Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

Simon, James


According to the American Psychiatric Association (2017), Black Americans are more likely to be diagnosed with schizophrenia and less likely to be diagnosed with a mood disorder in compassion to their White counterparts presenting with the same symptoms. To address mechanisms of implicit bias and the implications for mental health practice, it is imperative to investigate the diagnostic process of students who will enter the field of mental health.

According to the Council on Social Work Education, 80% of MSW graduates work in positions providing micro-level direct service to individuals, families, and groups (CSWE, 2019). Moreover, 80% of MSW graduates are licensed clinicians or plan on pursuing licensure within the next five years. The purpose of this study was to explore the clinician-client dynamic by analyzing clinical-decision making in students currently enrolled in Master of Social Work (MSW) graduate programs.

The goal of the study was to gain insight into the significance of race during the process of diagnosing individuals with mood disorders. The quantitative study was designed to examine the impact implicit bias on the diagnosis of mental illness using a vignette and clinical impressions survey. Based on the findings from 73 surveys, MSW students tend to under-diagnose major depressive disorder and over diagnose schizoaffective or schizophrenia disorder when assessing a Black client. However, despite these findings, race/ethnicity did not emerge as significantly associated with overdiagnosis; only the severity of diagnosis was associated with the overdiagnosis.