Why Multicultural Counseling is Essential to the Success of Today’s Therapist
If you aspire to become a successful, well-rounded counselor in today’s increasingly diverse world, it’s necessary that you become familiar with the concept of multiculturalism in counseling.
Your counseling career may lead you to foreign countries or you may work with diverse populations within your own communities. Either way, our increasingly globalized societies necessitate mental health professionals who are trained in multicultural education, like our marriage and family therapy programs at the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University.
What is Multicultural Counseling and its Definition?
Multicultural counseling characterizes the counseling practice that offers effective interventions to culturally diverse clients. Race, ethnicity, and culture influence a client’s identity and life circumstances. Other factors, such as gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, age, socioeconomic status, religion, and ability may also play into the context of a given client’s mental health, and relational or personal issues.
A culturally competent counselor considers all aspects of a client’s worldview when selecting treatment approaches. The counselor also remains aware of his or her own personal biases, beliefs, and attitudes while providing services.
Importance of Multiculturalism in Today’s Counseling
Today’s clientele may look much different than it did in past decades, as an increasing number of clients from all populations are seeking mental health services due to declining stigmatization and increasing globalization.
Advances in technology have also provided opportunities for new diverse clients through an assortment of channels: in-person, through email, through text, over the telephone, and through videoconferencing applications.
This changing landscape of professional practice means counselors should be trained to work with clients (and colleagues) who lead lives different than their own. Hence, the emergence of multicultural counseling and psychology, a distinctive competency which CSPP was founded upon.
Multicultural Counseling Techniques to Use with Your Clients
As a student in the CSPP programs, your curriculum will include built-in multicultural competencies. In addition, post graduation, counselors must regularly complete continuing education courses to stay current on multicultural issues in counseling and beyond.
Counselors may consider the using the following techniques when operating from a multicultural perspective:
- Therapeutic approach. Counselors must be knowledgeable about their client’s attitudes and beliefs about the therapeutic process in order to select appropriate interventions. Counselors should also be mindful of cultural stigma regarding mental illness when describing conditions and recommending therapies. Counselors must recognize the potential limitations of evidence-based therapies in effectively addressing the needs of clients from various backgrounds.
- Communication. Counselors must be cognizant of societal figures of speech and phrases that trigger culturally diverse clients. Culture-specific verbal and nonverbal aspects (i.e. gestures, body language, personal space, etc.) of communication should be considered during client interaction.
- Values. Counselors must incorporate culturally diverse clients’ values and beliefs into the treatment process. Cultural belief systems like spirituality and family-centric issues may in themselves serve as therapeutic vehicles to promote healing.
- Self-awareness. Counselors must be sensitive to their own inherent racial or cultural privilege, ethnocentrism, prejudice, and stereotypes when interacting with diverse populations. The counselor is constantly aware of how their own attitudes and beliefs impact their perception of the client, the client’s presenting problem, and the development of rapport.
- Flexibility. Counselors must be willing to acknowledge the limitations of their own cultural competency and expertise when dealing with culturally diverse clients. In some cases, they may be advised to seek cultural-specific guidance when working with a client or refer the client to a more culturally competent professional.
At Alliant, you can learn to cultivate a multicultural approach into your counseling practice from day one. As an international institution, our ultimate goal is to develop mental health clinicians who are uniquely prepared to understand and work with clients from all walks of life.