The influence of psychological assessment language on counselor trainees' evaluations of client characteristics

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ABSTRACT

Psychological assessments contain important diagnostic information and are central to therapeutic service delivery. Therapists' personal biases, invalid cognitive schemas, and emotional reactions can be expressed in the language of the assessments they compose, causing clients to be cast in

ABSTRACT

Psychological assessments contain important diagnostic information and are central to therapeutic service delivery. Therapists' personal biases, invalid cognitive schemas, and emotional reactions can be expressed in the language of the assessments they compose, causing clients to be cast in an unfavorable light. Logically, the opinions of subsequent therapists may then be influenced by reading these assessments, resulting in negative attitudes toward clients, inaccurate diagnoses, adverse experiences for clients, and poor therapeutic outcomes. However, little current research exists that addresses this issue. This study analyzed the degree to which strength-based, deficit-based, and neutral language used in psychological assessments influenced the opinions of counselor trainees (N= 116). It was hypothesized that participants assigned to each type of assessment would describe the client using adjectives that closely conformed to the language used in the assessment they received. The hypothesis was confirmed (p = .000), indicating significant mean differences between all three groups. Limitations and implications of the study were identified and suggestions for further research were discussed.