Experiences of Prejudice, Role Difficulties, and Counseling Self-Efficacy among U.S. Racial and Ethnic Minority Supervisees Working with White Supervisors

By Nilsson, Johanna E.; Duan, Changming | Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, October 2007 | Go to article overview

Experiences of Prejudice, Role Difficulties, and Counseling Self-Efficacy among U.S. Racial and Ethnic Minority Supervisees Working with White Supervisors


Nilsson, Johanna E., Duan, Changming, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development


This study explored supervision experiences in 69 U.S. racial/ethnic minority supervisees working with White supervisors. The results demonstrated that perceived prejudice was associated with role ambiguity and role conflict in supervision, suggesting that supervision may not occur in isolation from trainees' lived experience. Implications for training and research are addressed.

Este estudio exploro las experiencias durante la supervision de 69 estadounidenses pertenecientes a minorias raciales/etnicas trabajando con supervisores Blancos. Los resultados demostraron que el perjuicio observado estaba asociado con la ambiguedad del rol y el conflicto del rol en la supervision, lo que sugiere que no puede darse una supervision aislada de la experiencia vital del aprendiz. Se abordan las implicaciones para la formacion e investigacion.

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As more U.S. racial and ethnic minority students enter the counseling and psychology professions, cross-racial supervisory relationships become increasingly common in such training programs. Racial and ethnic minority supervisees often find themselves in supervisory relationships, which are rather intimate by nature, with White supervisors (Fong & Lease, 1997). The cultural backgrounds of both supervisors and supervisees can influence the content, process, and outcome of supervision (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004; Brown & Brown-Landrum, 1995; Garrett et al., 2001). Although it is known that supervision plays a critical role in the training of students (Loganbill, Hardy, & Delworth, 1982), little is known about how cross-racial supervisory relationships influence U.S. racial and ethnic minority students' training experiences (e.g., Estrada, Frame, & Williams, 2004; Fong & Lease, 1997; Goodyear & Guzzardo, 2000). To gain knowledge in this area, we examined the relationships between role difficulties in supervision, counseling self-efficacy, and perceived prejudice in U.S. racial and ethnic minority supervisees (e.g., African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American) working with White supervisors.

According to Pinderhughes (1989), White privilege is present and unspoken in all cross-cultural interactions. This privilege is "an unnamed and unnoticed complex system of relationships ... in which Whites are conferred power and advantages and people of color are confronted [and resist] systematic and economic disadvantages" (Neville, Worthington, & Spanierman, 2001, p. 269). For White supervisors, unexamined White privilege can result in the acceptance of the mainstream Euro-American culture as the standard for evaluating behaviors and a disregard for the experience of individuals from other cultural and racial backgrounds (Fong & Lease, 1997). In comparison with White supervisees, U.S. racial and ethnic minority supervisees may be more cautious and less trustful of White supervisors because of White privilege, racism, and oppression (Brown & Brown-Landrum, 1995; Fong & Lease, 1997).

Also inherent in the supervisory relationship is a power differential, with the power afforded to supervisors given their evaluative and directive roles (Bernard & Goodyear, 2004). Because of this power differential, supervisees may feel confused about their roles in the supervisory relationship and vulnerable in their efforts to meet their supervisors' expectations. Olk and Friedlander (1992) identified two specific types of role difficulties that supervisees can experience: role ambiguity and role conflict. Role ambiguity refers to supervisees' lacking a clear understanding of what is expected of them, how to meet the expectations, and the consequences of ineffective behaviors. Although it may be difficult for any supervisee to ask for clarifications regarding supervisors' expectations and evaluation methods, U.S. racial and ethnic minority supervisees working with White supervisors may feel even more hesitant in raising such questions because of the dynamics associated with power and oppression. …

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