What is Multicultural Counseling?

| Staff Writers

Multicultural counseling has been gaining popularity in therapy communities for the past few years. While you may have heard the term, you may not be familiar with all the aspects of this particular disciplinary stance. If you would like to know more, read on as we explore what this theoretical body entails and how it can be used to benefit members of a diverse cultural community.

What Does Multicultural Counseling Entail?

Counseling is a popular tool to help remove roadblocks to intergroup harmony, assess difficulties within a family group, or assist individuals who must cope with the stresses of everyday life. However, as our society has gained culturally complex components, traditional counseling has fallen short of these goals. The underlying truth became apparent when these methods were further analyzed. Since they had been empirically verified on a specific sub-group of middle-class Euro-American males, it would stand to reason that any not identifying with this group would experience a diminished therapeutic response.

Multicultural counseling theory is a body of assessment and philosophy that seeks to embrace the highly varied social context in which individuals act. It takes into account the variations and differing viewpoints that inform the worldview of those from other cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It also removes the onus of personal blame for difficulties from the individual, while concomitantly liberating them to accept responsibility for their own life path.

Within the theoretical stance are incorporated concepts pertaining to:

  • Gender roles and formation of gender identity
  • The dual concept of culture as a shared system of beliefs and an internalized system of personally applicable mores.
  • Colonialism, means of hegemony, and pressure to acculturate
    Formation of individual identity
  • Personal responsibility in context of a cultural medium
    Self-esteem, self-awareness
  • Stereotyping and culturally ingrained prejudice
  • Concepts of language retention and cultural integrity

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These features enable multicultural counselors to assist members of marginalized communities and cultures to pursue fulfilling life paths. Rather than yielding to the dominant ideological themes, an individual can retain both concepts of a culturally defined self and act within the cultural medium with responsibility, integrity, and no loss of identity. Indigenous language and cultural retention is viewed as integral to this process.

The Tools and Foci Required

In order for you to practice counseling of this sort, it’s important to identify and assess your own dominant beliefs. This includes obvious stereotypes of other cultural adherents, beliefs and social values, concepts of appropriate therapy. You might feel that such an assessment is either simple or unnecessary, but in many cases, prejudice, assumptions inherent to your own culturally driven worldview, and concepts about the efficacy of certain therapeutic approaches can deeply hinder your effectiveness as a counselor.

Especially when working with individuals or small groups whose lived experience vastly differs from your own, whose hearth language may be different, and whose socioeconomic status is almost certain to differ from that with which you are familiar, it’s vital that you be well versed in the theoretical perspectives of this branch of counseling.

The goal is to empower individuals and groups to maintain their specific identity within a cultural matrix that may not match their own, to remove the personally applied stigma of reduced income or other socioeconomic factors, and enable your clients to pursue the life paths that are right for them in their own way. Multicultural counseling can provide many marginalized individuals with the necessary emotional and conceptual tools to make a success of their lives, without sacrificing who they are.

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