The impact of counselor trainees' racial identity upon working alliance perceptions in same- and cross-racial dyads

Alan Walter Burkard, Fordham University


The racial identity of clients and counselors has emerged as an important clinical and research focus within counseling psychology. Past research has typically examined client within group differences as a way of understanding client preferences for the ethnicity and race of counselors (Atkinson & Lowe, 1995). Janet Helms (1990c), however, has postulated that racial identity, a with-in group difference, affects both the counselor and the client in the development of a counseling relationship. Helms has specifically hypothesized that a White counselor's ability to develop a counseling relationship with an African-American client is heavily influenced by the level of their racial identity development. To date, researchers have failed to directly explore this hypothesis. This investigation emanated from Helms's (1990c) theory. The hypothesis for this investigation was that White counselor trainees' racial identity would account for more variance for working alliance ratings than the perception of client race. This study comparatively examined the predictive effect of White racial identity and client race, in the development of same- and cross-racial working alliances. The counselor trainee sample consisted of 124 volunteer participants. The sample was randomly assigned to one of two treatment conditions: an African-American or White client. All participants read an intake and heard an audio-tape of a client. Participants completed the Working Alliance Inventory-Observer Form, a modified version of the therapist form of the Working Alliance Inventory, the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale, and a demographic questionnaire. The regression analysis results indicated that White racial identity attitudes accounted for more variance in the prediction of working alliance formation than the perception of client race. Generally, Disintegration and Reintegration attitudes were found to negatively predict working alliance formation, and Pseudo-Independence and Autonomy attitudes were found to positively predict working alliance formation for both African-American and White clients. These findings lend support to Helms's (1990c) hypothesis that White counselor's level of racial identity affects the development of effective cross-cultural counseling relationships.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Minority & ethnic groups|Sociology|Academic guidance counseling

Recommended Citation

Burkard, Alan Walter, "The impact of counselor trainees' racial identity upon working alliance perceptions in same- and cross-racial dyads" (1996). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9708257.