Multicultural awareness is very important in counseling. This lesson will tell you what multicultural counseling involves and how to be an effective multicultural counselor. We’ll follow a school counselor as he prepares himself for a new role with culturally diverse students.
Multicultural counseling evolved over the last 30 years. As the United States becomes more culturally diverse, we have come to recognize that clients are different, not only by the nature of their problem but by their cultural makeup. When the Census was taken in 2000, it was found that many minorities, including African Americans and Hispanics, were making up a larger percentage of the population.
Multicultural awareness is an understanding, sensitivity, and appreciation of the history, values, experiences, and lifestyles of minority groups. These groups may include differences in race, culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disabilities, or age. Multicultural counseling suggests that even in the counseling setting, differences between the client and counselor should be recognized. The counselor should recognize that the client is different from the counselor. The astute multicultural counselor is aware of differences between himself and the client, without wanting the client to be like him.
As we become aware of and appreciate the differences in those we work with, it is important to understand that people within these groups are as different from one group as from the others. We have to be careful not to stereotype people. In each of these groups, there are individuals who are nothing like the stereotypes we have of them.
Meet Jason. Let’s follow him as he begins his new career as a school counselor. At the moment, Jason is wondering what he should do. As a new school counselor at the high school, he realized he would have student clients coming for counseling who would be very different from himself. He is trying to figure out how to be multi-culturally aware of students who are different from himself, yet not lock them into a stereotype.
After discussing it with his former professor, Jason realizes there were several things he needed to do. First of all, he should study as much as he can about multiculturalism, so that he knows what the professional literature says about different cultures. Knowing as much as he can about other cultures will prepare him for being a better counselor. Attending and participating in activities in his community can involve him in multicultural activities. Attending activities sponsored by different ethnic groups, getting active in organizations that support different lifestyles, and becoming involved in groups that have diverse memberships will give him a better perspective about unique cultures and experiences.
Jason also needs to do some personal self-discovery and ask himself some important questions. Is he holding any prejudices? Are there any groups he would have a difficult time working with? Are there any groups he feels he cannot work with at all? There are counselors who have difficulty working with some groups. Topics such as sexual orientation, religious orientation, and abortion can come into conflict with a counselor’s own values. The counselor may have to decide whether to confront these issues or refer clients with those issues to another counselor.
Jason found that he should begin a counseling session with each new student by finding out as much as he can about their background. For example, I found out how wrong I was when I assumed my Mexican friend’s parents came from Mexico when they were younger. From learning about her background, I found that her family lived in Texas before the Alamo. There were cultural traditions they upheld, but many had been abandoned, including language.
Jason’s former professor reminded him that he never fully understands anyone, even someone who is from his own culture. For example, Caucasians are considered European; however, people from multiple countries brought very different cultures to the United States. The same is true with all races: an Asian child from the United States will be very different from an Asian child from Korea – or even a first-generation Korean American.
Jason was also reminded that people are considered to be multicultural clients not just because of where they are from but because they have a disability or have a different sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or religious background.
Finally, Jason realized that he will do better with experience. The more he’s exposed to people of other cultures, the more likely he will be a culturally sensitive counselor.
Jason learned that we are continuing to become a more culturally diverse country. Every day, we see and meet people who are different from us in one way or another. Jason, as a counselor, will be working with a variety of people, many who will be culturally different from himself.
Jason has learned that there are several things he should do to be a culturally sensitive counselor. He should study and learn as much as he can about other cultures. He would also benefit from immersing himself in some organizations and activities of other cultures. He should also explore his own feelings, prejudices, and feelings towards those who are different from himself. He also needs to find out as much as he can about his clients, instead of assuming his clients fit in a box.
When you’ve completed the lesson, you will be able to:
- Explain multicultural awareness and how it impacts counseling
- Differentiate between appreciating differences and stereotyping
- Recognize the preparation involved in understanding multiculturalism
- Recall how self-discovery plays a role in becoming a counselor
- Consider how personal background impacts multicultural awareness