Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Clinical Psychology



First Advisor

Benjamin Saunders

Committee Chair and Members

Benjamin Saunders, Chair

Sara Haden

Joan Duncan


Anxiety, Clinical psychologists, Defense mechanisms, Implicit negative affect, Multicultural competence, White privilege


White cultural norms harm psychotherapy clients of the global majority. Racial microaggressions committed by White clinical psychologists threaten therapeutic alliance and treatment. Engagement with the advantages of being White is necessary for clinical psychologists to provide ethical therapy, but engagement is limited by defensive reactions to White privilege. This study intended to reveal defensive responses that arise in White clinical psychologists when they read about privilege with the goal of increasing awareness for the betterment of the field. The study hypothesized that White privilege exposure would predict increased colorblind racial attitudes (CBRA), increased racial system justification (RSJ), increased White racial affect (WRA), decreased empathy, increased anxiety, and increased immature defense mechanisms (IDM). Moreover, these relationships would be moderated by multicultural competence (MC). Participants were 196 White American clinical psychologists who completed self-report questionnaires online. Participants were randomly assigned to one of two groups: the control group read a neutral paragraph. The experimental group read a White privilege paragraph. All participants then completed the same measures. White privilege exposure significantly predicted increased anxiety. CBRA, RSJ, WRA, empathy, and IDM were not predicted by exposure, therefore, there were no moderations by MC. Exploratory constructs, mature defense mechanisms and implicit negative affect, were impacted by White privilege exposure, which predicted significantly decreased mature defense mechanisms. The interaction of White privilege exposure and MC significantly predicted decreased implicit negative affect. Possible implications are discussed.