If you aspire to become a successful, well-rounded counseling psychologist in today’s world of increasing cultural difference and cultural diversity, you may find it helpful to become familiar with the concept of counseling the culturally diverse.
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 may provide opportunities for mental health professionals who receive multicultural training. An education like our marriage and family therapy programs at the California School of Professional Psychology (CSPP) at Alliant International University may serve you well.
What is Multicultural Counseling and its Definition?
Multicultural counseling characterizes the counseling psychology practice that offers effective interventions to culturally diverse clients. Race, ethnicity, and cultural background may 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 counseling psychologist considers all aspects of a client's worldview when selecting treatment approaches in mental health services. The counselor also remains aware of his or her own personal biases, beliefs, and attitudes while providing cross cultural counseling services.
Importance of Multicultural Counseling Today
Today's clientele may look much different than it did in past decades, as an increasing number of clients with diverse backgrounds from all populations are seeking counseling services in a mental health field as populations become more diverse.
Advances in technology have also provided opportunities for new diverse clients spanning different cultural groups through an assortment of channels: in-person, through email, through text, over the telephone, and through video conferencing applications.
This changing landscape of professional clinical practice means counselors may benefit from having a multicultural perspective, an understanding in racial identity, and proper training to work with clients (and colleagues) who lead lives different than their own. Hence, the emergence of multicultural counseling skills and psychology, a distinctive competency which CSPP supports.
Multicultural Counseling Techniques to Use with Your Clients
As a student in the CSPP programs, your curriculum will include built-in multicultural counseling competencies training. In addition, post-graduation, counselors regularly complete continuing education courses to stay current on multicultural issues and beyond. This is to help ensure they develop multicultural counseling competence and are able to help clients despite cultural differences.
A professional counselor or mental health professional may consider using the following multicultural therapy techniques when working with culturally diverse clientele:
- Therapeutic approach. Counselors should attempt to be knowledgeable about their client’s attitudes and beliefs about the counseling process in order to select appropriate interventions. A multicultural counselor should also be mindful of cultural stigma regarding mental illness when describing conditions and recommending therapies. Counselors must also try to recognize the potential limitations of evidence-based therapies in effectively addressing the needs of clients from various diverse cultures.
- Communication. Counselors should try to be cognizant of societal figures of speech and phrases that trigger ethnic minorities. Cultural contexts as well as Culture-specific verbal and nonverbal aspects (i.e. gestures, body language, personal space, etc.) of communication should be considered during client interaction.
- Values. Counselors and their patients both may benefit by incorporating culturally diverse clients’ values and beliefs into the counseling process. Cultural belief systems like spirituality and family-centric issues may in themselves serve as therapeutic vehicles to promote healing.
- Self-awareness. Counselors should attempt to be sensitive to their own inherent racial or cultural identity and privilege, ethnocentrism, prejudice, and stereotypes when interacting with diverse populations. The counselor should be constantly aware of how their own attitudes, racial identity and beliefs impact their perception of the client, the client's presenting problem, and the counseling relationship of rapport.
- Flexibility. Counselors should 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 mental health professional with more cultural competence.
At Alliant, you can learn to cultivate and incorporate the knowledge and skills of a multicultural competency approach into your counseling practice. As an international institution with a diverse population of students and staff, our ultimate goal is to develop mental health clinicians who are uniquely prepared to understand cultural differences and work with clients from all diverse groups.