As the world becomes more integrated, there has been massive movement of people and interaction of different cultures has become common. Every community these days can be considered as a multicultural community as people with different racial, religious, and ethnic backgrounds have come to live together. Counselors should therefore be ready to face this multicultural society in their work.
Multicultural counseling competence for professional counselors refers to the aspect of counselor's ability to work effectively with clients from different cultural groups. Most researchers have in most instance articulated a rationale that emphasize on race and ethnicity as the core correlates for multicultural counseling competence but in real social set up, there are other factors that goes beyond race and ethnicity including age, gender, nationality, social class, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, and many others (Robinson, & Howard-Hamilton, 2000). To become cultural competent, counselors must be in a position to overlap and interact with features of multiple identity structures mentioned above. Culturally competent counseling is not only used to achieve aims of counseling but it should go further to assist the client to overcome issues related to his or her cultural position in the society. It should be used as a tool of empowerment to assist the client combat the negative effect of marginalization results from the client's position in the society. It is all about assisting the client to refute internalization of inferiority and subordination.
There are many advantages of becoming cultural competent counselors. Cultural competence should be considered as a core factor in counselor's training because counselors will always encounter a situation that requires application of cultural competency (Harley, Jolivette, McCormick & Tice, 2002). A cultural competent counselor is able to discern the client problems behind the actual problems the client thinks they have. Cultural competent counselors are in a position to assist the client better. Since it is considered as a core aspect of counseling, it should be taught at the basic levels of counseling so that the counselors integrate cultural competence to skills gained as they advance in training.
There are different ways in which history of counseling has helped or oppressed culturally diverse populations. It should be understood that counseling as profession, originated from Western societies that had a different outlook of social and personal problems facing individuals in the society compared to other non-Western societies. Throughout history, perception of culturally diverse populations has changed with changes in human interaction. For example, research shows that in United States, there was a great change in multicultural counseling after the 1960s Civil Rights movement and perception and status of the minority greatly changed in the country. The changing status in the society has corresponded with changes in counseling approach for culturally diverse populations (Harley et al., 2002). Taking example of a gender group like women and minority groups, it will be found out that throughout history, women have been treated differently. They have been considered inferior and even in counseling, they were still considered so. Women have lived under the shadow of men while minority groups have always been considered not as a part of mainstream society. For example psychodynamic counseling, which has been a base in counseling for a long time, has been criticized on multicultural counseling grounds because it is considered against minority groups and women. Psychodynamic counseling is seen as male and elitist. It has been considered to have an oppressive view and patronage to only the wealthy and leaves out the weak in the society. At the same time, those in support of this theory argues that it can help women and minority groups to learn how to present their issues in relation to past histories of oppression and domination. A look at the interaction between women and minority groups, and psychodynamic counseling shows that throughout history of development of counseling, there have been some theories that have failed to integrate the needs of women and minority groups.
One of the debates that bring out issues confronting culturally diverse groups includes the issue of standardized testing debate. Historical accounts shows reign of confusion and controversy as far as intelligence debate is concerned. There has been a great concern about the low performance of racially and linguistically diverse students including African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in standardized testing. These students have been greatly underrepresented in special education and gifted education which relies on tests to make educational and placement decisions (American Psychological Association, 1999). Racially and linguistically diverse students have been under-represented in gifted education and over-represented in special education. The debate to explain this phenomenon is two pronged with one side arguing about the low performance being attributed to cultural deprivation. This is however based on deficit thinking and stereotypes but not on actual performance. On the other hand, there are those who argue that minority students are cultural different which means culture has an impact on test performance. This debate is however never conclusive as the real reason for underperformance of the cultural diverse groups have not been looked into in details. There have been many assumptions and this debate has just oppressed rather than benefited the cultural diverse groups.
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