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Thu Oct 6, 2016, 04:24 PM

Therapists more likely to call back white sounding names like 'Allison' than 'Lakisha'

The study, designed to assess racial bias at the entry point of counseling services, analyzed callback rates of counselors and psychologists to voicemail messages left by an actor using both a stereotypically black and white-sounding name. When the actor left a message with the name of "Allison" she received voicemails that promoted services at a 12 percent higher rate when she used the name "Lakisha." The promotion of potential services was defined as an invitation for a conversation indicative of the counselor's interest in promoting future services.

"Our study, like similar studies within the fields of housing, economics and higher education suggests that counselors and therapists also perpetuate racial bias," says Lance Smith, associate professor in counseling at the University of Vermont and co-principal investigator (PI) of the study. "There's this dominant idea in our society that one is either a good person or racist, but you can't be both. Our study underscores the notion that well-meaning, beneficent people -- egalitarian people like mental health providers who are ostensibly highly trained in self-awareness and multicultural competence -- may exhibit implicit bias towards black people."


Initially, researchers were interested primarily in callback rates, but after finding no statistically significant difference (Allison received a few more callbacks than Lakisha), they decided to probe deeper. Smith says it was encouraging that counselors and psychologists met their mandated ethical responsibility of returning a potential client's phone call, but that further examination showed that Allison received more invitations for "follow-up phone calls or outright offers for services than Lakisha." For example, Lakisha received more messages from therapists who stated things like, "I'm afraid that my case load is full. I'm sorry that I won't be able to see you."



Black MINDS Matter, too.

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