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Racial Bias and Vocational Rehabilitation Counseling – Factsheet

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Key Facts:

Fact 1:

Counselors form lasting impressions of their clients very early in their interactions with the clients. These impressions are resistant to change even in the face of contradictory information. This is called confirmatory bias.

Fact 2:

Impressions can be based on schemas and stereotypes. Proto-typical stereotypes of African Americans have remained largely unchanged throughout U.S. History.

Fact 3:

Counselor biases, based on client characteristics, may hinder valid assessment of client assets, and limit the client’s potential. This may, in turn, lead to continued negative stereotypes and can affect services rendered.
Stereotypes regarding African American Clients are often activated early in the rehabilitation counseling process, under conditions of uncertainty, when limited information is available.

Fact 4:

European American Rehabilitation Counselors have been shown to demonstrate bias in their estimates of African American clients’ vocational and academic potential.

Fact 5:

Rehabilitation Counselors can learn from this information and engage in bias reduction strategies.

Recommended Readings:

  • Rosenthal, D. (2004). "Effects of Client Race on Clinical Judgement of Practicing European Americans Vocational Rehabilitation Counselors," Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 47(3), p131-141.
  • Rosenthal, D., Berven, N., (1999). "Effects of Client Race on Clinical Judgment," Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 42 (3), 243-64.
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