“Every man is in certain respects; (a) like all other men, (b) like some other men, and (c) like no other men” (Leong, F.T.L., 2011, p. 150).
We are inextricably connected to culture, defining it while simultaneously existing as a byproduct of it. (Leong, F.T.L., 2011). It is clear that counseling can’t occur in isolation of society at large (Sue & McDavis, 1992), and that counseling interventions are never culturally neutral (Framboise, et al., 1993). Consequently multicultural competence must be an integral component of ethical therapeutic practice . A multimodal approach will be needed to consider varied factors from multiple viewpoints. A quick review of literature reflects the complexity of the issue, with a complexity of approaches encompassing an array of factors to consider from multiple perspectives. For example, the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies, includes an awareness of one’s own cultural perspective, the clients, as well as knowledge of appropriate interventions based on these factors. (Arredondo, et al., 1996). Assessing one’s beliefs, knowledge base, and skill set, within these three areas is essential for multicultural competence (Arredondo, et al., 1996). Adding to this perspective, is insight from an article which says our personal development can be understood from a universal, group oriented and finally individual one (Leong, F.T.L, 2011). In keeping with the idea that the individual and society at large are mutually definitive and interrelated in a complexity of ways, this perspective can be useful from a variety of theoretical perspectives. Additionally, it could provide useful insight when utilized alongside the ADDRESSING Model discussed in our textbook (Hays, P, 2008).
A Tentative Plan
With multicultural competence such a complex issue, a plan is essential as a general guide to the development of this skill. In this section, I provide a tentative outline of how I plan to develop multicultural competence. In doing so, I will utilize the Bellevue University MCC Graduate Student Disposition Rubric to organize my thoughts (Bellevue University, 2014). Additionally, in the spirit of this assignment, I believe a more informal and honestly self-reflective discussion is essential to make the most of this exercise.
Professionalism: Maturity & Responsibility.
“Seeks solutions independently and/or identifies faculty who can assist…uses discretion by discussing the problem with only the appropriate person(s); focuses on solutions rather than blame….is respective to constructive comments….maintains confidentiality….always displays a thorough preparation…always demonstrates behaviors that exemplify honesty, and integrity…” (Bellevue University, 2014).
Strengths. When reflecting upon the above, I feel my work as a C.N.A./Psych Tech has prepared me fairly well overall. Confidentiality and discretion are very familiar concepts, (Catholic Health Initiative, 2014). Additionally, maintaining a sense of integrity is what keeps me going during even the most difficult shifts. This concept of integrity has meant thinking of the well being of clients first, and doing right by them first and foremost. In doing so, this has meant letting go of any ego-based need to blame someone else. Regardless of who is to blame, I have had to learn to understand the perspective of those whom I provide care for. Adding to this, work-oriented skill development are my personal experiences as a biracial individual. I’ve developed an understanding of the concept of cultural relativity and feel a heightened self-awareness has been an adaptive response to this experience. The result is a greater willingness and open-mindedness to idea of understand cultural perspectives other than my own.
Area of Growth. Being thoroughly prepared from the standpoint of multicultural competency, will have to be an ongoing commitment. On the one hand, I’m a very self-aware individual, in terms of my own cultural values and biases (Arredondo, et al, 1996) Additionally, I am very willing to learn about other cultures (Arredondo, et al, 1996). At the same time, I do need to gain greater knowledge and skills when through interpersonal work within those communities I hope to serve (Arredondo, et al, 1996; Hays, 2008).
Solutions. Direct interaction with individuals in communities I hope to serve within will need to be a priority. Finding volunteer work, and opportunities for exposure to other cultures will be important.
Professionalism & Valuing Others.
“Interactions…respectful of differing opinions. Treats others with courtesy, respect, and open-mindedness. Listens to and shows interest in the ideas and opinions of others. Seeks opportunities to include or show appreciation for those who may be excluded. Demonstrates concern….” (Bellevue University, 2014).
Strengths. When considering how this applies to multicultural competence, valuing others will start with a self awareness of my own cultural background (Arredondo, et al, 1996) Being open-minded and willing to respect other cultural perspectives will be vital (Arredondo, et al, 1996) In these respects, I do believe I’m well on my way to expressing my desire to show I value others. Nonetheless, a knowledge base and set of interpersonal skills is again essential to add to this attitudinal perspective. Without it, I can have the best of intentions, but fail to meet my desired mark.
Areas of Growth. According to an article on biculturalism by Theresa LaFramboise, a culturally competent individuals hold a strong identity, possesses a knowledge of cultural beliefs and values, is able to display sensitivity to the affective, behavioral and language components in a cultural, while negotiating their way through social relationships and institutions in that culture. (LaFramboise, et al, 1993). Its clear without these components, serious errors in communication can occur. Culture can be seen as a paradigmatic foundation in a person’s life, defining not just values and beliefs, but how we feel, think, and relates to others(Hays, P., 2008). As I’m well aware, within the familial cultural gaps existing in my own extended family, failing to understand this can relate to terrible misunderstandings.
Solutions. As stated before, developing this skill and knowledge will mean: (1) developing a knowledge base of therapeutic interventions, (2) gaining opportunities to be exposed to other cultures. While doing so, our Hays (2008) textbook mentions the importance of humility as a critical element to professional growth which I believe will be important throughout the learning process:
“When people are humble, they recognize that other viewpoints, beliefs, and traditions, may be just as valid as their own….people with genie humility are effective helpers, because they are realistic about what they have to offer….critical thinking skills are essential, because they involve the abilities to identify and challenge assumptions….examine contextual influences…and imagine and explore alternatives. (Hays, P., 2008, p29).
Professionalism & Networking.
“Counselor is highly active in professional organizations and views professional organizations as a valuable medium through which ideas and information can be freely and consistently shared.” (Bellevue University, 2014).
Areas of Growth: When reviewing the above criterion, it is clear this is an area in which much growth is needed. I don’t honestly have a lot of opportunity for networking on the job. I work the weekend night shift in a nursing float pool throughout the Alegent Creighton Health System. I also go to school, and have a family, while jet lagged from my night shift hours.
The crucial importance of networking from the perspective of multicultural competence is it provides an opportunity for others to challenge your views offering valuable counterpoints you may not consider on your own. Without this, I’m leaving a critical opportunity for learning out of the mix, in my educational and career pursuits.
Solutions: I intend to focus on developing strong supervisory relationships within any internship and volunteer opportunities while earning my degree. Getting involved in organizations opportunities as a student therapist is another goal. Finally, taking time to talk with those in the field, has been an ongoing priority, so I can plan my career path accordingly based on any shared insights.
Professionalism: Appearance & Self Care.
“Reflects upon and revises counseling practices and expertly applies revised practices…consistently seeks out self-care and prevention of burnout…participates in various ongoing educational and staff development activities….Is a role model of professionalism through personal appearance, attire, and cleanliness.” (Bellevue University, 2014).
Areas of Growth: As is often said amongst caretakers in the field, you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of others. Making time to engage in adequate self care, is a critical priority in my overall life path. As someone who spends much time caring for others, I’m at a high risk of burnout. “Burnout is a state of physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual depletion characterized by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, (Corey, et al, 2011, p69). The critical problem with burnout and heightened stress, are their ability to rob your ability to care for others with any degree of competence. You can’t give to others any more than you’re willing or able to give yourself (Corey, et al, 2011). It goes without saying, that no headway will be made in attaining multicultural effectiveness, if I can’t make this criterion a priority.
Solutions. First and foremost in my self care regimen, is the need for adequate sleep. After having switched to a different work schedule, and paying of some lingering debt, I find I’m able to cut down on my work hours. As a result, I’m making time to take care of myself, and am currently exercising and eating healthier with the goal to lose weight. Additionally, I’ve saved up some money, for a more professional wardrobe, since nursing scrubs will no longer be appropriate.
From the outset, choosing to enter the field of therapy, has been more than a career move. It is a new life path, and a logical extension, from my past personal life progression of personal growth. Much of what I’ve learned through this education process, has taken on a very personally reflective quality. My most critical steps from this point forward will involve taking action, through direct interpersonal experience, as well as consistency in effort and commitment over time. With my greatest challenges being self care and the need for networking opportunities, these have been my biggest focuses, in moving forward.
Arredondo, P., Toporek, M.S., Brown S., Jones, J., Locke, D.C., J. and Stadler, H. (1996) Operationalization of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies. AMCD: Alexandria VA.
Bellevue University. (2014). MCC Graduate Student Disposition Rubric. [Class Handout]
Catholic Health Initiative. (2014). HIPPA & Privacy Rule. http://www.chihealth.com/hipaaprivacyrule
Corey, G. ,Corey, M.S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and ethics in the helping professions. (8th ed.) Belmont: CA: Brooks & Cole.
Hays, P. & Iwamasa, G. (2010) Culturally responsive cognitive-behavioral therapy. (3rd ed.) Washington, D.C. American Psychological Association.
Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice. (2nd ed.) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
LaFramboise, T., Coleman, H.L.K. & Gerton, J. (1993) Psychological impact of biculturalism: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin. 114, 395-412.
Leahy, R.L. (2008) The therapeutic relationship in cognitive-behavioral therapy. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 36, 769-777.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.
Sue, D.W., Arredondo, R. & McDavis, R.J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of Counseling & Development. 70, 477-486.