The therapy hour in black and white : an exploration of counselor preference and cultural mistrust among African American students



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This study explored interpersonal trust, racial identity, perceived racism, and religious orientation as predictors of preference for a Black counselor and cultural mistrust. The unique variance of interpersonal trust and cultural mistrust in predicting preference for a Black counselor was also explored. The relationship between cultural mistrust and interpersonal trust was tested to determine whether or not they are independent constructs. This study also examined the relationship between racial identity and religious orientation. Gender differences in religious orientation, cultural mistrust and preference for a Black counselor were examined. Previous studies provide support that cultural mistrust contributes to negative help-seeking attitudes and underutilization of mental health services. Researchers have identified racial identity and perceived racism as correlates to and/or predictors of cultural mistrust and preference for a Black counselor (Whaley, 2001). This study involved participants recruited in part from the Educational Psychology (EDP) Subject Pool at The University of Texas at Austin (UT). Participants were also recruited from five student organizations at UT. Participants completed the survey using an online survey tool or a paper copy of the survey. One stratum was used for selection of participants: students who racially identify as African-American or Black. Results of the study revealed interpersonal trust as a significant predictor of preference for a Black counselor. However, exploratory analyses indicated that cultural mistrust served as the sole predictor of Black counselor preference when seeking a counselor for dealing with racial concerns. Interpersonal trust, immersion-emersion anti-white racial identity attitudes (IEAW) and extrinsic religious orientation were significant predictors of cultural mistrust. Results also indicated a positive relationship between Internalization Multiculturalist (IMCI) racial identity attitudes and intrinsic religious orientation. A negative correlation was found to exist between intrinsic religious orientation and IEAW. High cultural mistrust levels were also positively associated with high IEAW attitudes. Additionally, a small, yet statistically significant negative relationship was found to exist between cultural mistrust and interpersonal trust. Cultural mistrust did not account for a significant amount of variance above that of interpersonal trust in predicting preference for a Black counselor. Finally, no mean sex differences were found among levels of Black counselor preference, cultural mistrust, and intrinsic or extrinsic religious orientation. Exploratory analyses also revealed a positive relationship between cultural mistrust and seven out of ten scenarios for Black counselor preference. Individuals with a preference for a Black counselor reported higher levels of cultural mistrust related to issues concerning: excessive worry/anxiety, drinking too much alcohol/using drugs, relationship problems, feelings of harassment/feeling threatened, sexual issues, racial issues, and difficulty controlling anger. Results of the study bear implications for understanding cultural mistrust and interpersonal trust as it relates to counselor preference. Implications for counselors are also discussed regarding the intersection of racial and religious identities. Limitations and future directions for research are also discussed.