Sue and Sue’s Chapter 14 Counseling African Americans spends a great deal of effort exploring cultural particulars and corresponding clinical implications while working with African Americans; factors such as family dynamics, educational orientation, spirituality, and the pressures and stress of racism and marginalization. This offered me perspective through a lens much broader than my own somewhat narrow, predominantly white, and fairly privileged way of relating to the world. Before understanding culturally appropriate interventions, one must have an understanding of the cultural context or the cultural word of an individual. For me, this first means that differences must be noted, either literally in relationship with the African American client or simply as a clinical observation I make on my own. Of course the difference in the two will depend on the client, context, and general relevancy in the moment. In my own experience, noting racial difference aloud with a client has been most helpful in that it gives permission for the potentially “taboo” topic of race and differences to be considered, brought into the space at a later time, and even into the forefront of consciousness. Apart from the explicit therapeutic relationship, noting difference is a personal reminder that I am no expert on anyone’s experience but my own, I may make mistakes (and probably will), I should steer clear of assumptions, it’s ok to be curious, and to do my homework. Once a general understanding of differences is established, then one can begin to consider appropriate therapeutic interventions. Let’s take the issue of racism and discrimination; the byproduct of these atrocities oftentimes manifests as defense and survival mechanisms in Black Americans. Which can lead to a general mistrust or as it’s stated (by Sue and Sue) a “healthy cultural paranoia”, as a way of coping. This mistrust can be of individuals, entire races of people, the government, social service...
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