Empowering Minority Clients

Empowering Minority Clients

Nicole Higginbotham

Bellevue University
Empowering Minority Clients

In counseling, it is important for each and every client to get the help he or she needs. A counselor must be responsive to the individual culture of the clients he or she helps, and in order to do this, exposure to the culture and constant education must be intact. A counselor must be dedicated to the care of his or her clients, so proactively learning about and exposing oneself to the cultural backgrounds of the clients is extremely important.

Counseling can be a difficult process for a client to go through. When someone consults a counselor, most of the time, they may be hurt and not know who to trust. Therefore, it is important for counselors to understand that each client has individual morals and beliefs that help them make the decisions and organize their priorities. “Although there are some important cross-cultural similarities in the qualities that help children gain peer acceptance, there are also culturally based differences, especially in matters such as conflict resolution” (Blewitt, P. and Broderick, P., 2010). It is recommended “that practitioners encourage them to apply their own internal resources and self-corrective mechanisms, because this is a natural aspect of problem solving in non-Western cultures” (Murphy, J.J., 2008).

In order to help clients, counselors must be able to familiarize themselves with the client’s cultural background and the source of their morals and beliefs. “In a looking-glass society that sorts on the basis of race, ethnicity, and appearance and then reflects back to them the measure of their worth, many [people] who are members of minority or marginalized groups, confront the negative stereotypes and discriminatory practices of others head on” (Blewitt, P. and Broderick, P., 2010). Therefore, it is important that counselors are understanding in regards to each client’s culture and understand the repercussions of making an culturally insensitive decision. This doesn’t mean that they have to change their own beliefs, but it does mean that counselors need to be able to be open-minded enough to consider the differences in each client in order to help them help themselves. “The current standards and recommendations for culturally competent practice [are comprised of] treating every client as an individual with a unique frame of reference, collaborating on the goals and content of counseling, tailoring services to clients instead of expecting them to conform to our preferences,  obtaining ongoing feedback from clients on the usefulness of our services, and adjusting our approach accordingly” (Murphy, J.J., 2008).

There are many ways that a counselor can familiarize him or herself with his or her client’s culture. First of all, a counselor must figure out what kind of a cultural background his or her client is from. Many people are from more or one cultures, so finding a client’s individual morals and beliefs may be somewhat difficult. Nevertheless, with careful listening and understanding, most of the time, a counselor can decipher the roots of a client’s actions and decisions. Learning why a person works the way he or she does can show a counselor the options available in helping the client. A counselor would have to determine which options would be culturally acceptable to the client and help him or her achieve his or her goals most effectively. “When I go a counselor, I expect somebody who is going to relate to the situation I am in [and] my cultural background, and not try to press their own beliefs on me,” said Isaac Carnes. “From a client’s point-of-view, the more detached that a counselor is, the less [the clients] are likely to respond.”

After figuring out the cultural orientation of a client, it may be necessary to do some research on their culture. This can be done by researching the common practices of the culture online or by reading. However, a more stable approach to this, such as exposure to the culture, would be required as well to evaluate which beliefs were due to a traditional upbringing and which beliefs are based on the client’s personal experiences. A counselor is trained to help a client, and in doing this, it is important not to make decisions that may isolate a client from his or her culture. “Research shows clients from ethnic minority groups are the least likely to make use of counseling services [because] it is an ethnocentric activity, based on the values of the white, middle-classes, an approach which can alienate those from other cultures” (NGRF, 2004). Counselors must make the process of counseling comfortable for all of their clients. This makes it easier for the clients to focus on helping themselves, and using a culturally sensitive frame-of-mind, it is more likely that the counselor’s assistance doesn’t create more issues for a client such as conflicting with his or her cultural values.

When a counselor finds the client’s frame of reference, the counselor can begin to build a relationship of trust with the client, making it more likely for the client to accept the counselor. At this point, a counselor will be able to learn about the issues going on in the client’s life, and he or she will be able to go through solutions to the problem with the client. It is very important that the client works with a counselor to find solutions to his or her issues. This is a way to make sure that the solution  to the client’s issue coincides with the morals and beliefs derived from their cultural background. “Understanding the cultural and sociopolitical context of a client’s behavior is essential to accurate assessment, interpretation, and treatment” (NGRF, 2004). This also makes it more likely that the client will continue with his or her counseling, which can help him or her with his or her issues and help him or her lead a better life.

Learning about a client’s culture and familiarizing oneself with the values and beliefs that go along with that particular culture can help a counselor create a better relationship with the client. This enhances trust and communication, making it easier for the counselor to know the full extent of the situation that the client is having issues with. Education on the client’s culture can assist a counselor in determining which psychological methods would be most effective in helping the client solve his or her problems, while still remaining culturally sensitive. Acting as a team when coming up with solutions to the client’s issue can help the counselor and client figure out which solution would work better with the client without impacting another part of his or her life. This increases the likelihood that the client will fulfill his or her responsibilities in helping him or herself, while still remaining comfortable with the counselor process. As it is stated that many people see counseling as a ethnocentric practice, it is important that counselors go the extra mile and make their clients feel accepted (NGRF, 2004). A counselor’s position is to help every client regardless of their identity. Therefore, constant education on various cultural practices is important. Society is a changing force, and knowing and understanding the different practices that one’s clients may have can help a counselor determine the correct responses to the various issues that his or her clients are having. Feedback from a client can also be helpful to a counselor. This can help him or her decide with psychological approaches are working with people from certain cultures and which ones aren’t, allowing him or her options to consider when a person from the same or a similar culture begins counseling. This can also show a counselor if he or she was being culturally offensive in anyway and make it more likely for counseling to become a more culturally acceptable practice. Understanding and education can help a counselor communicate with his or her clients more effectively, regardless of his or her culture. Experience with clients of different cultural backgrounds can enhance a counselor’s knowledge, hopefully creating a more welcoming counseling environment for clients of all cultures.

References

Blewitt, P. and Broderick, P. The Life Span: Human Development for Helping Professionals. (3rd edition.) Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

Isaac Carnes., Personal Interview

Murphy, J.J. (2008) Solution-focused counseling in schools. (2nd edition). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association

NGRF. (2004)  Multicultural Counseling. Retrieved December 18, 2011, from http://www.guidance-research.org

Porter, Natalie. Empowering Supervisees to Empower Others: A Culturally Responsive Supervision Model. University of New Mexico

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