Describing Counselors' Social Class and Socioeconomic Status Understanding and Awareness

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Virginia Tech


Over the past 20 years, counseling professionals have become more committed to addressing multicultural competence and issues of diversity in order to respect and acknowledge the spectrum of worldviews clients represent. Race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and spirituality/religion are well-researched areas commonly included in counselor education courses. These courses allow counselors-in-training to examine their biases, beliefs, values, and worldviews about diverse populations, and develop applicable skills. However, far too often, social class and socioeconomic status are excluded from counselors' multicultural training, and similarly, often overlooked as an integral aspect of clients' culture (Liu, 2011; Smith, 2008). The current literature reveals that scholars have taken more interest in social class in the past decade, but none has explored counselors' social class awareness and understanding, two foundational aspects of multicultural competence. The purpose of this study was to describe counselors' social class understanding and awareness through qualitative methodology. Via semi-structured interviews, licensed counselors in the Commonwealth of Virginia described how they understood social class and socioeconomic status, their awareness about social class and socioeconomic status, and issues related to classism. Four themes emerged related to social class understanding and awareness: income/money, social class designations, social status, and the places people live. Three themes surfaced linked to socioeconomic status understanding and awareness: Income, education and financial stability. Two categories emerged with regard to classism: participants' classism experiences and participant demonstrations of classism during the interview process. Three themes arose related to participant demonstrations of classism during the interview process: class microaggressions, class misconceptions, and class privilege. Implications for counseling, counselor education, and supervision are discussed, study limitations are provided, and avenues for future research are considered.



Counseling, social class, socioeconomic status, multicultural, counselor preparation