Establishing a Therapeutic Alliance With Youth Who Are Economically Disadvantaged: Misperceptions and Missed Opportunities


  • Shelly Mann Athabasca University
  • Sandra Collins Athabasca University



Recognition of social class as a cultural construct is slowly emerging in the counselling literature. There are prominent social discourses that blame poor individuals for their disadvantage instead of considering the structural causes of poverty. School counsellors must avoid internalizing these beliefs and marginalizing students unintentionally. Social class is often invisible, so youth who are economically disadvantaged may go unnoticed and so may not receive the support they need to overcome systemic barriers and to experience success. The authors invite counsellors to examine and challenge their own biases and assumptions regarding individuals who live in poverty and to work within schools to provide culturally sensitive and socially just leadership. They propose that counsellors adopt the working-class values of openness and honest communication in order to facilitate the formation of therapeutic alliances with youth facing economic disadvantage. The authors highlight salient points from the current literature in order to raise class consciousness and propose advocacy at the micro, meso, and macro levels. They also invite readers to engage in critical reflection on their own beliefs and attitudes about youth who are economically disadvantaged as a foundation for their continued cultural competency development.

Author Biographies

Shelly Mann, Athabasca University

Shelly Mann is a registered counselling therapist in private practice in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. In addition to working in private practice, Shelly has worked with students in the public school system for over 20 years, where she focuses her efforts on advocating for socially just practices and raising awareness to the unique challenges faced by students who are economically disadvantaged.

Sandra Collins, Athabasca University

Sandra Collins is a registered psychologist and a professor of counselling psychology in the Graduate Centre for Applied Psychology at Athabasca University. Her research and teaching focus on culturally responsive and socially just counselling practice, with a particular emphasis on creating open-source teaching and learning resources.



How to Cite

Mann, S., & Collins, S. (2022). Establishing a Therapeutic Alliance With Youth Who Are Economically Disadvantaged: Misperceptions and Missed Opportunities. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 56(2), 236–268.



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