Assessing counseling psychology trainees' attitudes toward gay clients

Billy Sand, Fordham University


The present study investigated the effects of varying pathology and sexual orientation on the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale (GAF) and on two measures of attitude: the Semantic Differential (SDF) and the Attitude Toward Gay and Lesbian Scale (ATLG-S). The 184 participants, students in 20 randomly selected counseling programs across the United States, had to rate, in an independent group design, four hypothetical case vignettes: a heterosexual client with mild pathology, a homosexual with mild pathology, a heterosexual with moderate pathology, and a homosexual with moderate pathology. Results indicated a strong pathology effect (i.e., participants strongly distinguished between the mild and moderate pathology cases) but no sexual orientation effect. Participants did not rate the homosexual clients different than the heterosexual clients with respect to the Global Assessment of Functioning or the Semantic Differential. However, female participants demonstrated a relationship among the dependent measures while the male participants did not. That is, there were more significant correlations between GAF and SDF and ATLG-S and SDF for the female raters as opposed to the male raters, on the various combinations of orientation and pathology of the client. Although exposure to individual counseling training in the workplace did not have an effect on the ratings, the exposure to different topics in course work did in the direction of higher or better ratings. Recommended therapy hours differentiated among pathology but not sexual orientation. Both ATLG-S and SDF scores were in the range of neutrality indicating that participants in the present study adopted cautious rating criteria, or that counseling psychology students were not biased, or that they presented socially desirable attitudes. When participants were separated into groups of those with less positive attitudes toward gays and lesbians versus those with more positive attitudes, the pathology effect was upheld, but data hinted at a pathology by sexual orientation interaction with those participants with less positive attitudes rating the homosexual client with moderate pathology more positively than those with more tolerant ATLG-S scores, indicating a compensating effect or overcoming bias in assessment. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future research are also presented.

Subject Area

Psychology|Social psychology

Recommended Citation

Sand, Billy, "Assessing counseling psychology trainees' attitudes toward gay clients" (1998). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI3056155.