Unconscious bias: A psychodynamic exploration

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Crosby, Sarah Jane
Issue Date
MA in Psychotherapy
Dublin Business School
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This thesis will present a psychodynamic exploration into unconscious bias. The angle taken will focus on the unconscious bias of the psychotherapist, as well as the lived experience of the client who encounters it. Unconscious bias is alive within us all. It affects the way we perceive and process our daily life as well as the manner in which we respond and react. Unconscious biases are the actions and judgments made automatically to which we are not cognizant. Beliefs, attitudes and behaviours shaped by our lived experience cause recognition of perceived differences; a separation. We create an Other, and subsequently, a Self. The psychotherapeutic community and the Psychotherapist are not exempt from such a process. Unconscious bias at the hands of practitioners has been experienced by many based on many factors such as race, skin tone, social class, gender identity, sexuality, body size and countless others. The experience of the client is one of internalized shame, invisibility and a reaffirming of the life they lead outside the walls of the therapeutic space. Clinician’s bias emerges without conscious intent but stands to impede the relationship. Keeping this in mind, this paper touches on the early field, or rather the early acknowledgment of weight bias. Although in its infancy, there is an argument to be made for the importance and need for understanding how the early work of psychotherapeutic pioneers furthered the rhetoric associated with bodies of size, and the self-work needed by the clinician to understand the extent of their countertransference. Psychoanalytic theories have much to say about the construction of the Self, Other, bodies and evidently, countertransference. In this way they are well positioned to present a perspective on the presence of unconscious bias.