Academic Study Finds Possible Racial Bias by Mental Health Professionals

freudA new study by researchers at the University of Maryland, College Park and the University of Vermont found that racial bias may hinder African Americans from receiving mental health services.

Researchers made telephone calls to the office of nearly four hundred mental health professionals. One actor was used to make the calls. But about half the time she said her name was Allison and the other times she used the name Lakisha. The results showed that when the caller used the name Allison, she was invited to talk to the practitioner 63 percent of the time. When the name Lakisha was used, the caller got through to the mental health professional 51 percent of the time.

Lance Smith, an associate professor of counseling at the University of Vermont and a co-author of the study, stated that “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.”

The study, “Is Allison More Likely Than Lakisha to Receive a Callback From Counseling Professionals? A Racism Audit Study,” was published on the website of the journal The Counseling Psychologist. It may be accessed here.

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