White racial identity development of MFT therapists and its relationship to multicultural counseling competency and ethnocultural empathy

Nithyakala Karuppaswamy, Purdue University


The purpose of this research was to investigate the relationship of Helms's (1984, 1996) White racial identity development (WRID) model and socio-demographic variables on multicultural counseling competency (MCC) and ethnocultural empathy of Marriage and Family Therapy clinicians and students, when social desirability is controlled. Two hundred and twenty participants completed a survey consisting of (a) a Demographic Questionnaire, (b) White Racial Identity Attitude Scale (WRIAS), (c) the Multicultural Counseling Knowledge and Awareness Scale (MCKAS), (d) the Scale of Ethnocultural Empathy (SEE), and (e) the Marlowe-Crowne Social Desirability Scale. The scores on the WRIAS were first converted using the Profile Error Transformation scores method recommended by Helms (1996) to derive groups with unique profiles of salient racial identities. These groups were used as independent variables. MCC included two dependent variables of Knowledge and Awareness (the two subscales of MCKAS), and ethnocultural empathy had four subscales of Empathic Feelings and Expressions, Empathic Perspective Taking, Acceptance of Cultural Differences, and Empathic Awareness. Social desirability was the control variable. The first hypothesis that the more advanced the salient White racial identity status, the higher the MCC and ethnocultural empathy when social desirability is controlled was tested using MANCOVA. Due to the lack of variability in WRIAS scores, only three groups---Disintegration versus Contact, Pseudo-Independence versus Contact, and Autonomy versus Contact---could be compared. The hypothesis was supported only in the case of Pseudo-Independence versus Contact. The second hypothesis was predicting what socio-demographic variables related to the criterion variables of MCC and ethnocultural empathy when social desirability is controlled. Hierarchical regression analysis was used to analyze this hypothesis. Results indicated that among the socio-demographic variables, gender, multicultural training, age, professional standing, and education emerged as significant predictors of different dependent variables. Social desirability emerged as a significant control variable that differentially impacted the relationships between the dependent and independent variables. The significance of the WRID acting as a filter in multicultural training and clinical functions are discussed along with the limitations and clinical and research implications of this study.




Thomas, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology|Psychotherapy

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