Defined as a hodgepodge of cultures, The United States combines numerous cultures that are integrated and merged together. Whereas in theory this would seem to be a picture of harmony and unity, the reality of society is much more complex and challenging. With more immigrants from various cultures and backgrounds, the need for multicultural counseling increases. With this increase come two distinct issues for multicultural counseling: the counselor’s own personal culture, including his or her theoretical outlook, and the assortment of components forming the identity of the individual the counselor is advising.
In multicultural psychology it is essential to know of the client’s culture to be a culturally competent psychologist however; many may overlook that a culturally competent psychologist must also be aware of his or her own personal culture and theoretical view. It is crucial to recognize and comprehend one’s culture and beliefs before commencing to understand and aid others (Ibrahim, 1985). Attentiveness to personal beliefs, acknowledgment of various frameworks of thinking and logic, and understanding of the influence these factors can have on one’s style of assistance and communication are needed to be culturally competent (Ibrahim, 1985). A deficiency in these areas may obstruct efficient intervention.
With the standard of psychology practice arising from predominantly European American beliefs, one may believe it accurate to form an opinion of a client by the standard array of “white” cultural beliefs and practices, yet a counselor must maintain a balance of the traditional societal culture and the diverse culture of a multicultural individual (Hall, 2010). The psychologist needs to remove him or herself from his or her own cultural beliefs when diagnosing and treating a client with a different culture. This adjustment to employing multicultural psychology is at the same time universal, proficient, and individual (Hall, 2010). If a psychologist retains personal biases, racism, or stereotypes, basic conjectures about a cultural group, and traditional counseling methods; a submission to the cultural majority and lack of cultural competence is possible. By identifying his or her specific cultural values and how these values may affect and influence his or her counseling practice will aid to counteract the consequences of those factors (Hall, 2010).
The accomplishment of effective counseling may also be restricted by attachment to a particular counseling technique or theory. Several cultural groups do not share the ideals indicated by the techniques or theory and therefore do not share the counselor’s prospect for the management or result of the therapy session. These dissimilarities can be countered by effective counselors studying his or her clients’ cultural history, and by remaining open-minded and flexible with defining proper or appropriate behavior (Hall, 2010).
Language is also a barrier within the counselor’s personal culture. Perhaps the most significant obstacle for effective multicultural counseling and evaluation, language differences hinder the counseling process because clients lack the ability to convey the intricacy of their emotions and thoughts or withstand from discussing emotionally charged concerns. The counselor may also become aggravated by his or her lack of communicating in an effective and precise manner. At the worst, language impediments may bring about misdiagnosis and unsuitable treatment (Hall, 2010).
Danger always ensues when stereotyping of clients occurs in the counseling field. The most apparent danger in counseling is to generalize the client’s social system by stressing the most noticeable characteristics of his or her personal history (Hall, 2010). Although general classifications are essential to comprehend human experience, losing sight of specific aspects of the individual would cause ethical infractions (Ibrahim, 1985). Individual clients are shaped by cultural factors such as ethnicity, socioeconomic status, race, nationality, age, gender, and sexual identity. Counselors must observe the distinctiveness and augmentation of culturally diverse people by means of several, connected features, instead of an inflexible cultural structure (Hall, 2010). A multicultural counselor takes into account all factors of the client’s culture.
Another important difference worth noting is a counselor must understand the relationship between race, ethnicity, and culture. Numerous ethnicities may be found within one race. For example, Asian/Island Pacific includes the people of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese ethnicity. A black person may not always be African American but may be Haitian, Jamaican or Tanzanian. Hispanic individuals may be of Cuban, Mexican, or Puerto Rican ethnicity. There are also various Native American tribes, each with their own cultural beliefs. Even Caucasians vary in ethnicity ranging from Irish, German, French, and American. Whereas these ethnic groups display the same physical features of race, the beliefs and principles they possess are not necessarily the same (Hall, 2010). For instance, counselors must execute extreme caution in assuming, that all Asians or all Native Americans have the same or similar cultures.
Multicultural counselors can effectively and competently diagnosis and treat culturally diverse clients. Through eliminating stereotypes and biases, investigating their own cultural beliefs, norms, and principles and norms, studying their clients’ cultural history, and imploring the use of counseling techniques tailored to the individual client’s needs; a counselor can successfully provide the best care for his or her culturally diverse clients (Hall, 2010). Although counselors cannot assume his or her clients’ race, ethnicity, or culture, he or she can become more perceptive to his or her and the clients’ culture and individual differences thus enabling genuine multicultural counseling.