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Abuse and Client Diagnosis

Personal biases of psychologists can have the direct negative impact on their abilities to state a diagnosis and propose the appropriate treatment. The problem is in the fact that the interpretation and conclusion regarding the client’s case can become the results of the psychologist’s personal bias and vision influenced by a range of factors, including values, beliefs, the previous experience, and background. The focus on false assumptions and biases often leads to errors in diagnosing and the further treatment (Bloom, 2015). In this context, the problem of abuse can be discussed as a challenge for psychologists who wrongly refer to their own biases while analyzing the individual case. Therefore, while focusing on possible personal biases of psychologists that can influence their discussion of abuse problems, it is possible to determine such typical assumptions as the reference to males as abusers in the family and peers as abusers of teenagers.

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The first bias that is often a result of the previous personal and professional experience is that if a woman states that she became a victim of abuse in the family, a psychologist is inclined to refer to her husband as an abuser. Even if a woman can reject this assumption, a psychologist can regard such reaction as an attempt to hide the details of the family life and protect the husband (Brannon, 2015). However, in this case, a psychologist can fail to pay attention to the woman’s family history, as well as her culture and ethnicity (Croskerry, 2013). While concentrating on the previous experience according to which husbands acted as abusers in their families, a psychologist can ignore the fact of the woman’s relationship with her mother and other women in the family, as well as the role of the father and other male relatives in her culture. The undesired result of such bias is the incorrect diagnosis and the inability to help.

The other bias is associated with regarding social relationships according to patterns. While analyzing the case of a male teenager who has anxiety and depression and reports abuse, a psychologist can refer to the boy’s peers as abusers because of discussing the situation from the perspective of the teenager’s psychology and applying certain patterns to the case. Nevertheless, a psychologist can make an error while assessing the boy because of ignoring other influential factors such as the teenager’s sensitivity and relationships in the family (Denkova, Dolcos, & Dolcos, 2012). Teenagers are often vulnerable, and the situation when a psychologist focuses on the wrong assumption can make the client become more secretive. The result of such behavior will be the poor diagnosis and ineffective treatment.

Although the focus on making assumptions while assessing clients is a wrong practice, the described biases are typical of the situation of one-meeting diagnoses when a psychologist tries to make conclusions as soon as possible. It is important to predict the possibility of false assumptions while avoiding concentration on the personal values, constructs, and previously identified patterns. Each case should be discussed separately and with the focus on a client as an individual. Moreover, the assessment and diagnosis should be based on the careful analysis of all possible factors that can influence the client’s experience. In this case, to reduce the possibility of errors caused by the bias, it is necessary to concentrate on the analysis of the client’s words that should become the main source of information about abuse.


Bloom, B. S. (2015). The expert witness: Insulating against bias. The Rehabilitation Professional, 23(1), 35-40.

Brannon, L. (2015). Gender: Psychological perspectives. New York, NY: Psychology Press.

Croskerry, P. (2013). From mindless to mindful practice – cognitive bias and clinical decision making. New England Journal of Medicine, 368(26), 2445-2448.

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Denkova, E., Dolcos, S., & Dolcos, F. (2012). Reliving emotional personal memories: Affective biases linked to personality and sex-related differences. Emotion, 12(3), 515-522.

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