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Doctoral Dissertation Announcement
Candidate: Emily A. Nisley
Doctor of Philosophy
Department: Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology
Title: Counseling Professionals’ Anti-Trans Attitudes and Responses to Transgender Clients
Dr. Kelly A. McDonnell, Chair
Dr. Patrick H. Munley
Dr. Allison J. Kelaher Young
Date: Thursday, November 11, 2010 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
2211 Sangren Hall
The multicultural counseling movement emphasizes the critical nature of counselor attitudes in providing culturally competent service (e.g., Sue, 2001; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1982; Sue & Sue, 2003). Until recently, however, the counseling professions have paid little attention toward transgender people as a cultural minority group. The purpose of this study was to conduct the first assessment of counseling professionals’ anti-trans attitudes and to examine relationships between such attitudes and responses to a transgender client.
A national convenience sample of 138 master’s and doctoral level counselors and counseling psychologists, recruited via electronic mailing lists, participated in this web-based study. Participants read one of two written descriptions of a fictional client, a transgender-identified, gender-variant person, described as either biologically male or female. Participants assessed the client using the Global Assessment of Functioning scale (American Psychiatric Association, 2000) and assigned adjectives from the Adjective Check List (Gough & Heilbrun, 1983) expressing their favorable and unfavorable perceptions of the client. Participants completed the Genderism and Transphobia Scale (Hill & Willoughby, 2005), the Multicultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness Scale (Ponterotto, Gretchen, Utsey, Rieger, & Austin, 2002), an adapted measure of training and experience (Tomko, 2008) with additional items to assess beliefs regarding transgender etiology and personal familiarity with transgender people, and a demographic questionnaire.
Overall, the level of anti-trans attitudes in this sample was very low. Men, those with less personal familiarity with transgender people, less training and experience in counseling and assessment with transgender clients, and less perceived multicultural counseling competence expressed greater anti-trans attitudes. Neither anti-trans attitudes nor client sex were significantly correlated with, or predictive of, assessments of psychosocial functioning. Participants with greater anti-trans attitudes expressed fewer favorable perceptions of the client and more unfavorable perceptions. After controlling for education level, extent of training and experience in counseling and assessment with trans people, and years of counseling experience, neither anti-trans attitudes nor client sex predicted favorable perceptions of the client, while greater anti-trans attitudes, but not client sex, predicted more unfavorable perceptions. Findings, implications, and limitations are discussed and suggestions are made for future research.