Limiting Unconscious Bias to Improve Client Outcomes

Jan 14, 2018

We all come from somewhere and that somewhere has likely influenced our view of others and how we interact with them. However, without self-examination, we may have blinders on as to the impact of our own upbringing on how we see and interact with others. This is known as unconscious bias.

While unconscious bias may seem innocuous, it at the same time can subtly (or not so subtly) influence our work with other people for better or for worse.

Depending on parental, social or cultural influences we may hold attitudes or beliefs about people which may be accurate or inaccurate. Particularly if inaccurate, those views can undermine good intentions. Unconscious bias can even influence our behavioural interaction style which may or may not work for some individuals.

Consider the interactional style differences of someone from Eastern European decent and someone of British decent. One person is apt to speak louder and include hand gestures whereas the other is more likely to be softer spoken and more circumspect in their movement. Taken together, one may consider the other to be shouting and the other withdrawn. To facilitate discussion, one may have to be invited into the conversation whereas the other may have to be helped to hold space open for the other. Each may see well or pejoratively of each other’s differences. Unconscious bias.

Taken further, unconscious biases can influence what we explicitly or implicitly support even if through subtle nods, smiles or grimaces. Consider the impact of that on your practice, particularly with people from minority groups, be that based on race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation or gender.

Those in helping professions can benefit from engaging in discussion and training to better examine their unconscious bias. It can be the subtle and at times less seen elephant in the room, none the less interfering with the better outcomes sought. As helpers, awareness of self improves outcomes for clients.

Please join us at the Ottawa High Conflict Forum Conference on March 22, 2018 where Allyson D. Robinson will offer a full day seminar for mental health professionals on the topic. Understanding and Mitigating Unconscious Bias: Insights and Tools for Lawyers and Clinicians Working with Families in Conflict