The Ethics of Cultural Self-Awareness: Exploring Therapist Biases and the Counseling Process

Understanding cultural issues is critical to providing superior care and is an ethical mandate. The various ethics codes discuss culture as it relates to the counseling process. As examples, the APA code states that psychologists “ensure that their potential biases…do not lead to or condone unjust practices” and the ACA code requires that counselors “explore their own cultural identities and how these affect their values and beliefs about the counseling process.”

In this workshop we will explore how the therapist’s cultural values and biases can affect interactions with people who are different from them in various ways, including and especially their clients. We will discuss bias as it applies to many “categories,” such as race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, age and physical ability. Of course, the goal of this workshop is not to eliminate biases, an impossible task, but to increase awareness of them so that they do not interfere with the client’s progress.

The challenge is that therapists often see themselves as fair and decent people. They are also in positions of power so they may miss the bias that occurs, particularly microaggressions and implicit bias. Moreover, clients are less likely to confront their therapist due to this power dynamic. We will discuss steps therapists can take to reduce bias or at least, the impact of bias.


Learn how to conduct “cultural auditing” throughout the therapeutic relationship

Review research studies that illustrate the negative impact of bias inside and outside the counseling room

Recognize microaggressions and implicit bias and discover ways to reduce them

Review obstacles to honest self-examination

Identify an ethical decision-making model that includes cultural factors