don't see why a white middle class person can't help a black working class one, unless their attitude towards the client is negative for any reason. Why would they think the callers were phoney anyway? Just because they didn't turn up in person? Most people probably contact first by phone. Also if you are covered by insurance then there should be no problem. Maybe they didn't believe that through prejudice. I can't think of any reason why they would think the calls were phoney, unless they always usually received white middle class clients. The results probably are overblown but you could say that about any study in the history of any science. I think they have made a good point here, if nothing else. It's well known psychiatrists are biased in diagnosis, so I am not surprised psychotherapists are too.
 
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firemonkee57

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There are absolutely no grounds for saying the phone calls were phony. Are we really being ignorant enough to suggest that black or poor people are much more likely to make phony calls?
Therapists should treat anyone who speaks their language and is a good therapeutic fit, regardless of class and cultural background.
 
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la femme foufolle

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I don't think that. Why would certain ethnic groups or classes be more likely to make phone calls? They wouldn't. I don't see why they would necessarily think they were phoney either. I totally agree with what you are saying. I don't know why people have to deny racism and snobbery in society when it so obviously goes on..

..Oh, I see what you mean, phoney calls. No I don't think ethnic minorities or working class people would be more likely to make phoney calls, that is bigoted thinking. I think it was just more likely that the psychotherapists were prejudiced, and took what they saw as their personal pick of the calls.
 
Rod Whiteley

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There are absolutely no grounds for saying the phone calls were phony...
The linked article explains how the study was conducted (my emphasis):
Each received voicemail messages from one purportedly black middle-class and one white middle-class caller of the same gender or from one purportedly black working-class and one white working-class caller of the same gender, requesting an appointment
That word "purportedly" means the people who left the messages were researchers pretending to be callers of a certain race and class. According to the linked article the therapists were being deliberately mislead.

That wording comes directly from the American Sociological Association press release, but the referenced journal article doesn't appear to be online yet, so I can't check whether or not the press release was accurate.
 
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firemonkee57

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^ If the therapists were being deliberately misled and the therapists knew for certain they were being misled, ie that the calls were phony, then there is still the question of why those they were lead to believe were black/poor were turned down more than those they were lead to believe were white/middle class.
If they were non discriminatory then the seeing of such calls as phony should have resulted in a much more even spread of refusals.Indeed if they really did know the calls were phony they should have turned down all the callers and not been willing to accept any of them.
 
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firemonkee57

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Re the class thing: Though I have gone down the social scale due to social drift I come from a solidly middle class background (private school educated,father a diplomat) and was still treated like shit by a couple of therapists. That suggests it may not just be social class that is a barrier in the therapeutic relationship. Despite my drift down the social scale I still have strong liberal, middle class values and certainly my accent was more refined than the one trained English therapist I saw.
Perhaps though the animosity was "You're no longer one of us" ie current social status trumped background when it came to the therapist's approach to me.
 
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firemonkee57

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Experimental Protocol
Voice-over artists recorded scripted messages using
racially distinctive names and adopting specified
race- and class-based speech patterns. I drew from the
large pool of survey takers on Amazon Mechanical
Turk (an online crowdsourcing marketplace) to select
final recordings for the experiment. Both of the white
female help seekers were voiced by one actress, as
were both of the black female help seekers. Similarly,
one male actor voiced both white conditions, and
another voiced both black conditions.
page 5/16

http://www.asanet.org/journals/JHSB/Jun16JHSBFeature.pdf
 
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