Ethical Dilemmas in Multicultural counselling

Topics: Culture, Ethics, Counseling psychology Pages: 16 (4207 words) Published: September 29, 2013
Ethical Dilemmas in a Multicultural Setting
Silvia Galea

“An ethical dilemma exists whenever there are good but
contradictory ethical reasons to take conflicting and
incompatible courses of action.”
(Kitchner, 1984 p.29)

“There is no legitimate way to avoid these ethical struggles. They are part of our work”. (Pope & Vasquez, 2007 p.125).

Cultural competence is fast becoming the new competence in
counselling (Barnett 2009, Barnett 2000). As society changes and minorities become more prominent in our society, professionals are ethically bound to learn new skills that help them deliver a culturally sensitive service to clients requesting assistance in the helping profession. (Ridley, Liddle, Hill, & Li, 2001) throw light upon the “many limitations” of different codes of ethics that reflect the values of the dominant culture. A decade before (Sue & Sue 1990) argued that ethical guidelines are by no means neutral and have at best

suppressed diversity and often pathologised the behaviour of minorities. According to (Sue & Sue, 1990) this “westernized” set of ethical values falsely put practitioners’ minds at rest for not advocating for a culturally sensitive ethical thinking that takes into account the perspective of minorities and diverse cultures .

These issues become more complex when one takes into account concepts of acculturation (Baptiste 1993)-when migrants decide to relinquish some or most of their unique cultural values in order to adapt to the host society and Biculturalism (Berry 1997) the combination of migrants and host cultural values. Different individuals integrate values to different degrees (Berry, 1997). Further sensitivity and culturally sensitive reflection is also necessary when a client from an ethnic minority comes into the counseling room with issues pertaining to gender or sexual identity.

Ethical Dilemmas in Multicultural Counselling
Silvia Galea


For the purpose of this paper I have chosen two case studies to illustrate the ethical dilemmas encountered in working within the area of multi-cultural/cross cultural/trans-cultural counselling. These case studies have been slightly altered to protect confidentiality.

I will be

concentrating exclusively on the ethical issues and only touch onto techniques and other work done with these clients. These case studies are part of my work in the area of asylum seekers, an area I am looking forward to going back into after I finish my studies.

The case of Dodo.
Dodo is a French-speaking Congolese woman who within group and individual sessions transformed herself from a meek, submissive dependant woman to a beautiful self assured woman. She retained certain aspects from her culture, especially around her role as a devoted and relatively submissive wife but acquired other

competencies to help her integrate into our society.

She gained

confidence in herself, started to communicate more effectively with her husband and those around her and startled her male children by assigning household chores to all family members including her male children. The transformation within reflected herself in her outward appearance – she took off her “African” extensions and started to wear her hair short, she upgraded her clothes and put on make up. She remained very reserved and polite but she worked hard to look at men and people in authority rather than lower her eyes and bend her head. downwards whilst they spoke to her. She learnt how to communicate assertively and to ask questions and seek instructions when needed rather than obey without question until she could not bear it and

Ethical Dilemmas in Multicultural Counselling
Silvia Galea


continue to leave one job after another because employers kept taking advantage of her meek behaviour. In the initial sessions she likened herself to a lamb and a dove. By the end of the counseling process she became a deer but retained the dove (peacemaker) within her....

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