Multi-Cultural Communication in Counseling

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COMMUNICATION IN MULTI-CULTURAL COUNSELING

Communication in Multi-Cultural Counseling

Connie Sutton

Grand Canyon University

PCN 509/Social and Cultural Diversity

Susan Lutz, LMFT

October 25, 2010

Introduction
Research shows clients from ethnic minority groups are the least likely to make use of counseling services. One explanation for this is that it is an ethnocentric activity, based on the values of the white middle classes, an approach which can alienate those from other cultures. A multicultural approach to counseling challenges the assumption that one style of interviewing is transferable to all clients. This paper examines a theory of multicultural counseling; definitions; and models of multiculturalism; highlighting the implications these have for guidance practitioners. Theory of multicultural counseling and therapy (MCT)

Most career counseling and guidance practitioners would readily acknowledge that each client is unique, and that individual differences must be accepted and respected. However, practice - based on theories taught during initial training and subsequently developed into 'action theories' in the field - often reflects the assumption that a particular interviewing approach is transferable across a wide range of clients. Multicultural counseling challenges this view. Sue et al (1996) propose a theory of multicultural counseling and therapy (MCT). This is considered necessary because of the inadequacies of current theories informing current counseling practice. These theories operate from both explicit and implicit assumptions that guide their practical application, and so an `assumption audit' is presented as the starting point for the authors developing MCT as an essential starting point for understanding this new theory.

What is multicultural counseling?

A broad definition of the term 'multiculturalism' embraces a wide range of social variables or differences. For example:

• gender,
• sexual preference,
• disability,
• social class,
• age,
• religion,
• Ethnicity.
Pederson (1994) proposed a broad definition of multicultural counseling which includes: 'ethnographic variables such as ethnicity, nationality, religion and language; demographic variables such as age, gender and place of residence; status variables such as social, educational and economic; and affiliations including both formal affiliations to family or organizations and informal affiliations to ideas and a lifestyle' (p229)

In this broad definition, each person has many different cultures or identities with each identity becoming relevant at different times and places. He argues that multiculturalism emphasizes both the way we are different from and similar to other people. It challenges those who have presumed that differences don't matter as well as those who have over emphasized differences (often perpetuating stereotypes).

Ivey et al. (1997, p134) describe multicultural counseling as a 'metatheoretical approach that recognizes that all helping methods ultimately exist within a cultural context'. They go on to argue that multiculturalism: • starts with awareness of differences among and within clients; • stresses the importance of family and cultural factors affecting the way clients view the world; • challenges practitioners, theoreticians and researchers to rethink the meaning of counseling, and pay attention to family and cultural concerns. By these definitions, multiculturalism has relevance for every client presenting for counseling and guidance.

Origins and relevance of multicultural counseling

Bimrose (1996, p238) traces the origins of multicultural counseling to the American Civil Rights movement in the mid 1970s. Around this time, questions were asked about the groups of people who never requested counseling, or, if they came along for a first...
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