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Five Important Aspects of Multicultural Counseling Competencies


Posted on July 29, 2014 by Faculty.

To have an inclusive approach in a counseling practice, the counseling psychology professional must develop multicultural competencies in order to effectively work with clients from diverse backgrounds. The Advanced Multicultural Counseling course introduces this crucial aspect by broadening your awareness and understanding of the key roles that a client’s culture, identity, ethnicity, race, gender, and other aspects of diversity play in the counseling process. Learning culturally-competent counseling practices, current theoretical approaches, and practicing self-reflection in this area will help you acquire the skills necessary to engage a diverse clientele.

Counseling Psychology

Defining Multicultural Counseling

It may sound simplistic, but multicultural counseling is defined as what occurs when the professional counselor works with a client from a different cultural group and how that might  affect interactions that take place within the counseling relationship. This definition is expanded to include dissimilarities in religion and spirituality, sexual orientation, gender, age and maturity, socioeconomic class, family history, and even geographic location. The first step in effective multicultural counseling is to identify and acknowledge these differences between the counselor and client.

Identifying Cultural Differences

One of the first steps in working with clients is to discuss what brings a person into counseling and to identify the presenting problem. The typical Western style of finding answers through a direct approach is not compatible with many cultures. This technique includes use of body language, eye contact, and using open-ended questions. Asian Americans, for instance, typically experience this method as impolite. Native Americans also feel this directness to be too invasive. Recognizing and being sensitive to cultural differences is essential for establishing the trust necessary to conduct effective counseling sessions.

Understanding & Addressing Issues in Multicultural Counseling

One of the most effective tools counselors can utilize to engage clients from other cultures is to openly acknowledge any differences. The key is doing it in such a way that does not undermine the client’s belief that you will be able to offer professional help and potential solutions. Part of establishing rapport with multicultural clients is expressing a willingness to learn more about, and showing respect for, their worldview, belief systems, and means of problem-solving. Learning about and addressing the client’s realities will allow you to create culturally-sensitive interventions.

The Role of Self in Multicultural Counseling

Self-reflection is vital to becoming a culturally-competent counselor. Start by clearly identifying your own worldview and personal beliefs about those who are different from you. This exercise will assist you in uncovering your own prejudices, feelings, and stereotypical ideas about clients from other cultures. Being open-minded and willing to educate yourself about culturally different groups is a productive way of moving forward toward your goal of working effectively with them in counseling. Becoming self-aware is an ongoing practice, and allowing new information to play a part in shaping your professional identity is a valuable tool.

Ongoing Education Required in Multicultural Counseling

It’s important to understand that professional counselors never master the ability to understand every unique cultural difference; this is a continual state of learning. Your knowledge base will grow as you work with a greater number of diverse clients, but the learning doesn’t stop there. Working in this area of professional counseling will continually provide you with opportunities to gain new insights and skills with each new client.