Woman psychologist with couple

What Is Multicultural Counseling?

Multicultural counseling offers treatment and interventions to a culturally diverse population. The idea of counseling services or therapies used to only apply to a small portion of society, but has grown to be more inclusive of all ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic statuses, religions, gender identities, and sexual orientations. The ability to reach each of these populations on a level that feels authentic and is culturally aware of their unique beliefs and values is an essential part of a counseling curriculum in today’s world. 

Psychology and counseling programs through Alliant embeds the concepts of multicultural counseling within the coursework and hands-on training necessary to graduate and pursue a career as a therapist. This allows students to become self-aware of their own lack of information, education, and/or understanding that may occur when working with people that are part of a different cultural background from theirs. Through multicultural counseling, therapists are better able to connect with and provide competent services to all communities in equally impactful ways. 

Multiculturalism is a core foundation at the California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University. It’s embedded into the curriculums and highlighted through the specialized certification in LGBT Human Services and Human Health. One of the key features of all programs is to promote diversity among students to provide therapy for diverse communities following graduation. 

This is partially achieved by working in internship and fieldwork environments that encompass a broad spectrum of situations and communities. These include community mental health centers, rehabilitation programs, correctional facilities, veteran administrations, among other organizations that provide students with real-life situations and experiences to further growth, awareness, and competency in the field of psychology across a variety of cultures.

What is multicultural therapy and how does it impact a person’s experience? When a person begins a career as a therapist on any level, in any environment, it’s important to set bias aside and learn how to provide multicultural counseling techniques that speak to diverse clients where they are in life as well as where they’ve come from. In addition to practicing self-awareness, multicultural counseling involves addressing cultural values, allowing for flexibility, and considering modes of communication as they determine a therapeutic approach. 

Addressing Cultural Values

What is multicultural counseling and how is it implemented across various communities? As a whole, there’s been a long-standing stigma surrounding mental illness. This stigma is heightened in some communities more than others. Additionally, there are cultural values that come into play with regards to religious beliefs, patriarchal foundations, and other challenges an individual or group is facing that may require customized care with regards to treatment. 

Allowing for Flexibility

The most important part of providing competent counseling is ensuring the person receiving therapy feels safe and understood. There may be instances where a counselor/client relationship simply is not a good fit due to cultural limitations. This is where the counselor must be ready to provide resources or a referral to allow the person to receive the best possible care for the situation. 

While those who complete an advanced psychology degree are equipped with the foundational concepts to help diverse clients in different stages and environments of life, some have the extra training and/or innate understanding required for special circumstances. 

Considering Modes of Communication

Communication is one of the highlights of therapy but must be delivered and received in a way that aligns with a person’s cultural values. A therapist working in this field has to have a high multicultural competency and understanding in order to help people from any cultural background.  This may include knowing how to use body language, eye contact, and personal space as it relates to the individual. It involves multicultural awareness regarding using certain phrases, comparisons, or analogies that may trigger certain cultural groups. 

Communication may also be determined by generation. For example, those who have grown up in the digital age may be more inclined to receive telehealth or app-based counseling rather than person-to-person treatment in real life. These are examples of what must be taken into account when implementing therapy techniques and following a course of treatment. 

The Importance of Multicultural Counseling in Your Career

The less that mental illness and therapy are a stigma in society, the more people are open to the experience of counseling as a way to heal, cope, and grow during different phases of life. Additionally, as the availability of counseling services becomes more readily available to those in underserved communities, it’ll become apparent how much therapists will need to adapt their methods to the individuals and groups they are serving. 

The level of multicultural training and awareness that is embedded into Alliant’s psychology programs set students up for success as they pursue a career in counseling. Education, practice, and self-awareness regarding feedback and changes to society will always be essential. As marginalized groups begin to come forward with needs that have previously been unattended to or hidden, multicultural counseling remains an important piece of a therapist’s day-to-day practice and ability to provide the best possible care.

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