Alberta High School Counsellors' Knowledge of Homosexuality and Their Attitudes toward Gay Males

Article excerpt

In this study we investigated Alberta high school counsellors' knowledge about homosexuality and their attitudes toward gay males. Three questionnaires were mailed to 648 high school counselling centres; 223 individuals returned the completed questionnaires. Most counsellors attained low scores in measured homo-negativity and high scores regarding knowledge of homosexuality. Results from a Pearson correlational analysis indicated a negative significant relationship between the level of knowledge about homosexuality and homo-negativity, supporting other researchers' findings that higher levels of knowledge may be accompanied by more positive attitudes.

Key words: homosexual males, beliefs, mental health professionals

Les auteurs ont analyse les connaissances de conseillers d'orientation scolaire du secondaire au sujet de l'homosexualite et leurs attitudes vis-a-vis des gais. Trois questionnaires ont ete postes a 648 centres d'orientation ; 223 personnes ont retourne les questionnaires dument remplis. La plupart des conseillers d'orientation ont obtenu des scores faibles pour l'homonegativite et des scores eleves pour les connaissances au sujet de l'homosexualite. Les resultats d'une analyse correlationnelle indiquent un net lien negatif entre le niveau de connaissances sur l'homosexualite et l'homonegativite, ce qui corrobore les conclusions d'autres chercheurs selon lesquelles de meilleures connaissances peuvent s'accompagner d'attitudes plus positives.

Mots cles : homosexuels, croyances, professionnels de la sante mentale

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At national, provincial, and school district levels, commitments are in place for the safety and quality of life for sexual minorities. Historically, gay males have been at increased risk for suicide, social isolation, self-abusive behaviour, and victimization by bullying and violence. Because of the nature of safety and quality of life issues for gay males, high school counsellors could be expected to be an important resource for gay male students.

In Alberta, graduate programs in counselling include little training regarding gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) individuals, although effective counselling with minorities depends upon counsellors having affirming attitudes, adequate knowledge, and specific skills pertinent to the minority group. At the provincial level, Alberta's reluctance to provide equal rights to gays and lesbians can be seen as reflecting homonegativity. Thus, although other research, described in the next section, has typically found that counsellors have positive attitudes to gay males, this study investigated Alberta high school counsellors' knowledge regarding homosexuality and their attitudes toward gay males. To do so, we endeavoured to invite all Alberta high school counsellors (grades 10 to 12) to complete three questionnaires. We were interested in the general levels of knowledge and attitudes, and the relationship between the two. Previous research has suggested that higher levels of knowledge may be accompanied by more positive attitudes.

EXPECTATIONS REGARDING THE MULTICULTURAL COMPETENCE OF COUNSELLORS

Counsellors today are expected to be multiculturally competent: they have developed sufficient capability to work with clients' particular form of diversity (Canadian Psychological Association, 2000; Sheppard, Schulz, & McMahon, 2007). In articulating the nature of multicultural competence, most attempts have focused on three dimensions that counsellors need: (a) having affirming attitudes, (b) developing adequate knowledge, and (c) learning specific skills pertinent to a diverse group (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). Arrendondo et al. (1996) theorized that by having understanding and knowledge of the effect of racism, oppression, discrimination, or stereotyping on others, counsellors would become more aware of their own racist beliefs, attitudes, and feelings. Counselling sexually diverse individuals was included within their multicultural framework (Arrendondo, 1999). …