An Experimental Test of Microaggression Detection in Psychotherapy: Therapist Multicultural Orientation

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Previous studies have documented a relatively high rate of racial–ethnic microaggressions in therapy (e.g., 53% to 81% of clients have reported at least 1 microaggression). In addition, clients who perceive racial–ethnic microaggressions from their therapist have reported lower working alliances and worse therapy outcomes. In one study, over 75% of microaggressions went unaddressed in psychotherapy, and the reason for this is not fully understood. It could be that therapists do not recognize racial–ethnic microaggressions when they occur or feel anxiety about the process of addressing them. A 1st step is to determine whether therapists are able to recognize racial–ethnic microaggressions. The current study included 78 therapists who were randomly assigned to one of 2 conditions: (1) a video vignette of therapy session with 3 racial–ethnic microaggressions (i.e., microaggression condition) and (2) a video vignette of a therapy session with no microaggressions (i.e., neutral condition). The results demonstrated that when compared to those in the neutral condition, participants in the microaggression condition rated the therapist as less sensitive overall, less culturally comfortable, and less culturally humble and as having missed more cultural opportunities. Within the microaggression condition, 38% to 52% of therapists accurately identified one of the 3 microaggressions.

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