Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Counselor Education and Counseling Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Joseph R. Morris

Second Advisor

Dr. Jennifer Foster

Third Advisor

Dr. C. Dennis Simpson


Zero-sum beliefs, counseling, perspective taking, political ideology affiliation, multicultural course, counselor training


Research suggests many Whites tend to see racism as a zero-sum game, which means they believe gains for one group necessitate losses for another group (Wilkins, Wellman, Babbitt, Toosi, & Schad, 2015). Given the theoretical underpinnings of multicultural competence, and the notion that beliefs drive actions, adherence to zero-sum game-oriented beliefs may interfere with individuals in helping professions’ abilities to provide multiculturally competent services to their clients. The primary purpose of this study was to examine the effects of perspective taking and multicultural course completion as interventions with White, master’s level, counseling trainees’ endorsements of zero-sum beliefs (ZSBs). A secondary purpose of the study was to explore the relationship between ZSBs and political ideology affiliation (degree of liberalism or conservatism).

Participants were 226 White (80.5% women, n = 182; 17.7% men, n = 40), master’s level, student counselor trainees attending a large, predominantly White, public university in the Midwest. The research design was a 2 x 2 between subjects experimental design involving two manipulations. The first manipulation was whether the subject received a perspective taking intervention writing activity or maintained a first person perspective. The second manipulation was whether the subject had completed a multicultural counseling course. All participants were asked to complete a measure assessing degree of adherence to ZSBs. Participants also completed a measure of political ideology affiliation, with higher scores on the measure reflecting stronger adherence to conservative ideology and lower scores representing more liberalism.

An ANOVA using perspective taking condition and multicultural course completion condition as factors and ZSB outcome measure scores as the dependent variable was conducted. A Spearman correlation between political ideology affiliation measure scores and ZSB measure scores was also completed. There were no significant main effects or an interaction effect of perspective taking and multicultural course completion on participants’ endorsements of ZSBs. However, the expected trend was present, with individuals who received a perspective taking intervention and completed a multicultural counseling course having the lowest group mean on the measure of ZSBs. There was also a significant correlation between political ideology affiliation and one’s level of endorsement of ZSBs, with more conservative individuals demonstrating high degrees of ZSBs. Implications for future research and practice related to how training programs can enhance trainees’ degrees of multicultural competence via multicultural course completion and perspective taking, to meet the needs of a diverse clientele base, are discussed.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access