Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Tony Tan, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Cynthia Topdemir, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Robert Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mark Pezzo, Ph.D.


beliefs, bias, education, healthcare, moral foundations theory


Literature in the counseling profession has emphasized the importance of recognition of the potential impact of counselor bias on clinical care for decades. A large body of research has been developed on the potential for the personal, social, and religious beliefs of clinical mental health counselors (CMHCs) to impact their work with clients, but comparatively little research has been conducted on the potential impact of the political beliefs of CMHCs and their clinical practice, creating a gap in the professional literature. The present study sought to bridge the gap in CMHC literature by examining the relationship between the political ideologies, political party affiliations, perceived level of seriousness of politicized problems, and treatment decisions of CMHCs by testing the hypothesis that politically conservative CMHCs (i.e., CMHCs who self-identify as politically conservative or are registered Republicans) would (1) rate the seriousness of politicized but not non-politicized issues differently, and (2) choose different treatment interventions for politicized but not non-politicized clinical issues than other CMHCs. Survey data were collected from 168 members of the American Mental Health Counselors Association on the level of seriousness of clinical problems and the likelihood of selecting various treatment interventions for six non-politicized and five politicized clinical vignettes. Multiple regression analyses revealed that (1) conservative CMHCs rated the level of seriousness of clinical vignettes involving two politicized issues (i.e., gun storage and abortion) differently than other CMHCs; and (2) Republican CMHCs chose different treatment interventions for vignettes involving one non-politicized issue (i.e., tobacco use) and one politicized issue (gun storage) as compared to other CMHCs. Hypotheses were therefore only partially supported. Implications for the profession of clinical mental health counseling and recommendations for additional research are discussed.