Social Class and the Therapeutic Relationship: The Client's Perspective: To what extent do perceived differences in social class between client and therapist impact upon the therapeutic relationship? A qualitative study using a questionnaire survey.
AbstractThe inequalities in society are often mirrored within the therapeutic relationship, particularly for those therapists working in the NHS or for charitable organisations, where therapists are often middle-class and clients working or lower-class. The aim of this research was to explore, using a questionnaire survey, clients’ perceptions of the impact of social class and whether, and if so how, perceived social class disparities impacted the therapeutic relationship. Forty-five completed questionnaires fulfilling the inclusion criteria were returned. Using a quasiphenomenological approach and Thematic Analysis, four primary themes were identified: 1) Perceptions of own social class; 2) Social class as a facilitative aspect of therapy; 3) Negative impact of social class on therapy; and 4) Clients perceptions of their therapeutic relationship. Regardless of social status of the client or their therapist, social class similarities and disparities were found to both help and hinder the therapeutic relationship. Despite many respondents believing social class to be an irrelevant factor within their therapeutic relationship, this study illustrates that social class was a silent but powerful force affecting clients’ feelings of equality, which were often ignored. Though many respondents felt intuitively understood and experienced a more effective therapeutic alliance when perceiving client/therapist social class similarity, there was a danger that therapists could assume too much and/or collude with their clients. The findings also show that where there was social class disparity, though the quality of the relationship, and in particular empathy, were found to be crucial, the explicit recognition and acknowledgement of this disparity were shown to have a positive impact on the client, improving equality, increasing rapport and enabling greater psychological growth. For a client to take full benefit from therapy therapists must recognise the importance of social class and classism and the impact these have upon the therapeutic relationship, and be prepared to attend to these dynamics when appropriate.
CitationTrott, A. (2016). Social Class and the therapeutic relationship: The client's perspective: To what extent do perceived differences in social class between client and therapist impact upon the therapeutic relationship? A qualitative study using a questionnaire survey (Master's thesis). University of Chester, United Kingdom.
PublisherUniversity of Chester
TypeThesis or dissertation
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