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– A New Perspective Essay, Research Paper

SOCIOLOGY – A New Perspective “Every person is like all persons, like some persons and like no other persons” (Speight 32). I believe every one of us to be unique in one respect or another and for counselors to maximize their potential they must see the differences as well as the similairities. Stemming from a cultural backround these values can be seen. Culture plays a huge role in counseling, but how culture is defined has been a problem. Back in the ’50s two anthropologists counted the definitions of culture used in the social sciences and they came up with more than 160 distinct meanings (Griswold 8). Every class, book, and teacher of mine has defined culture differently. These explanations of culture may be sufficient to accomplish the goals of specialized groups of people, but they are inadequate in understanding individuals. Counseling has emphasized the racial and ethnic differences between people. The guidelines that have been established require counselors to learn about the characteristics of each racial and ethnic group. understanding what each group values was thought to lead to the interpretation of why they do what they do. This approach has led to a “cookbook” which gives a “recipe” of what these individuals are perceived to believe (Speight 32). Looking at a person this way assumes that all people within a group are the same. This view may help understand some concerns, but taken alone obviously is inefficient in looking the client as a whole. Common sense tells us that conflicts exist within the same ethnic or racial group, therefore this approach lacks the ability to go beyond ethnic or racial boundaries (Pedersen 7). We are complex people and for any counselor to successfully assist their clients a framework or theory must be introduced. I believe every one of us is a collective representation of the many interactions in which we participate. Assuming that there are not two people who interact with exactly the same people, groups, and institutions helps us see that we all have a distinct collectiveness. Depending on these differences, we develop our own thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. We undoubtedly share common drives, therefore we have similairities, but we may use different behaviors to achieve the same goals. If culture is vaguely defined, It can be underestimated and misunderstood (Ibrahim 72). A concrete definition of culture must include an extensive outlook of a client to be helpful. Definitions are usually unclear and elusive. Seldom do they explain or evaluate (Ibrahim 72). In all my research, I have not come across a sufficient definition. Complexity of definitions often make it impossible to apply these definitions to the abstract meanings and symbols that we encounter in studying culture (Ridley 126). I will focus on the importance of cultural awareness in the counseling profession and the absolute neccessity of a uniting and workable theory. “Culture is alive, dynamic and all its elements are interconnected, and each fulfills a specific function in the integral scheme” (Ibrahim 73). Paul Pederson, a leading counseling researcher asserts that”Clients are not merely representatives of a single culture. They participate in aspects of different cultural groups, with each cultural facet overlapping in a unique way to create a blend that is unique to the individual” (8). Pederson further states “In fact, it has been estimated that people may have over 1,000 roles or cultures which they belong to at any given time” (8). Since frequently the term culture seems to be specialized to focus on a specific aspect, let us consider a broad view combining the aggregate of culture specific categories focusing on what is called a multi-cultural perspective. Multi-cultural view could apply to all counseling relationships and helps explain both in terms of culturally learned that is unique to a particular group as well as to the individual (Pedersen 6). I believe that it is necessary to see the whole picture as this approach emphasizes. Too many times people jump to conclusions without taking into consideration all the facts. Neglecting either of these views gives an incomplete picture (Speight 32). Multi-culture relationships can be very complex, and just like culture there is not an exact working definition or theory. Counselors have recognized the need for a network or system of interlocking testable laws that can be considered a multi-cultural theory. Although this has yet to happen, there are many researchers who are emphatically pushing towards this goal (Ridley 127). There is a long history of warnings and recommendations concerning the need to develop multi-cultural standards, but up to this point, most of the profession has only given lip service to its urgency (Sue 477 and Ibrahim 75). Demographic shifts are probably the most obvious reason for a need to recognize multi-cultural counseling. As I have pointed out multi-cultural counseling involves all people to some degree, but consider just race and ethnicity for a moment. The 1990 U.S. census reveals that the U.S. is undergoing radical demographic change. It is projected that by the year 2000 more than one-third of the population will be racial and ethnic minorities. By 2010, racial and ethnic minorities will numerically be the majority with an estimate of white Americans constituting about 48 percent (Sue et al 478). A further projection claims that a century from now the population in the U.S. will be closer to the world balance with the whites only compromising 26 percent (Ibrahim 13).

Current imigration rates are the largest in the U.S. history, while Americans are constituting the lowest birth rates estimated at 1.7 child per mother (Sue 478). Radical demographic shifts represent our growing pluralistic society and the need to develop counseling skills to address the multiplicity of cultures. Sensitivity to culturally different individuals or groups is vital to identifying problems. We are not a mono-culture. We differ through the obvious of race and ethnicity, and also among the same groups. Counseling professionals must understand that treating americans as if we all had the same cultural values is damaging. Cultural insensitivity damages the therapeutic process. Consequences are diminished empathy, ethnocentrism and could possibly compound problems instead of resolving them (Ridley 125). We are a multi-value society, therefore, we must be treated as such. The dominant culture seems to be only concerned with itself. It seems that a major obstacle in getting the counseling profession to understand the negative implications of mono culturalism is that white culture is such a dominant norm that it acts as an “invisible veil” that prevents people from seeing counseling as a potentially biased system (Sue 480). The dominant culture has the tendency to impose on the culturally different consumer their own values without giving the consumer the freedom of his own beliefs. Becoming aware of these issues makes me wonder how credible the counseling system is presently. If these paradigms are not alleviated the profession could suffer dramatically. “Professions without training or competance in working with clients form adverse cultural backgrounds are unethical and potentially harmful, which borders on a violation of human rights” (Ibrahim 480). Researchers have identified cultural sensitivity as essential to therapy, but they cannot explain how to achieve it. Without a framework to follow, confusion over clients’ cultural values will continue. Clients will be improperly assessed and therapy could become less effective. There has been some success in research where there is an overwhelming sense that skills must be acquired to help counselors become more sensitve to clients’ values. Counselors who cannot overlook their own values are unfair to clients and could be considered biased. Self-awareness is a invaluable tool for conselors to maximize their neutrality. Counselors bring to therapy their own set of experiences, values, norms, and expectations (Ridley 131). These can be valuables tools if their perspectives are shared by the client. Considering that these views are not always shared, the counselor cannot just assumes that the client believes as he does. Counselors who are not aware that they are forcing their own beliefs on a client tend to distort, ignore, and underempahsize incoming cultural information (Ridley 131). I believe to be a culturally skilled counselor one must become aware of assumptions of their own values. The old saying “counselor know thyself” is crucial in keeping the counselor’s limitations from interfering with the ability to work with clients (Sue 481). Challenging of a counselors stereotypes and biases also helps to minimize interference. Every one of us has these limitations, this is why people argue. We believe differently and as long as we each hold firmly to our own ideas, there can be no resolution. Therefore, recognizing our limitations is only the first step. Accepting and succeding to minimize these paradigms frees us from the their bondage. The best multi-cultural conselors are the ones who challenge their own stereotypes and biases, therefore be more open to other’s unique experiences (Speight 30). Multi-cultural views can benefit us all, and as our pluralistic society increases it will be helpful in understanding the people around us. The counseling profession’s purpose is to understand people’s problems and to minimize suffering. It is vital that counselors recognize the need for a multi-cultural perspective. I believe that the counseling profession has helped people, but they are minimizing their capacity with limited views. Every one of us is a special person. I am not the same as you and you are not the same as me. Physically, our differences are obvious, but our values and beliefs are not as easily understood. As individuals the multi-cultural perspective can benefit us in two ways. First, it can help counselors to better understand problems of people and secondly, it can shed beauty on the unique make-up of human life.

Ibrahim, Farah A. “Contibution of Cultural Worldview to Generic Counseling and Development.” Journal ofCounseling and Development 70 (1991): 13-19. Griswold, Wendy. Cultures and Societies in a ChangingWorld. California: Pine Forge, 1994. Pedersen, Paul B. “Multiculturalism as a Generic Approach to Counseling.” Journal of Counseling and Development 70 (1992): 477-486. Ridley, Charles R. et al. “Cultural Sensitivity in Multicultural Counseling: A Perceptual Schema Model.” Journal of Counseling Psychology 41 (1994): 125-136. Speight, Suzette L. et al. “A Redefinition of Multicultural Counseling.” Journal of Counseling and Development 70 (1991): 29-35. Sue, Derald Wing et al. “Multicultural Counseling Competencies and Standards: A Call to the Profession.” Journal of Counseling and Development 70 (1992): 477-486.

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