Counselors-in-training's perceptions of clients: the influences of client weight and job status

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It is crucial for counselors to be aware of their own attitudes and beliefs and to prevent them from influencing the counseling process. The prevalence of obesity is growing and biases against obese people are becoming more apparent. Counselors must

It is crucial for counselors to be aware of their own attitudes and beliefs and to prevent them from influencing the counseling process. The prevalence of obesity is growing and biases against obese people are becoming more apparent. Counselors must become aware of the potential weight bias and what factors influence it. The purpose of the current study was to examine whether counselors- in-training hold negative attitudes toward obese clients and whether the career status of the client affects these perceptions. Seventy-six students in graduate level counseling programs at Arizona State University were randomly assigned one of four vignettes describing either an obese bookkeeper, a normal weight bookkeeper, an obese executive, or a normal weight executive. Negative attitudes were measured using two scales; one evaluating perceived personal characteristics of the client and one evaluating the perceived work efficacy. Results indicated that counselors-in-training perceived the client with more negative characteristics when the client was described as obese rather than normal weight, and also when she was described as having a low status job compared to a high status job. The perceived work efficacy of the presented client was not affected by the client’s weight or job status. It is important for students in counseling programs to receive training regarding weight biases and job status biases.