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Race, Class Impacts Accessibility of Psychotherapists

Appointment offer rates almost three times higher for middle-class versus working-class help seekers

psychiatrist and patient

FRIDAY, June 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Mental help seekers' race and class affect their ability to access mental health care, according to research published online June 1 in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Heather Kugelmass, from Princeton University in New Jersey, examined the effect of mental health help seekers' race, class, and gender on the accessibility of psychotherapists in a phone-based experiment. A total of 320 psychotherapists received voicemail messages from one black and one white middle-class help seeker or from one black and one white working-class help seeker, each requesting an appointment.

Kugelmass found that appointment offer rates were almost three times higher for middle-class help seekers versus their working-class counterparts. Among middle-class help seekers only, there were race differences, with blacks less likely than whites to be offered an appointment. Across gender, the average appointment offer rates were equivalent, but women were favored for appointment offers in their preferred time range.

"The results exposed a subtle avenue through which providers discriminate against a vulnerable population (i.e., those in need of mental health care) who already suffer from the disadvantages of being black and working class in American society," Kugelmass writes.

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