Multicultural and Diversity Aspects of Empowerment Counseling
The realization that the demographics of the United States of America will be made up of a considerably large number of ethnic groups who have been considered minorities before has raised the importance of multicultural and diversity training among counselors dealing with mental health (National Association Of Social Workers, 2001). According to Nassar-McMillian & Niles (2010) empowerment counseling focuses on enhancing clients self esteem, decision making skills, and developing his or her social, life, and health skills. This literature review will provide insight into multicultural and diversity aspects of empowerment counseling. The focus of the literature will be why it is fundamental for a counselor to have respect for others peoples culture, cultural competence, why it is critical for a counselor to understanding the family value system, and finally code of ethics that guides decision making in counseling.
Empowerment counseling is based on mutual respect and confidentiality between the counselor and client. The counselor must take into consideration the natural environment, competence, social economic status, and values when providing empowerment counseling. According to Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (2007); Cornish, Schreier, and Nadkarni (2010); and National Association of Social Workers (2001) the differences between counselor and client attitudes, values, worldviews, and traditions can serve as a barrier or success to counseling. The client’s attitudes, world views, traditions are influenced by their racial affiliations (Lee, 2006). Multicultural and diversity counseling aim at promoting similarities and minimizing differences between a counselor and client (Trusty & Sandhu, 2002). Cultural competence therefore is the process by which individuals and systems acknowledge and respect people of all languages, classes, cultures, religious background, race ethnicity, and other diversity factors (Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, 2007). Cultural competence enables an individual to affirm the values and worth of individuals despite their cultural differences (Sue & Sue, 2008). Nassar-McMillian & Niles (2010) also posit that cultural competence enables professionals to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
Over the last few decades, the United States of America has undergone major transformation in its demographics with a considerable increase in number of people of color (Sue & Sue, 2008). The changes in demographics present a challenge to counselors to strive and deliver culturally competent services to a wide range of clientele who hold diverse cultural beliefs and values (Vacc, DeVaney, Brendel, 2003). According to National Association of Social Workers (2001) two systems—the larger societal system and their immediate environment—influence people beliefs values and traditions. Counselors should therefore include cultural factors, which the client value during treatment.
Over the years, cultural diversity has been associated with race and ethnicity. However diversity’s broad concept has been proved to include an individual’s religion, social cultural, experiences, social class, sexual orientation, physical characteristics, mental abilities and age (National Association of Social Workers, 2001). Counselors need to recognize that race and racism have a considerable influence on an individual’s mental health and personality development. According to the National Association of Social Workers (2001), culturally competent counselors know how to address racial identity formation for people of color as well as white people. In addition, the counselors who have cultural competence are able establish the relationship between class, race, social economic status, age, sexual orientation, and ethnicity in the life of a client (Nassar-McMillian & Niles, 2010). The counselor is thus able to work with clients of all ages and race, low income to high-income families, clients with disabilities in the development of gender identity, personality building, and offering empowerment skills.
The ability to respect a culture other than yours is an inherent factor that determines the level of professionalism of a counselor who is offering treatment to a diverse clientele from different cultures (Strous, 2003). Counselors should recognize culture and aim to understand its role in human behavior and the society by recognizing the strengths in every culture (Sue & Sue, 2008). According to Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (2007) no culture is more dominant than the other; therefore the counselor should not hold any bias due to cultural differences as these would jeopardize the success of empowerment counseling.
Lee (2006) also highlights that it is critical for counselors to have a knowledge base of his or her client’s culture. The knowledge base on the clients culture helps to enables the counselor to provide a service, which is sensitive to a patient’s culture (Nassar-McMillian & Niles, 2010). When a counselor is not familiar with the client’s culture, he or she should research on the culture before commencing counseling sessions. It is therefore imperative for the counselor to obtain education about cultural diversity with respect to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, national origin, color, gender, sexual orientation, political belief, and mental and physical ability (National Association of Social Workers, 2001).
Strous (2003) insists that the ability to respect and affirm an individual despite, their cultural background does not naturally to a counselor; it requires a high level of professionalism and knowledge. According to Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (2007) cross-cultural knowledge helps a counselor to learn new patterns f behavior and apply them in appropriate settings. There are five factors, which contribute to a counselor’s ability to be culturally competent. They include a counselor’s ability: to value diversity, to develop capacity for cultural self-assessment, to recognize the dynamics inherent when interacting with a client from a different cultural background, to institutionalize cultural knowledge, and to offer services, which reflect understanding of diversity between and within cultures (Sue & Sue, 2008).
The ability to appreciate the family value system is fundamental in multicultural counseling training (National Association of Social Workers, 2001). Family values have considerable influence on an individual’s mental health depending on importance of family in a certain culture. In some cultures, family helps to shape not only the gender, personality, and identity; it also offers the moral support an individual requires in building life and social skills (Trusty & Sandhu, 2002). Some cultures value family ties more than other. A mental health counselor who has cultural competence is able to use his or her skills to offer treatment, which is tailored according to the client’s family value system and culture.
Empowerment counseling is guided by code of ethics, which support and encourage professionalism among all counselors so that they can respond effectively and knowledgably to the diversity in the communities and clients they serve (Lee, 2006). The code of ethics develop clear guidelines and objectives for counseling which helps to maintain professionalism thus increasing the success of treatment. All counselors should function in accordance with the stipulated values and standards. The standards and guidelines help to establish acceptable and unacceptable behavior for a counselor (Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, 2007). They offer guidelines on how to maintain confidentiality, how to maintain a professional relationship with a client and how to deal with situation where there is conflict of interest. In addition, the codes of ethics also offer guidelines, which address the counselor’s commitment to ensuring the well-being of his or her client (National Association of Social Workers, 2001).
The code of ethics also emphasizes on the counselors ability to move from being culturally aware of his or her culture and becoming aware of and respecting the cultural heritage of others (Strous, 2003). The codes of ethics require a counselor to have cross-cultural knowledge, which increases the counselor’s cultural competence. Cultural competence increases a counselor’s knowledge of traditional theories and fundamental principles concerning human behavior, problem-solving skills and life cycle development (National Association of Social Workers, 2001). The codes of ethics also stipulate guidelines relating to service delivery by a counselor. A counselor should ensure his or her service delivery skills are capable improving the well-being of the client (Sue & Sue, 2008).
An effective multicultural counselor should have knowledge in multicultural diversity which gives him the knowledge which is sensitive to culture of the client thus promoting the clients well being. The counselor should also understand family value system and code of ethics, which promote professionalism and guide decision making during service delivery. Proficiency and knowledge in social diversity is critical because it helps the counselors to appreciate the strengths in various cultural groups.
Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (2007). Journal of multicultural counseling and development, Volume 35, Issues 1-4. USA: AMCD
Cornish, J. A., Schreier, B. A & Nadkarni, L. I. (2010). Handbook of Multicultural Counseling Competencies. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons
Lee, C. C. (2006). Multicultural issues in counseling: new approaches to diversity. USA: American Counseling Association.
National Association of Social Workers (2001). Standard s for Cultural Competence in Social Work Practice Retrieved on 31 August from http://www.naswdc.org/practice/standards/NAswculturalstandards.pdf
Nassar-McMillian, S. & Niles, S. G. (2010). Developing Your Identity as a Professional Counselor: Standards, Settings, and Specialties. USA: Cengage Learning.
Nelson-Jones, R. (2006). Theory and practice of counseling and therapy. USA: Sage Publishers.
Strous, M. (2003). Racial sensitivity and multicultural training USA: Greenwood Publishing Group
Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: theory and practice. USA: John Wiley and Sons
Trusty, J. & Sandhu, D. S. (2002).Multicultural counseling: context, theory and practice, and competence. USA: Nova Publishers
Vacc, N. A., DeVaney, S. B. Brendel, J. M. (2003). Counseling multicultural and diverse populations: strategies for practitioners. New York: Psychology Press.