In a widely cited 2003 report, the U.S. Surgeon General criticized mental health and social services within the United States for failing to adequately serve the needs of clients of color. The report highlighted the fact that therapists often do not adequately account for cultural variables in their evaluations or interventions. Clients of color are rarely seen by therapists who adequately understand their cultural values and backgrounds. To address this discrepancy, researchers have explored a variety of therapy process and outcome variables across clients seen by therapists of their same race vs. another race (often called "ethnic matching"). Over 200 of these studies have appeared in the literature, but few conclusions have been drawn due to the large disparity across findings. To more accurately summarize these studies, three rigorous quantitative reviews using meta-analytical methods were conducted. Forty-nine studies met inclusion criteria for the first meta-analysis (client preference studies), with the average effect size across studies being d = .65, indicating a strong preference for a therapist of the same ethnicity or race. Seventy-seven studies met inclusion criteria for the second meta-analysis (client perception studies), with the average effect size across studies being d = .33, indicating that ethnically matched clients tend to perceive their therapists moderately better than they perceived ethnically mismatched therapists. Fifty-two studies met inclusion criteria for the third meta-analysis (client outcome studies), with the average effect size across studies being d = .09, indicating that ethnic matching had minimal impact on client outcome. The effects of potential moderator variables, including age, gender, and ethnicity were also investigated. The results of this meta-analysis help inform current practice and future research efforts to promote multiculturally competent mental health interventions.
College and Department
David O. McKay School of Education; Counseling Psychology and Special Education
BYU ScholarsArchive Citation
Bowman, Raquel Cabral, "The Effects of Client Therapist Racial and Ethnic Matching: A Meta Analytic Review of Empirical Research" (2010). All Theses and Dissertations. 2556.
mental health, ethnic matching, outcome