Search Results for: brene

Insights from Brene Brown….

For a recent assignment, I was required to select a self help book that pertained in some way to the subject of career counseling and provide an overview of it. As a Brene Brown fan, I chose to revew her latest book, “Rising Strong”.  A Grounded Theory Researcher, Brene’s self-books provide a summary of findings from interviews with research participants, utilizing a Narrative Therapy perspective. From a personal standpoint, I’ve really appreciated Brene’s books, since they summarize my own path of self-development. Underlying this process of personal growth, was an inexplicable “stuckness” that feels much like a “vinyl record with a needle stuck in a groove, repeating the same sound over and over”, (Ingram, 2012). Brene’s method of addressing this issue of stuckness, is to utilize a storytelling approach.   It is by claiming ownership of our life story, that we can find an underlying system of meaning woven throughout it (Brene, 2015).  What I appreciate about her books are they appear to follow the author’s progression of growth.  For this reason I feel they are really worth reviewing below…

So What Does Forward Motion Look Like????

In the book’s introduction, Brene Brown describes how all her books fit within as part of an overall picture towards wholehearted living which she defines as follows:

IMG_2379“engaging in our lives from a places of worthiness…cultivating the courage, compassion, connection to wake up in the morning and think, ‘no matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough’” (Brene, 2015, p xix).

Brene describes in her latest book “Rising Strong” how each book she has published, fits within an overall picture of wholehearted living.  Understanding this concept has been essentially for me to become “unstuck” and get off the hamster wheel.  It has taught me to understand how I get in my own way and develop a live a life that at one point had been “impossible”.   So what does forward motion – away from where we are to where we want to get to – look like??  To answer this question, a quick review of key concepts from Brene’s books is useful here….

STEP ONE: Listening to Shame…

Defined as “an intensely painful feeling that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”, (Brown, 2006, p 45), the concept of shame is first introduced in her book “The Gifts of Imperfection” (Brene, 2010).  Here, we are guided through a discussion that encourages how the concept of shame is woven throughout our personal life narrative (Brene, 2015).  As an individual with PTSD, this was an especially laborious process and the subject of several years of therapy.  However, what I discovered is that these feelings of shame pertain to messages I’ve received throughout my lifetime about what “good enough” means.  In retrospect, I realize I’m someone who has been running towards a preconceived notion of what this has meant for me.  simultaneously, I’ve been running away from what unwanted identities, comprised the messages of shame from others, (I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, etc).  Recognizing this has allowed me to accept myself as I am as good enough right now.  The journey now isn’t about getting to a place I believed was necessary to be “good enoug”. Instead good enough is now.  I can finally relax into the moments of my life and be present to enjoy it more fully.

STEP TWO: Being Vulnerable…

In her second book, “Daring Greatly”, Brene defines her concept of vulnerability as “having the courage to show up and be seen when you have no control over the outcome” (Brene, 2015, p4).  Vulnerability has produced a sense of vibrant fear in me.  Yes, I am aware that vulnerability is crucial for full engagement in life or,”Being all in” (Brene, 2012, p. 2).  However, unresolved traumas throughout my life have taught me otherwise.  Vulnerability produces fear because it means I have to be seen, and risk criticism or judgment.  Being “perfect and bulletproof are seductive” (Brene, 2012, p. 2) for exactly this reason.  The practice of vulnerability in an uncertain world has taken time for me.  The first step happened as I addressed old hurts.  The second step came as I learned to become more secure in who I was and validate myself in ways others hadn’t.  In time, the fear of vulnerability has gradually subsided.

STEP THREE:  Growing from Failure…

Overcoming shame and becoming vulnerability can be difficult when you stumble and fail.  However, failure, as Brene notes in her latest book, “Rising Strong” is an inevitable part of progression though life.  For this latest book, Brene (2015) gathered stories of sucess in a series of interviews to uncover any commonailties.  What she found were narratives mirroring Joseph Campbell’s (2008), book “The Hero with a Thousand Phases”.   In the first act of this book, the main character finds himself in a situation, which is the onset of a new adventure (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008). The second act finds our hero in a situation in which he has to take drastic steps to solve his dilemma (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008). The final act finds our character doing what is necessary to achieve his goal, resulting in a conflict resolution (Brene, 2015; Campbell, 2008).  In sum, her latest research has uncovered stories of success arising form failure as a learning opportunity to along a spiritual path towards wholeness.  The final section of this post provides a brief overview of these steps:

Rising Strong: An Overview

“If we are brave enough, often enough, we will fail; this is the physics of vulnerability.  Once we fail in the services of being brave, we can never go back.  Courage transforms the emotional structure of our being” (Brene, 2015, p5).

In her latest book, “Rising Strong”, Berne (2015) provides an overview of how to move past failure.  The first step, known as “The Reckoning”, (Brene, 2015, p37), involves acknowledging our story and accepting responsibility for our narrative role. The second step, known as “The Rumble” (Brene, 2015, p37), involves taking ownership of our story and involves an honest examination of it. Along the way, we’re forced to acknowledge truths and erroneous assumptions. Finally, Rising Strong process involves a “Revolution” (Brene, 2015, p37), and involves rewriting our narrative and learning from our rumble to create a new story. What follows is an overview of the steps in this narrative process….

STEP ONE: “The Reckoning” (Brene, 2015).

 In her discussion of “The Reckoning”, Brene (2015) states: “you either walk into your story and own your truth or you live outside your story, hustling for your worthiness” (p45).  Brene, (2015) notes that fear and trauma often complicate our efforts to claim ownership of our story.  To explain this desire to resist our life story, she utilizes the concept of chandelier pain as an exquisite and intolerable hurt which one cannot ignore (Brene, 2015, p16).  Rather than owning it, it isn’t uncommon to medicate, numb it or stockpile it.  Taking time to work through the unresolved traumas in my own life has been critical to the initiation of forward motion in life.  In order to “get unstuck” this was an absolutely essential step for me.

STEP TWO: “The Rumble” (Brene, 2015).

The next step in growing from failure involves examining our life story, and how we have created it as the narrator.  This process, which she calls “The Rumble”, (Brene, 2015), mirrors narrative therapy.  She encourages readers to examine the stories behind our emotions.  As I’ve said often throughout this blog, there’s a big difference between thing through your feelings and not with them.  I believe this is what Brene is speaking of here.  What stories, believes, and thoughts underlie your emotional responses to life events?  What triggered the emotions?  How does this narrative exists as a self-fulfilling prophecy, by creating the life experiences which reflect it?   The section ends with an overview of questions that might be useful in examining our narrative: (1) what do I need to understand about the event? (2) What do I need to learn about from other people in this story? and (3) what do I need to understand about myself in the context of this story? (Brene, 2015, p92-93).  Finally, Brene (2015) states this process simply begins with an attitude of curiosity and willingness.  

STEP THREE: “The Revolution” (Brene, 2015).

            The final step in this process of growing from failure is revolution: a “no-turning-back” Brene, 2015, p 254) stage.   This “revolution” involves a renewed sense of clarity this process starts once insight is put into practice (Brown, 2015). In a step-by-step manner, this process involves a gradual change as we create new stories based on altered narratives. A convenient example, would be my latest (and successful attempt to lose weight). Rather than chasing a physical ideal based on what I considered to be “good enough”, I’m instead assuming “good enough” is now. The result is, a sense of peace in which self-care is the priority, and getting there occurs one step at a time.

Conclusion

I owe a debt of gratitude to Brene Brown for helping redefine the concepts of failure and success. When I was younger, success was always a “then point” where I could work my way into being “good enough”. Success was conceived of as a state of invulnerability, in which I was delivered from my own shame-laden life story. Failure, in turn was what I didn’t want to be in the present. As I have (long since) learned, success requires us to examine our past and any underlying narratives. Acting on these insights on the road to success, taking a chance not knowing the outcome, and risking failure.  This means acting on faith, that the journey contains the lessons we need to find our way there.

References

Brown, B. (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame.  Families in Society. 87(1), 43-48.
Brown, B. (2008). I Thought it was Just Me: But it Isn’t: Telling the Truth about Perfectionsim, Inadequacy, and Power. Gotham.
Brown, B. (2010). The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are.Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Publishing.
Brown, B. (2012). Daring greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead. London, England: Penguin.
Brown, B. (2015). Rising Strong. Random House: New York.
Campbell, J. (2008). The hero with a thousand faces, 3rd ed. Novato, CA: New World Library.
Ingram, B.L. (2012). Clinical Case Formulations: Matching the Integrative Treatment Plan to the Client. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.

 

 

Share This:

MCC 662 – Play Therapy

In therapy, we give to others based on who we are, and not what we know.  Landreth, (2002), asserts this is especially true for when working with children.   Creating a therapeutic atmosphere, displays of personal courage, and self-understanding, are important for therapists when working with children (Landreth, 2002).   Below, I describe each of these qualities and discuss areas in need of improvement.

Personal Assessment

Creating a Therapeutic Atmosphere.

The adult-child relationship that exists in the context of play therapy is unique in every child’s experience (Landreth, 2002).  Rarely experienced with adults, child therapists engage in a playful interaction that is not “verbally bound” (Landreth, 2002, p96).  Child therapists display a genuine sensitivity and interest in a child’s thoughts and feelings.  Landreth’s (2002) description of the respect and sensitivity required in play therapy, reminds of Marsha Linehan’s concept of emotional validation.  When a child’s perspective is met with validation, they allowed experience acceptance, understanding, and a sense of legitimacy (Linehan, 1997).  Rather than managing or correcting a client’s feelings, a child therapist should seek to respect the validity of this experience from the child’s viewpoint (Linehan, 1997).  The intentionality required to provide this therapeutic atmosphere, requires a great amount of awareness (Landreth, 2002).

When I consider all that is required to provide this therapeutic environment, there are several areas of improvement that come to mind.  As a mother, letting go of “mommy-mode” will be a challenge as I adopt the child therapist’s perspective.   The disciplinary and limit setting elements of motherhood would need to take a back seat.  Additionally, as someone who tends to process things verbally, letting go of this mode of interaction for a play-oriented one, would be a new experience for me.  One key strength I bring is an appreciation of validation, as a critical element in all therapy (Linehan, 1997).  I feel my current profession, has provided me many opportunities to develop this basic skill.

Personal Courage.

Landreth (2002), discusses several personality characteristics essential for a child therapist.  When reviewing these characteristics, I thought personal courage presented the biggest challenge for me personally.   Landreth (2002), describes it as a willingness to admit our mistakes and shortcomings (p102).  This concept is similar to Brene Brown’s (2006), notion of vulnerability which she defines as a willingness be truly seen by risking exposure.   This sort of personal courage goes against one’s natural psychological defenses against hurt or shame (Brown, 2006).  Acting as a child therapist out of personal courage requires a non-defensive expressiveness.  On the one hand, I do have much patience, and am fairly secure in acknowledging my shortcomings (Landreth, 2002).  These qualities can help me display personal courage in my interactions with children during therapy.  On the other hand, I do believe a high degree of self-awareness and mindfulness is required.  This requires an amount of self-care that is currently hard to sustain, as a night-shift worker.   Hopefully, with a different work schedule in my future career, this could be remedied somewhat.

Therapeutic Self-Understanding.

An awareness of our “motivations, blind spots, and biases” (Landreth, 2002, p103), is critical for any therapist.  As Landreth, (2002) notes, the values and ideals underlying these issues are integral to who we are, and we should be aware of them for this reason.  Since we give to others on the basis of who we are, it is our responsibility to understand how these issues can impede or promote our efforts.   While I do consider myself to be a highly self-aware individual as a lifelong self-help junkie, this quality still presents a challenge.  The idea that my personal motivations or biases could enter a play therapy setting makes me cringe somewhat. The best solution is to make personal growth and self-care is a priority.  This would allow me to gain a awareness of how I become an integral part of the therapeutic relationship so I can act more proactively.

Plan for Improvement

As I read through the above descriptions of three essential qualities, I realize  improvement is unlikely to occur overnight.   As a student therapist, I believe personal development should be an ongoing concern.  The following goals can help me develop these essential skills for working with children in therapy.

  1. Goal One: Seek Opportunities to Work with Children.   While this class can provide a vital foundation of knowledge to begin working with children, experience is essential.   I need to seek opportunities to work with children, in order to better understand how to be of a therapeutic benefit in this community.  This can include seeking work-related opportunities, volunteering, and choosing my internship placement carefully.
  2. Goal Two: Be Mindful of How You Respond to Others’ Emotions. The therapeutic environment child therapist’s seek to create provides clients with a unique respectful and validating experience.  Being mindful of how I choose to “attend” to the emotions and thoughts of all children in my life is a good start.  How do I take time to listen and acknowledged the grain of truth in my sons’ feelings and thoughts?  Do I rush to correct any misperception without listening?   Considerations such as these, can help me understand how realistically develop this unique way of relating to children and adolescents.
  3. Goal Three: Display Personal Courage in Conversations with Sons.  My oldest son is 15 and lately I’ve found the personal dynamic between us changing.  He is very bright and observant, and can at times bring up issues that touch upon my own mistakes and shortcomings.  While he doesn’t do so in a disrespectful way, I find I may react with occasional twinges of defensiveness.  I’ve currently practiced, the vulnerability that is integral to personal courage in these conversations.  This effort has taught me what Landreth (2002) says about how we give to children on the basis of who we are and not our internal knowledge bank.
  4. Goal Four: Journal Regularly & Seek Therapy As Needed.  Prior to entering this program, I had been in therapy for about five years.  I still remain in contact with my therapist, and as needed, I may still visit her from time to time throughout my career.  I believe self-understanding requires commitment in the form of adequate self-care coupled with time for reflection.  I enjoy journaling and blogging, and these efforts have provided great insight into myself.  I will continue doing these things in order to promote greater self-understanding in my new role as a therapist.

References

Landreth, G. (2002) Play therapy: The art of the relationship (3rd Ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Linehan, M. (1997).  Validation and psychotherapy. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

Brown, B. (2006). Shame resilience theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame. Families in society: The journal of contemporary social services,87(1), 43-52.

 

 

 

Share This:

I am an “Other”

INTRODUCTION:  This article is part of a series titled “In My Own Defense”

This series has served as a  writing exercise “of sorts” that can allow me to work through feelings of shame that still remain.  As is typical with a child’s-eye-view of the world, I perceived life as if it revolved around me.  This self-centered viewpoint, made it difficult, to varying degrees, for me to see others’ perspectives.  As a sensitive child, I tended to take all the bullying and ostracism of my childhood personally. By the time I reached high school graduation, all I wanted to do is put as much space (physically and chronologically) from this experience as I could.   I remember leaving for college with huge hopes.  However, it quickly became apparent that this would require a significant amount of effort on my own part.  It’s only in the last decade of my life, that I’ve taken time to look back at these experiences without feelings of self-blame and hatred welling up inside me.  I’ve learned to accept the fact that there are those from my past who may never see me beyond an outdated set of preconceived notions.  In a way, this series represents the final step in the long process of healing, forgiveness, and acceptance.

In the wound-licking phase, I simply began to work through the unresolved hurt instead of burying it…

This process started in my later 30’s when I first sought out a therapist because I felt “Stuck”.  It took a while to understand the nature of this stuckness & what was holding me back.   Until this point, my life was like an invisible minefield.  There were some things – things that reminded me of events I was trying to forget – that became excruciating.  It was all too much, so I spent time going through the motions and checked out on the basement sofa watching t.v. like a mindless blob.  Or I would nap, my other favorite maladaptive coping tool.  I began to see a therapist, I completed a DBT course, worked on the relationship with my sister and slowly, I somehow felt safe in the world.  In time, this healing allowed me to gain some clarity by viewing directly things that had previously been too  I was empowered with a solution the problem that involved action on my part.

However, more needed to be done.  Feelings of shame and invalidation had plagued me.  That is, until my mother recommended I read this book….

PART ONE:  The Consequences of being an “Other” (i.e. biracial / mixed race)…

ME = “One of those things that is not like the other”

I usually call my mother once every two weeks just to see how she’s doing.  At some point in the conversation, I am usually provided an update on the “local gossip”.  During one of these conversations, my mother mentioned an old classmate of mine: May-lee Chai.  She was a senior in high school while I was a freshman.  We didn’t know each other well and I only remember as one of the many faces I passed by in the halls between classes.  At any rate, she asked me if I heard about that book she had written: “Hapa Girl: A Memoir”.  She said bought a copy and urged me to read it, since she felt it might “resonate” with my own childhood experiences….

When I first read it, I remember reflecting on my childhood from a new perspective.  Until this point I thought it was “all my fault”.  This book helped me to contextualize my experiences.  There were forces much larger than me at work…

So where do I start? How can I begin to adequately describe my own experience of being biracial? How have I dealt with the idea that I’m not perceived as I am? What is it like to live between world’s?  What follows are random thoughts, in no particular order….


Click here for a bill of rights for people of mixed race heritage

In the video above, the narrator describes the twins as “black and white”.  Based on phenotype characteristics that each girl carries, they are so labeled.  It amazes me, how people are so quick to forget that the meatsuits we wear, don’t accurately reflect what dwells within us.  In reality, there are four abstract constructs which together are effective in developing a basic understanding of a biracial individual’s experience of race.  Together they explain what it is like to live within an unclear “in-between” space. These constructs are: (1) genotype; (2) phenotype; (3) identity; & (4) culture.  Understanding how they converge within an individual’s life can help quite a bit in explaining their racial identity.  They are useful in understanding the diversity of experiences amongst biracial experiences, as well as the issue of colorism…

FACTORS 1 & 2: Genotype vs. Phenotype…

Genotype refers to the DNA you carry within you.  You get half from your mother and half from your father.  For example, at geneaology.com they studies of populations around the world.  When individuals are isolated historically these populations tend to share genes for traits that are conducive to survival in that area.  When you submit a test at genealogy.com, they tell you what subsets of the human population are present in your genes.

Phenotype has to do with your physical features, how do you look?  What is the color of your skin, your face shape, and hair color?  The point is, you can have the same set of parents, but inherit different subsets.  Therefore, two genetically biracial individuals can have very different appearances.

Critical Point #1 – regarding these two factors, I have a genotype / phenotype mismatch problem.  This means I am not what I am.  Due to the random qualities that define my meat suit, I am classified within a preconceived ideas that do not relate to my own lived experience of self…

FACTOR 3:  What is Identity?

The DSM-5 Manual defines Identity as follows:  “[the] experience of oneself as unique with clear boundaries between self and others; stability of self-esteem and accuracy of self appraisal; capacity for, and ability to regulate, a range of emotional experience.” (American Psychiatric Association, 2013, p823).  As a biracial individual the experience of how others see us diverges from the inner knowing of who they are.  Regarding how others’ experience, I feel as if I’m a man inside a monkey suit wearing upon my being the preconceived notions of others.  I wait for somebody to see within to the real me, but it happens rarely.  R.D. Laing (1990), summarizes this experience succinctly in his book “The Divided Self”.  In contrast, the description of our inner sense of self is best described in my old course textbook (Corsini & Wedding, 2013).

Critical Point #2:  “The usual sense of the self as being who we ‘really are’ and as being continuous and consistent over time seems to be an illusory construction of imprecise awareness….similar to the ‘flicker fusion phenomenon’ by which photographs projected successively on a movie screen…we suffer from a case of mistaken identity. We are not who, or even what, we thought we were. What we take to be our real self is merely an illusory construct” (Wedding & Corsini, 2013, p467).

FACTOR 4:  What is culture?

Culture provides another set of mental programs relevant to a society (Chung & Bemak, 2002). It consists of a shared system of meanings within society that define modes of expression and communication, (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). It influences how we view the world around us and sets the normative standards for behavior (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Nazir, et al, 2009). As a form of “mental programming” (Chung & Bemak, 2002, p282), it defines our value systems and preferred ways of thinking and feeling.

Critical Factor #3:  I was given two diverging, (and frequently oppositional) cultural perspectives.  Nobody fully understood this and I was largely left on my own to feel my way in the dark…

Before I continue with this random train of thought, I must apologize.  I’ve made a promise to stop intellectualizing, yet do this a bit in here.  There’s a reason for it – bear with me….

While working on my master’s degree, I was working and had little time for anything else.  On the back burner, I placed everything unnecessary and “survival” became my priority.  I remember reading various articles for homework assignments and being “highly intrigued” by the information I was taking in.  It held information that was interesting personally as well as professionally.  As I work through this blog, I continue digging through files of things I’ve save, with the intention of “bloggging on it” when time would allow.  Here I am about a year later – finally getting around to it.

“individuals who live at the juncture between two cultures and can lay a claim to belonging to both cultures, either by being of mixed racial heritage or born in one culture and raised in a second, should be considered marginal people. Park suggested that marginality leads to psychological conflict, a divided self, and disjointed person” (LaFromboise, et al, 1993, p. 395)

I have these piles of folders divided into subject categories.  Inside them are copies of assorted notes, assignments, and articles that I’ve printed with ideas jotted in the margins.  The quote above does an excellent job of describing succinctly, how I’ve felt as a biracial individual with a broad-based culturally diverse perspective of the world.  The Sesame Street video below describes my experiences as an individual who lives between worlds.  I am both my mother and father, yet I am also like neither of them….

ME = Three of these kids belong together.  Three of these kids are kind of the same.  But one of these kids (i.e. me) is doing his own thing

“The Psychological Impact of Biculturalism”

So without boring you to death, I want to quickly review this article titled: “They Psychological Impact of Biculturalism”, as a jumping off point.  This article begins by describing what individual’s need to be culturally competent to function in a society.

“In order to be culturally competent, an individual would have to (a) possess a strong personal identity, (b) have knowledge of and facility with the beliefs and values of the culture, (c) display sensitivity to the affective processes of the culture, (d) communicate clearly in the language of the given cultural group, (e) perform socially sanctioned behavior, (f) maintain active social relations within the cultural group, and (g) negotiate the institutional structures of that culture.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 395).  

This article the provides an overview of different models utilized in research, to describe the varied transitions that occur between an immigrant and the country he has chosen to reside in. What follows is a “quick and dirty” overview….

  1. ASSIMILATION:  “The underlying assumption of all assimilation models is that a member of one culture loses his or her original cultural identity as he or she acquires a new identity in a second culture.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 396).  
  2. ACCULTURATION:  “assimilation approach emphasizes that individuals, their offspring, or their cultural group will eventually become full members of the majority group’s culture and lose identification with their culture of origin. By contrast, the acculturation model implies that the individual, while becoming a competent participant in the majority culture, will always be identified as a member of the minority culture.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 397).  
  3. ALTERNATION:  “The alternation model of second-culture acquisition assumes that it is possible for an individual to know and understand two different cultures. It also supposes that an individual can alter his or her behavior to fit a particular social context.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 400).
  4. MULTICULTURAL: “The multicultural model promotes a pluralistic approach to understanding the relationship between two or more cultures. This model addresses the feasibility of cultures maintaining distinct identities while individuals from one culture work with those of other cultures to serve common national or economic needs. In this model it is recognized that it may not be geographic or social isolation per se that is the critical factor in sustaining cultural diversity but the manner of multifaceted and multidimensional institutional sharing between cultures. Berry (1986) claimed that a multicultural society encourages all groups to (a) maintain and develop their group identities, (b) develop other-group acceptance and tolerance, (c) engage in intergroup contact and sharing, and (d) learn each other’s language.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 401).
  5. FUSHION:  “The fusion model of second-culture acquisition represents the assumptions behind the melting pot theory. This model suggests that cultures sharing an economic, political, or geographic space will fuse together until they are indistinguishable to form a new culture. The respectful sharing of institutional structures will produce a new common culture.” (Framboise, et al, 1993, p. 402).  

So what’s the need for this list of terms? Why is it necessary?

I simply include it to indicate that the issues that can potentially arise for individuals living in a foreign country are to great to list.  For that matter, there is a high degree of variability amongst immigrants who are trying to make a life in a new country.  Factors such as socioeconomic status, education level, language familiarity, ethnic pride, and local race relations can all have a huge impact an individual’s experience.

My mother and her sister are an excellent example of this…

My mom is from the Philippines and is the youngest of two children. Her sister Rebecca is just 18 months older. Consequently they’ve always had a very competitive relationship. My mom is describes her older sister is much more popular and much more successful in school.  She on the other hand had just a few friends and was very shy. To top this off she kind of had an inferiority complex next to her sister and was never really good in school and didn’t quite catch up to her until about seven to grade.  This sense of insecurity and competition also spilled into the issue of appearance.  My mother always described her sister as the prettier one.  Her sister was always faired skinned and curvy and this made my mother jealous. My mother on the other hand past the paper bag test and your mother I was giving her a hard time about being skinny and was constantly instituting various plans to help her gain weight – all of which never worked.  As a kid, I always found my mother’s insecurity strange, living in a “mostly-white” midwest town.  All my classmates were obsessed with tanning in the summer and could never ever be thin enough.  From this vantage point, it seemed strange to me that anybody would complain about being thin and tan…

However, I’m most struck by how my mother & her sister went about building lives in a new country.

My mother was always the “good girl” and very “values oriented” and in this respect, quiet a bit like her mother.  On the other hand, her sister was a bit rebellious and more socially adept.  She was always popular and much more knowledgeable socially.  Its interesting to now my mothers traditionalism played out in her life and how my aunts rebelliousness played in her own.   These two divergent characteristics affected their experiences as immigrants living in a new country.  My mother was alone in the midwest.  There were only a handful of non-whites so I was never exposed to Filipino culture.  In contrast, her sister lived in Texas and employed several Filipino women.  So my cousin was exposed to her mother’s culture, visited the Philippines several times, and speaks Tagalog.  However my mother’s traditionalism caused her to remain reluctant to understanding what it is like to be an an American Teenager.  This meant that I was not allowed to wear makeup, shave my legs, or wear bikini-style underwear, much less date.  When you consider the fact that I already had few friends and was bullied constantly, this made things very difficult.  I had no social guidance whatsoever.  I was the oldest firstborn of all the cousins and as a result I was kind a like the guinea pig.  My mother decided to raise me according to her own values that she knew and made them a priority. It probably wasn’t until my sister came around that she some understanding of what was needed to help the child survive socially school.   So, I was isolated, overprotected and held to social standards that made fitting in difficult.  My sister was given opportunities to experience things that I didn’t at her age.  While five years younger, she was able to date first, given spending money first, and allowed to be out with friends late – all before me.  Oftentimes, what would happen is they bought her a car and then would think, oh we never got one for Kathleen, lets do that….

So what point am I trying to make here???

I am frustrated with the lack of understanding in my family.  I talk to my mother, and she talks about how I know nothing about her culture and am basically American.  While this may be true in many respects, I blame this fact on my mother who has refused to speak Tagalog in front of me.  It is, however, the case that she held me to standards that were her cultures and not my own.  As somebody who was already bullied and ostracized quiet a bit, I needed guidance.  Yet I got nothing.  I sometimes I sacrificed my childhood and years of social development, so my mother could have her “peace of mind”.  I will never forget when I told my sister about how I had to wear granny panties to P.E.   She laughed and said, “OMG! There’s no way I would allow that to happen!!!”  And in that comment is the problem.  She didn’t have any idea how different they were with her and how she had chances for normalcy I never did.   You see, the problem is the experiences that come together to influence a biracial’s experiences can vary greatly from person to person.

My sister & cousin don’t have a genotype / phenotype mismatch problem, they are “meat-suit matching”. 

“I don’t count” due to the random qualities that define my meat-suit.  My identity feels a farce, and I had to “act as if” I was what others deemed even though this was a lie.

 My sister & cousin were allowed the opportunity to live as a normal American Teenagers.

I was cloistered way like a nun.  I had no friends & was ostracized.  My different-ness stood out like a sore thumb in my small homogeneous town.

The final thought I’d like to make comes from a few articles by Maria Root, who describes racial identity development for individuals of mixed race.   There are a few points she makes about racial identity development amongst biracial siblings that are worth noting:

“Siblings of racially mixed heritage…often identify themselves differently from one another” (Root, 1998, p. 237).
“Phenotype does not determine how people identify themselves” (Root, 1998, p. 238).
“Identity can change over the lifetime” (Root, 1998, p. 238).
“A monoracial framework is usually the guide for interpretation of behavior.” (Root, 1998, p. 238). 

An Ecological Model of Identity

“The identity [options} are (a) accept the monoracial identity society assigns, (2) actively choose a monoracial identity (congruent with the identity society would assign), (3) define self as biracial or multiracial, (4) develop a “new race” identity.” (Root, 2003, p. 115). 

Ecological Models of identity focus on the social and individual factors that influence Identity development. “This model of identity development acknowledges that there are many different ways people of mixed heritage may identify themselves.” (Root, 1993, p. 240).  Mixed race individuals frequently see themselves in a way that diverges significantly from how others tend to.  Root, (2003 & 1998), discusses the following concepts in her ecological model of racial identity:

  1. MACRO LENS: Gender; Social Class; Race Relations; Sexual Orientation.
  2. MIDDLE LENS:  Family Socialization Influences; Temperament; Community Relationships.
  3. PHENOTYPE:  Is a factor that influences many of the factors in the middle lens significantly

A Stage Model of Identity

“Typical behaviors of person’s of mixed heritage are…interpreted as signs of poor adjustment.  Some of these behaviors stem from ways of sorting out the meaning of race…from a mixed perspective….negative adjustment is not [related to] being mixed…but rather conflict rising in the family and environment and the lack of guidance in resolving developmental crises…” (Root, 2003, p. 113).  

Root begins discussing early stage models of racial identity development by reviewing the two primary stages which seem to encompass (1) a desire to adapt to a new culture, (2) response to inherent inequity and racism in American culture.

  1. INITIAL STAGE:   “internalization of white reference group that necessarily is accompanied by devalued messages of [minority group] values and culture.” (Root, 2003 p. 114).
  2. TRAUMATIC EVENT:  “Awakens the individual to the lack of equity and fairness…There is a retreat and immersion into the racial group of origin to gain support and…as part of the process of undoing the harm of internalized racism.” (Root, 2003, p. 114). 

Next, Root provides the following summary of stages that biracial children progress through as they address the idea of “what they are”

“In the first stage, the awareness of race and ethnicity was not necessarily attached to ethnic background….In [the] second stage, people choose a racial identity; their cognitive capacity [in childhood] usually allows a single identtity. The third stage is driven by dissonance between the chosen identity and the incomplete mismatch with ethnic and racial identity.” (Root, 2003, p. 115).

Finally, common questions that arise

  1. Who am I?”  (Idenitity)
  2. Where do I fit in?” (Is there a place in the world I fit with?  
  3. Where is my social role?” (“What cultural standard?)
  4. Who is in charge of my life?” (Who tells me what I am?)
  5. “Where am I going?”  (what goals?)

<h5><span style=”font-size: 45pt;”>Point #3: “In my own defense” the issue of racial identity added to my insecurities.  I felt as if I “didn’t count” for an assortment of reasons.  Additionally, I was dealing with things, nobody could understand when you “live between two worlds.”</h5></span>

References

Benet‐Martínez, V., & Haritatos, J. (2005). Bicultural identity integration (BII): Components and psychosocial antecedents. Journal of personality73(4), 1015-1050.
LaFromboise, T., Coleman, H. L., & Gerton, J. (1993). Psychological impact of biculturalism: evidence and theory. Psychological bulletin114(3), 395-412.
Root, M. P. P. (2003). Multiracial Families and Children: Implications for Educational Research and Practice. In J. A. Banks and C. A. McGee Banks (eds.), Handbook of research on multicultural education (second edition), pp. 110-124. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Root, M. P. (1998). Experiences and processes affecting racial identity development: Preliminary results from the Biracial Sibling Project. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health4(3), 237-247.

Part Two:  Exploratory Paper from MCC 638 “Social & Cultural Issues”

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to closely examine my personal worldview and sociocultural background. In doing so, the goal will be to understand how this influences my future clinical judgment and client interactions. I will begin by utilizing the Addressing Model, (Hays, 2008), to provide a biographical overview of my sociocultural history. The paper will then conclude with a series of interview-style questions, to help reflect and explore my life history in detail. Any personal understanding of my values, cultural identities, and areas of privilege that come from this activity will be used to direct future growth throughout this program.

Introduction

According to our textbook, a bias is simply a “tendency to think, act, or feel in a particular way.” (Hays, 2008, p24). Personal biases emerge as a result of our upbringing and sociocultural background, (Hays, 2008). Our life history provides us a worldview, value system, identity and cultural background that produce the very biases we carry into therapeutic relationships, (Hays, 2008). In light of this fact, a cultural self-assessment is the first step toward developing greater multicultural competency as a counselor. I start this self-assessment by utilizing the Addressing Model to provide a rough overview of my sociocultural history.  I then move on to a series of interview questions, which can help to shed light on areas of privilege, as well as value systems, and identities.

Utilizing the Addressing Model

Age and Generational Influences

My Parent’s Generation. My mother was born in 1938 and my father was born in 1941. They are members of the “silent generation”, born just prior to the baby boom (Martin, 2004). Their earliest years of life occurred while the world was at war. My mother, from the Philippines, grew up in the middle of war. My dad, an American, was ignorant of war altogether. They were both raised to work hard, get an education, and pursue the American Dream. For my mother’s family this meant gathering resources to put both of their two daughters through medical school and then help them to emigrate to the states. For my father’s family, this meant raising their sons in a strict household, expecting them to work hard, and then put themselves to school. In the end, they all did so, earning advanced degrees.

My Generation. I was born in 1969, and grew up in a small college town in South Dakota. Unlike many of my generation, I was spared from having to experience divorce first-hand.   With divorce rates, at the time, soaring to 50% in my childhood (Amato & Cheadle, 2005), I was fortunate to have such a realistically positive view of marriage. The experience of witnessing everyone in my extended family enjoying long and happy marriages, has caused me to place a high value in the commitment of marriage and family.

Nonetheless, I am typical of many women in generation in being skeptical of the idea of “having it all”; a popular notion existing in westernized cultures in the aftermath feminist movement (Genz, 2010). While very appreciative of the strides made, I’ve witnessed many women struggle to keep up with home and work life in frustration. Many women in my generation have chosen to put off family, or opt out all together, (Genz, 2010). Still others, such as myself, have chosen to put off career pursuits in favor of focusing on my family life, (Genz, 2010).

Developmental Disabilities

Fortunately, I have no physical disabilities or health issues whatsoever. I’ve had the privilege of ignorance that comes with living in a healthy body, and never having to think about living with disability. (Hays, 2008). Nonetheless, I’ve found plenty of opportunity in my life to learn about living with disability. As a hospital tech I have had a great deal of opportunity to work with disabled individuals. As the mother to a son with a congenital defect, I’ve gained insight into experience of raising a child with special needs. I’ve developed an awareness of what it is to deal with physical disability on a daily basis. In fact, I’ve felt a great deal of satisfaction from these experiences, and wish to explore this area as a potential career path.

Religion and Spiritual Orientation

My religious background is complicated, by the fact that my family isn’t unified in its religious beliefs. My father is an atheist, my mother is devoutly catholic, and my sister considers herself a “born-again” evangelical Christian. As an agnostic, I can see everyone’s point of view and respect each one, as right for that person. I don’t feel it is right for anyone to impose my religious beliefs on others. Nonetheless, I do find the other members of my family disagreeing on matters quite often. My sister and mother disagree with the others beliefs on the grounds that it goes against their own. My father refuses to talk about it altogether and this annoys my mother and sister.

Ethnic & Racial Identity

“The ecological model of racial identity development acknowledges that there are many different ways people of mixed racial heritage may identify themselves….These identities do not necessarily coincide with how other persons identify them. Thus the private identity may be different from the public identity assumed or validated by others.” (Root, 1998, p240).

I am a biracial individual, born to a Filipino mother and White father. A book written about my hometown, by author May-Lee Chai, titled “Hapa Girl” (2007), provides a good depiction of my childhood environment overall.   Also biracial, she was a senior in high school when I was a freshman and endured much of what I did growing up.

My racial identity can be best described as a personal knowledge I hold within.   It isn’t reflected in my phenotypic appearance and consequently is rarely acknowledged in my interaction with others. (Root, 1998). As a result, my identity as biracial is held with pride despite often being refuted and criticized by others. Additionally, because I’ve never been to the Philippines, it isn’t based on any cultural heritage. (Root, 1998) While purely American, from a cultural perspective, I claim both my Asian and American heritage from an identity viewpoint.

Socioeconomic Status

The socioeconomic status of my family of origin is solidly upper middle class. In contrast, my family of procreation would most likely be somewhere in the lower middle class. My husband comes a working class background, and had a rough home life. Adding to this, until recently, I’ve put off career pursuits in favor of family. As a result, I have experienced some downward mobility, in a matter of speaking. By marrying someone of a different socioeconomic class, I’m aware of the huge cultural divide between my husband’s family and my own. I feel comfortable in both worlds, yet my husband doesn’t enjoy being around my extended family, (despite getting along with my parents). A quote from a book titled “Reading Classes” by Barbara Jensen (2012) sums up my husband’s experiences well:

“I knew I wasn’t middle class like some others in the movement, and I believed I wasn’t as smart as they were. I knew my brain worked okay, but they knew more, lots more, and I wanted what they had. They often referred to authors I had never read or even heard of. They used words I didn’t understand, and they often talked about their college experiences, worldly travel, orchestral music, and other things with which I had little opportunity and experience. They appeared to all understand one another, but sometimes I just pretended I understood, and then I felt ashamed of both not knowing and pretending.” (Jensen, 2012, p18)

Sexual Orientation & Gender

Sexual Orientation & Cisgender Status. Regarding the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity, I happen to be a cisgendered heterosexual.  Being cisgender, I have moved through life with a body that matches my gender of identification, (Levy, 2013). Being a heterosexual, I have a sexual preference that is deemed acceptable by all facets of our society (Levy, 2013). I have never felt the need to think about my sexual orientation or gender identity to the extent I have my racial identity. Any thought I do give to such matters has been purely political in nature, since I’ve always been very supportive of LGBT rights. Having said this, I do feel simply believing in equal rights isn’t enough With ignorance, can come a lack of awareness of things such as subtleties of interaction and the imposition of our biases that can indeed be felt as discriminatory, regardless of their intention, (Hays, 2008)

Being Female. While being a female certainly implies a second-class status, it must be noted that the degree to which this is experience varies by culture. Fortunately, my sociocultural background has been one which values and empowers women.   Having said this, it would be fruitful to learn about the implications of being female in cultures other than my own, as a matter of perspective.

Indigenous Heritage & National Origin.

On the one hand, I’m an American living in the United States and have no experience living in another country. I am neither an immigrant nor of indigenous heritage. On the other hand, with a mother who emigrated from the Philippines, I’ve witnessed a bit of what it is like to balance the influences of two competing cultures. Described best as a biculturalism, (LaFramboise, et al, 1993), raising a family in a foreign culture was certainly problematic for my mom. From my perspective, the cultural gap that resulted did require time to work through. Having not occurred until well into my own adulthood, I have a relationship with my mother today, which is very different from that of my childhood.

Cultural Self-Assessment Interview

In this portion of the paper, I move on to a series of self-assessment interview questions. It is my intention to answer each within the Addressing Model framework. I will consider how each question applies to my sociocultural history as described within this model.

Social Expectation & Identity.

“When I was born what were the social expectations for a person of my identity?” (Ajuoga, 2014). My biggest struggles with social expectations associated with identity, are in the areas of: (1) gender roles, (2) race identity, (3) socioeconomic class, and (4) religious affiliation. Other addressing components such as disability, sexual orientation, and indigenous heritage, have been of little concern. I will address these areas of struggle in turn, leaving female gender roles issues, for later.

Racial & Ethnic Identity. As mentioned already, I have experienced a great deal of confusion regarding my ethnic identity. My own biracial identity has been largely met with messages of disapproval, with others needing to inform me what they believe is the correct one (Root, 1998). It has taken some time, to sort through this issue as I’ve learned to let go of the idea that validation from others is ever a realistic expectation, (LaFramboise, et al, 1993).

Religious Identity. While my mother’s family is devoutly catholic, my father’s family is predominantly agnostic and atheistic. The competing perspectives from this interfaith family background yielded an array of contradictory expectations (McCarthy, 2007). As my sister and I matured, our chosen routes diverged greatly. I came to identify myself as agnostic, while my sister has joined an evangelical church and embraced those ideals. The biggest issues in our family have come as we’ve tried to maintain a sense of integrity while also respecting others’ beliefs (McCarthy, 2007).

Socioeconomic Identity. Maria Root discusses, in her work on mixed race identity, that individuals from such backgrounds can often develop negative biases against one side of their family as result of negative treatment, (Root, 1998). Within my father’s extended family I have experienced just this growing up. The ignorance and ethnocentrism they display, alongside the pride, and unwillingness to see any other perspective has been the source of much pain. As a byproduct of this experience, I’ve developed a negative bias against their upper middle class socioeconomic ideals (Root, 1998). It’s only in my adulthood, that I’ve been aware of how much I rejected this component of my identity, while embracing husband’s working class background instead, (Root, 1998). Coming to terms with this will be essential in my growth as a counselor (Hays, 2008).

Norms, Values & Gender Roles.

“When I was a teenager, what were the norms, values, and gender roles supported within my family, by my peers, in my culture and in the dominant culture” (Ajouga, 2014)” Overall, a great deal of conflict exists with norms, values, and gender role expectations in my extended family. Additional conflicts were present between my familial and environmental norms and values growing up.

In an article an on biculturalism mentioned in our textbook, there is a discussion of the impact of living between cultures (LaFrombroise, et al, 1993). This article mentions feelings of psychological discomfort as the initial result of a dual identity-based consciousness that can have potential benefits in the long run, (LaFrombroise, et al, 1993). Having many conflicting identities, values and belief systems has resulted in much of this discomfort as well as many fruitful life lessons.

Gender roles. Within my family, gender roles brought about much confusion as a child.   Conflicting messages existed as a result of complex familial generational and cultural gaps. My dad’s family came from a traditional background, with the belief that women were supposed to stay at home. In contrast, my mother’s family was very forward thinking. Since my maternal grandparents were both teachers, it was very important their daughters go to school. Having two daughters finish medical school was a source of great pride.

These competing perspectives left me with a conflicting and contradictory array of familial gender-based role expectations. Against this backdrop, was the generational influence of being born in the aftermath of the feminist movement, (Genz, 2010). Not feeling the need to having it all, I have instead discovered a path that has worked for me.

Norms and Values. While there were many conflicting norms and values within my extended family, this wasn’t really the biggest issue in the context of day-to-day life as a child. The greatest source of conflict existed between the values and norms my parents held me to in contrast to with what was expected in my hometown. Norms and values regarding: (1) relationships and dating, (2) parental roles, (3) rules of emotional expression, as well as (4) appearance and demeanor stand at the forefront as most problematic.

In keeping with her cultural background, my mother assumed the role of matriarch, and was largely responsible for setting parental limits. My dad, busy at work most of the time, didn’t want to interfere. As a result, my mothers cultural belief systems were the standard we complied with at home. Naturally unbeknownst to them, this key factor resulted in an array of problems throughout my childhood, when it came to fitting in (Chai, 2004; Fortune, 2012).

For example, regarding the issue of appearance, my mother didn’t allow me to shave my legs or wear makeup, and I was bullied endlessly for it. In the arena of dating, I was absolutely forbidden from even considering it until college, because that’s how it was for her growing up, (Fortune, 2012). Added difficulties resulted from differences in parenting role expectations between my mom’s culture and my hometown environment, (Root, 1998). Cultural differences such as these, caused many parents and teachers to misunderstand my mother. They often thought poorly of her parenting style, because it was so different from what they knew. This added to my difficulties in trying fitting in.

Adolescent Development.

How was my view of the world shaped by the social movements of my teen years?” (Ajouga, 2014) With a population that was mostly white, middle class, and well educated, my hometown had a very ethnocentric feel to it (Chai, 2004). At school, a large portion of my classmates came from families that called this town home for several generations (Chai, 2004).. This gave many of my classmates the benefit of a large social network, as well as consistent socialization, on how to follow the values and norms of the local culture (Chai, 2004).   Without this knowledge base or support system, fitting in was difficult, and I was bullied throughout much of my childhood, (Chai, 2004). As per Brene Brown’s work on shame, my personal view of the world was based on an underlying identity of shame as she defines it:

“The definition of shame that emerged from the research is, an intensely painful experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance, and belonging.” (Brown, 2006, p45)

“When I was a young adult, what educational opportunities were available to me? And now?” (Ajouga, 2014) While I did enter college with many opportunities for learning, my ability to make the most of them limited by my problematic childhood history.   Nonetheless, having been born into an upper-middle class environment to two highly educated parents, provided me with many privileges I failed to appreciate at the time, (Hays, 2008). Today, after having come to terms with my past through counseling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make the most of these privileges and pursue this degree.

“What generational roles make up my core identity (eg., auntie, father, adult child, grandparent)?” (Ajouga, 2014). Key generational roles which are strongly associated with my identity, include my roles as a daughter and mother. In fact, I hold my role as parent before any others in my life. Having nearly lost my oldest after several open heart surgeries and then suffering a miscarriage before giving birth to my youngest, I value my time with my kids greatly. It’s been my goal in life to learn the lessons from my parents, and be there in ways they were not able to. Making sacrifices for my kids, showering them with affection and cherishing our time together are key priorities in my daily life.

Regarding my role as daughter, while I’m not as close to them as I’d wish, I do strongly identify with my duties to them. As the oldest child with a background in health care, its expected that I be there to care for them when they age.   I plan on trying my best to live up to this expectation as a show if respect and love, knowing action and not words work best a communicating such things with them.

Conclusion

In completing this assignment, I’m actually surprised at how much I learned about myself. Rereading my personal history has been quite enlightening, as a much-needed perspective within to contextualize the outcome of my life.   It’s cleared while my complex sociocultural history yielded much stress as a child, its also provided me with wonderful opportunities for personal growth. Inspired by this fact, I am committed to a lifelong process of learning as a counselor and plan to use these insights as I worked completing my degree.

References

Ajouga, P. (2014). Re: MCC 638 Week Two Overview. Retrieved from
https://ssoblackboard.bellevue.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_328162_1%26url%3
Amato, P. R., & Cheadle, J. (2005). The long reach of divorce: Divorce and child well-being across three generations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(1), 191-206. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/219746544?accountid=28125
Brown ,B., (2006). Shame resilience theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame. Families in Society. 87(1) 43-52.
Fortune, B.A. (2012). Acculturation, intergenerational conflict, psychological distress andstress in Filipino-American families. Regent University, Virginia.
Genz, S., (2010). Singled Out: Postfeminism’s “New Woman” and the Dilemma of Having It All. The Journal of Popular Culture, (43)1, 97-119.
Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice. (2nd Ed.) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Jensen, B. (2012). Reading Classes : On Culture and Classism in America. Ithaca: ILR Press.
LaFromboise, Coleman, H.L.K. & Gerton, J. (1993). Psychological impact of biculturalism: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin. 114(3) 395-412.
Levy, Denise L. “On the outside looking in? The experience of being a straight, cisgender qualitative researcher.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 25.2 (2013): 197-209.
Martin, C.A. (2004) “Bridging the generation gap (s).” Nursing2013. 34(12)62-63.
McCarthy, K. (2007). “Pluralist Family Values: Domestic Strategies for Living with Religious Difference” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 612(1) 187-208.
Root, M.P.P. (1998) Experiences and processes affecting racial identity development: Preliminary results from the biracial sibling project. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health. 4(3) 237-247.
Point #3: “In my own defense” the issue of racial identity added to my insecurities. I felt as if I “didn’t count” for an assortment of reasons. Additionally, I was dealing with things, nobody could understand when you “live between two worlds.”

Share This:

When will this fuckin’ hell end!?

I’m at work right now and it’s about 2:30 am; the second of three back-to-back 12-hour shifts. It’s a med-surg floor with 16 patients, three nurses on the floor.

While this doesn’t sound too awful in light of the fact that I’ve had on average, about 20-30 patients by myself.   However, it’s not the staffing ratio or raw census data that make this night so special.  It’s the quality of patients they happen to have on this floor….

…On a night like this I’m always stuck with a lazy nurse who refuses to answer call lights.  Every so often catch her out the corner of my eye playing on her phone I wanna scream: “how about getting off your ass and giving me a hand!?”  However I realize that as an “overpaid” agency tech this is probably not prudent.  I’d never hear the end of it from my boss.

So as I struggle to keep up with call lights and vitals find myself constantly running between 3 rooms.  There 3 confused ladies at opposite ends of the unit with leaky bladders.  As huge fall risks, we have them both on alarms. Naturally, they forget to use the call light so about every 30 minutes that familiar siren rings.  I end up dropping what I’m doing so I can hopefully bolt down the hall quickly enough to catch them before they fall.

However, the real cherry ? on top of this fine sundae are my “special” patients.  There’s the agitated and verbally abusive old man who likes to kick and put you when you change him.  However I must say, there’s a special place in my heart for that old man with a leaky colostomy bag who requires hourly bed changes cause he won’t stop playing with it…

If I’ve offended you with my frankness I do apologize.  I hate for you to get the wrong impression.

Over the course of my 15 years in this profession, I’ve had to learn some survival skills.  FIRST, I work to find a deeper meaning & value in this line of work.  I know I’m making a positive impact on those I care for – this does provide some comfort.  THEN, there’s the advice of Brene Brown who urges us to lean into the discomfort….

As beneficial as these nuggets of advice have been.  I  occasionally find myself at the end of my rope.  Ive been doing this for 15 years & for much of that time spend the majority of my hours caring for others.  I do it at home as a wife & mother.  I do it at work as a C.N.A.  Finally, as a student therapist, I’m trying to launch a new career.

So what’s the problem you ask? (beyond the obvious fact that this job sucks donkey balls)…

  1. I spend the majority of time caring for others & have no time to care for myself.
  2. I spend the majority of my time tending to others’ need but nobody tends to mine. 
  3. Throughout my day, there’s rarely a time or place for me to just share how I feel with somebody who is willing and/or able to listen.  
  4. So I adapt in the best dissociative manner possible.  

Share This:

Turning A New Leaf…

Since graduating & starting a new career, I’m entering a new phase in life…

As a full-time working mother & graduate student, I had many things on my plate.  I had to par down my life & focus only on the most critical elements.  Self-care came first.  At the time, this meant getting enough sleep & learning to manage my stress.  Family time, came a close second on my list of priorities.  As a mother of two boys (11 & 17), I am aware that in just about 7 years time, I’m looking at being an “empty-nester” (and honestly this scares me more than just a little bit).

Then to top it off, with a weekend night-shift job in healthcare, I’ve felt perpetually fatigued.  I struggled to complete my homework and internship hours.

Then graduation came & I suddenly found myself with some extra time on my hands….

…And now its about 1.5 months since graduation & I’m finally ready to start my new career.  The hard work was worth it, & I look forward to a new chapter.  Many of those life-goals on the back burner can now receive the focus of my full attention.  In addition to losing weight & cultivating a stronger spiritual fondation, I am wanting to indulge in my creative energies, by doing some fun things with this blog….

But here’s my problem.  I am conflicted with two seemingly contradictory concerns that leave me unsure of how to proceed….

On the one hand, I hope to live my life from a place of authenticity rather than shame.

Brene Brown (2006) defines shame as “an intensely painful feeling that we are flawed, and therefore unworthy of acceptance and belonging”, (p 45).  

As a bullied and ostracized child, I responded to the daily peer abuse by becoming very reclusive and introverted.  I would go days without saying more than a few words from people.  At school this might be an “excuse me”.  At home it might be a “pass the salt”.  Nobody knew I was in pain since I held it in.  Nobody had concern for me because I did as I was told and never got in trouble.  As life moved forward, this relational pattern has remained with me.  I have difficulty opening up to others and have few if any friends.

You see, as I may have mentioned, this blog has helped me to “get unstuck”.  When I started this blog, I promised myself to stick with it, and not let fear and shame take over.  So therefore, I decided to opt with radical honesty & live authentically.  When I created this blog, I laid things all out there.  I have been very honest, (sometimes to a fault).

On the other hand, I don’t want my brutal honesty to harm anybody.

I am needing to carefully reconsider this decision to opt for radical honesty.  I am a newbie mental health therapist.  While the ACA does state that there are many benefits to blogging, you need to progress with caution.  The following quote comes from the onlinetherapyinstitute.org and leaves me with much to consider as I progress forward:

“A competent practitioner working online will always adhere to at least the following minimum standards and practices in order to be considered to be working in an ethical manner….Practitioners have a sufficient understanding of their Ethics Codes and Social Media and can integrate how they relate to professional conduct online. Practitioners are mindful that Social Media activity can blur the boundaries between personal and professional lives, and they take great care to consider the potential impact of these activities on their professional relationships” (Onlinetherapyinstitute. n.d.).

…And then there are significant others in my life. I need to balance a need to tell my story, with my concern for others.  For the majority of my life, I’ve felt like that kid in the “Emperor Has No Clothes Fable” who gets in trouble for asking why the king is naked.  The truth of my life and experiences, have been unspeakable to others.  I was going through hell, and struggling to keep going, but nobody wants to hear it so I held it all in and blamed myself.  By speaking the truth of my life experiences, I feel I’m reclaiming my power back.  It is a way of saying “this is my story” & your opinions are irrelevant in my need for validation. However, if I tell my story, it could hurt others….

Do I keep quiet to protect others?  If I do, it will be at my own continued expense…

Or  do I tell my story so I can heal, and risk hurting others?

References

Brown, B. (2006). Shame Resilience Theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame.  Families in Society. 87(1), 43-48.
Onlinetherapyinsititute.org (n.d.)  Ethical Framework for the use of Social Media by Mental Health Practitioners.  http://onlinetherapyinstitute.com/ethical-framework-for-the-use-of-social-media-by-mental-health-professionals/Retrieved from:

Share This:

Empathy, what is it?

In a previous post, I describe a growing feeling of incompetence as a student therapist.  When I express these concerns to my supervisor he jokes: “Give it about 5 years”.  

As time has progressed, I’ve adapted to the “learning as you go process”.

As a therapy student, I’m focusing on learning those “basic counseling skills” everybody talks about. In this series of posts, I hope to reflect on what I’m learning slowly week by week from an experiential rather than academic perspective.   Therefore, I did a quick google search and am using three online PDF’s as a quick jumping off point.  In this post, I will focus on empathy…

Empathy is derived from the German word “Einfuhlung” which directly translated means “one feeling”, (Pedersen, et al, 2008, p42).  It can be thought of as “the ability to perceive another’s experience and then to communicate that perception back to the individual to clarify and amplify their own experiencing and meaning. It is not identifying with the patient or sharing similar experiences, not ‘I know how you feel’!” (Abraham Lincoln University, n.d., p. 5).  In other words, empathy is a two-fold process that involves accuracy of perception and effectiveness of communication.   Two big questions naturally loom in my mind:

FIRSTLY, How can we improve our ability to appreciate another person’s perspective, thoughts & feelings?

SECONDLY, What considerations need to be kept in mind to communicate this empathy effectively?

4/12/17 @ 2:30 p.m.

I’m in the car, dictating another post into my IPhone.  A few thoughts have sprung to mind regarding the importance of empathy as a result of several events over the last several weeks…  

Therapy seems to require a dialectical thought process of oppositional perspectives.  We must discern diagnostically while remaining nonjudgmental empathetically.  The process of diagnosis first requires the observational skills to develop a phenomenological diagnostic understanding.  Then, in order to guide our progress an ever-changing case conceptualization provides an complex causal understanding.

In complete contradiction to this is the empathetic perspective which requires us to suspend judgment.  In those moments, you are attending to the human being before you and simply honoring the validity of a person’s experiential reality with a goal of developing a deeper felt understanding of it.  The divergent nature of these two simultaneous tasks makes the counseling process is oddly dualistic at times.  As a newbie, I’m interested in getting down the basics.

How can I know if my understanding of the patient’s felt & experiential reality is correct???  How can I be sure that I’m adequately conveying this empathetic understanding???  Here are a few random thoughts:  

Marsha Linehan on Suspension of Judgment 

Within every definition of empathy, the suspension of judgment is highlight as an essential characteristic.  Regarding the judgment suspension, I am reminded of something John Malkovich said once about characters and the importance of not judging them.  As I’ve observed, this requires a constant questioning, do I understand everything? What am I missing? Where are my blind spots?

A great way to begin answering this question is to first examine those instances where I experienced a lack of empathy from others who were trying to be “helpful”  

For example, in an earlier post I discussed an  abusive and dysfunctional relationship in college.  While I don’t tend to share this story often, it isn’t necessarily a secret.   I have on a few select occasions shared this experiences with people.  One response I real is: “why the hell did you put up with him for so long”, or “why didn’t you leave?”  Then there are those who attempt to be sympathetic yet misconstrue my motives or very nature.  The helpless victim who just lacks self-esteem.

All these responses fall short of the reality of things.  The fact is, I was a child who had experienced chronic invalidation and shame growing up….  

I discuss these experiences in greater length in posts on ostracism, bullying, & rejection amongst extended family members.  A professor I had last quarter made an interesting comment regarding battered women & why they don’t leave.  She noted that the key is to understand the issues they have not worked out.  When she said this, I silently thought to myself what it was I needed to work out.  It was simply a desire to not re-experience the hurt, rejection, and isolation I had in my childhood.  As a parasuicidal teen, who held on for no other reason than not to hurt her family, I met that “it” at a vulnerable time in my life.  I had just left home and was trying to fit in but experiencing difficulty as a freshman.  Years of isolation from sixth grade on, left me feeling “different” from fellow dorm-mates who had “grown up fast”.

It comes down to something I heard John Malkovich say about creating characters.  To do so successfully, you need to view them without judgment.   Doing so requires that we – for a moment – set aside our preconceived notions, and see the world through their personally experienced reality.  What would it be like, if you experienced chronic rejection, isolation, and invalidation as I had growing up?  These experiences were so bad, I was parasuicidal, hanging on day by day, just promising myself to keep going.

I simply desperately sought validation & acceptance from someone as a way of avoiding the possibility of re-experiencing the hurt I had long ago…..

I would take promises of acceptance & validation (even if he never did deliver),  like a carrot on a stick, over nothing at all.

Imagine yourself in my situation as a child, minus the judgment.  There would be  someone who had no other context in which to view herself than what others reflected to her.   You would then be left with a one-sided view of yourself as a result of a lot of unhealed baggage.  This would cause you to seek the first solution to avoid dealing with with the unresolved crap from your childhood.

The idea of re-experiencing the hurt similar to the childhood rejection in my childhood was overwhelming.  I just couldn’t do it.  

I would just like to conclude with some comments by Marsha Lenehan , founder of DBT.  There is a quote from something she published on validating a person’s emotions when they are suicidal.  This notion contradicts the sentiments of workers in the mental health care environment who all make a potion of  telling you that what you did is wrong and you did a bad thing and you were wrong to do this.   There is no one who is simply listening to what you’re saying and appreciating your story and how you feel without judgment that is the critical thing and the thing that often goes overlooked.

“Perhaps nowhere is the ability to empathize with another person more important than when one is interacting with a person who is on the brink of suicide.  This is true whether one’s views one’s task as helping the individual choose continued living over suicide or, more rarely, as helping the individual make a wise chose between suicide and continued life.  The ability both to hold a person within life, when that is needed, depend on an experiential appreciation of the other person’s worldview.  Finding hidden or obscure ways out as well as seeing that there is no way out require both the ability and the willingness to fully enter the experience of the individual ready to suicide and, at the same time, not become that experience…In attempting to apply standard behavioral therapy to severely and chronically suicidal individuals…focusing on client change is often experienced as invalidating by clients who are in intense emotional pain…focusing on understanding in absence of a…efforts help the client change..is often experienced by these same clients as invalidating because it does not recognize the uninsurability….of the present unremitting pain…” (Linehan, 1997, p. 353-354).  

Brene Brown on Empathy

In the above video, Brene Brown begins describing the difference between sympathy and empathy.  As a fan of her work, I feel the need to include this brief view by her in this post.  She states that empathy requires four critical factors:  (1) Perspective taking, (2) remaining nonjudgmental, (3) recognizing the feeling in others and (4) effective communication of this effectively.  In other words, empathy requires much more than putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we must be able to effectively communicate this to others. In the next section, we discuss how to communicate empathy effectively.

Rogers on Empathy

“I have come to believe that empathetic listening is one of the most powerful forces for growth that I know…. (Rutsch, 2015).

“…When I can let myself enter the softly and delicately into the vulnerable inner world of the other person…(Rutsch, 2015).

“…When I can temporarily lay aside my views and values and prejudices…(Rutsch, 2015).

“…When I can let myself be at home in the fright, the concern, the pain, the anger, the tenderness, the confusion that fills their lives…(Rutsch, 2015).

 “…When I can move about in that inner world without making judgment…(Rutsch, 2015).

“…When I can see that world with fresh unfrightened eyes…(Rutsch, 2015).

“…When I can check the accuracy of my acceptance with him or her and be guided by the responses I receive…(Rutsch, 2015).

“…Then I can be a companion to that person, pointing at the felt meanings of what is being experienced.  Then I find myself to be a true helper…(Rutsch, 2015).

As I stated earlier, empathy is a two-fold process that involves accuracy of perception & effectiveness of  communication.   In this section I’d like to begin by consider how to communicate it effectively.  After reviewing old papers, I noticed there are two that discuss the effective communication of this concept.  I include them below, for my own education / review….

PAPER #1 – Active Empathetic Listening 

Active empathetic listening is defined as an “active and emotional involvement of a listener during a given interaction – an involvement that is conscious on the part of the listener but is also perceived.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p134). As a multidimensional concept involving sensing, processing, and responding, it isn’t enough to simply attentively listen and consciously process information. Affectively communicating this empathetic understanding is critical as well. With this in mind, what follows are key factors that are of a concern to this author from the standpoint of skill development.

Top-Down Processing & Culturally Inclusive Empathy.

Top-down processing is one of two forms of listening discussed in our course textbook. It involves the utilization of education and experience to contextualize the meaning of the communication with clients. It is a critical counterpoint to the bottom-up processing that exists as at a more automated level in which we respond to what is said at a face value (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135).

In fact, when considering the concept of top-down processing in the process of active empathetic listening, the author is reminded of a related concept: Inclusive Cultural Empathy. Discovered coursework elsewhere in this program, it is defined as “a dynamic perspective that balances both similarities and differences at the same time integrating skills developed to nurture a deep comprehensive understanding of the counseling relationship in its cultural context” (Pedersen, et al, 2008, p.41).   In considering this concept as a part of the active empathetic listening process, it is clear to this author that such skills require an ongoing lifetime commitment to skill development and self-reflection.

Affect Tolerance & Mindfulness.

Two final concepts are of concern to this author as key skills in the active empathetic listening process. Firstly, our textbook describes affect tolerance as an ability to handle distressing emotions experienced vicariously through hearing the client’s story without “becoming engulfed” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p136). Alongside this concept, the textbook mentions the notion of meditation as an ongoing practice. Essential in paying attention more fully, when considering such factors the idea driven home is a realization that one gives to others based on who they are and not just what they do (Prout & Wadkins, 2014). With this in mind, much work on oneself is necessary and essential, as an ongoing process of growth and personal development.

Active-Empathetic Listening Scale

            In this portion of the paper it is the goal of this author to review the Active-Empathetic Listening Scale discussed in our course textbook (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135).   As per the instructions I am to rate “how frequently [I] perceive each of the following statements to be true for [me] on a 7-point scale ranging from 1 (never or almost never) to 7 (always or almost always true).” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135)

  1. “I am sensitive to what others are not saying.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – Based on an honest self-assessment I would rate myself around the 6-7 range.
  2. “I am aware of what others imply but do not say.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – Very similar to the question above, I would also place myself around the 6-7 range, depending on circumstances and degree of personal stress.
  3. “I understand how others feel.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – I rate myself at a 7 here. In fact the skill of affect-tolerance is an important skill for me as a result.
  4. “I listen for more than just the spoken words.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – As a mother to a teenager, and CNA/Psych tech, I actually spend quite a bit of time doing this and would be around the 6-7 range.
  5. I assure others that I will remember what they say.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – As mentioned above, I spend the majority of my time caring for others. I’m constantly being asked to reassure others I’ll remember what they are requesting and/or desiring from me. In this respect I do this as well all day long, and would be around the 6-7 range.
  6. “I summarize points of agreement and disagreement when appropriate.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – This factor doesn’t occur as much in the work context for me. In my personal life as much, (as I do agree it is a critical personal skill), I can at times get more caught up in making points than summarizing them. I would at about 5 here.
  7. “I keep track of points others make.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – As stated above, I do need a bit more work here and would rate myself at about a 5.
  8. “I assure others than I am listening by making verbal acknowledgements.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – As someone who cares for others, I do this all day long, and would be in the 6-7 range, in acknowledgement of the fact that nobody can ever be perfect.
  9. “I assure others that I am receptive to their ideas.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – I the context of my work as a C.N.A./psych tech, I am often acting as an “ambassador”. On the one hand there are the needs of the client and on the other hand there are the parameters that need to be followed according with the doctors plan of care. Finally, the hospital has its rules that we all must follow such as visiting hours and no smoking. With this in mind, I also work to reassure clients of this fact, and do my best to advocate for their needs. Based on this fact I would rate myself in the 6-7 range.
  10. “I ask questions that show my understanding of others’ positions.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – This skill isn’t utilized as much in the context of my job. While pretty good at it, I’m probably not as adept as in other areas and am about a solid 6.
  11. “I show others that I am listening by my body language.” (Prout & Wadkins, 2014, p135) – With many stresses and demands in my life, I find my ability to care for others is often depleted by these things.   While I am good at verbally showing that I listen and try my best, sometimes my body languages reflects my exhaustion and stress levels more than anything. I would rate myself at around a 5 here.

Effectiveness of Self-Rating

            After completing this scale, it must be acknowledged that as a self-rating method the results are clearly skewed on that basis. How I think I may come across to others may not be the same as how they tend to experiential first-hand encounters of me. It would be interesting to have key individuals in my life review my answers and provide their own feedback. The ultimate conclusion likely made would be that I may not communicate my intentions as well as I hope to. Additionally, as I will discuss next, any plan for improvement must acknowledge the depth to which these skills exists as core elements of how we choose to be in the context of our lives.   In this respect they really do require an ongoing commitment of personal growth and self-awareness as an lifelong process.

Plan for Improvement

In completing this assessment, this section briefly reviews my plan of improvement. It will combine insights from the scale above, with key skills this author feels are important.

  1. GOAL ONE – Multicultural Competency. Culture exists as an unseen paradigm in our lives defining not just our values and beliefs, but patterns of thinking and overall affective style, (Hays, 2008). With this in mind, active empathetic listening, does require a skill described in literature as inclusive cultural empathy (Pedersen, et al, 2008). Making an ongoing commitment to the development of multicultural competency is critical with this in mind.
  2. GOAL TWO – Mindfulness Practice & Self-Care. – The one biggest lesson from the self-rating scale its reaffirmation of the idea that self-care is critical.   Being there for others requires that I be there for myself first so I have something to give. Alongside this notion, is the idea of a daily mindfulness meditative practice that can aide in reducing stress levels and still my busy mind.
  3. GOAL THREE – Affect Tolerance. – It is natural, when encountering difficult emotions from others in the context of an interaction to take them in to a degree and personally experience them as well. We can take on some of the emotions of others and feel for them in an active empathetic sense. While clearly a good thing in some respects, over-identification is not healthy. This skill has been very critical in the acute mental health setting, and is one that requires much patience and active commitment to engage in at times.
  4. GOAL FOUR – Seek Volunteer Experience for New Learning Opportunities. Yet another insight from the self-rating skill is the fact that certain elements of active empathetic listening are practiced more than others.   When reflecting on the reasons underlying this, the hospital environment I work in, seems conducive to some forms of listening over others.   Engaging in brief communication more often than lengthy discussion, certain skills aren’t practice as much. It would be necessary, therefore, to seek other volunteer opportunities to engage with clients in a different capacity than what I’m familiar with at work.
  5. GOAL FIVE – Improve Listening Skills. Reviewing the basic listening and interviewing skills periodically, and being mindful of them as I engage with others, can be an effective way of learning to naturally incorporate them in the context of my interaction with others. 

Paper #2 – Inclusive Cultural Empathy

Culture and Emotion

The singular most beneficial lesson throughout this course is the realization of how culture exists as an unseen paradigmatic influence in our lives.   Definitive of our worldview, it represents a learned perspective that consists of instilled values, beliefs, and norms.

Beyond these obvious influences though, are less visible culturally impacted factors such as identity, emotion, and metacognition. Discussed often from a psychological, individually reductionist perspective, this paper will instead provide a unique sociocultural point-of-view of matters.

In determining the exact focus for this paper, I chose the topic of culture and emotion based on insights gained from the second exploratory paper activity. In the process of reviewing related literature for an interview with my mother, I came across the following:

“To the Filipino, actions always speak louder than words, so instead of conveying love and fondness with words, parents will endure extended periods of separation and/or hold down two jobs so that they can send their children to the best schools, pay for lessons and activities, and provide material support and other opportunities. This is the way they express their affection, and children are expected to recognize and value it. If they do not express or show appreciation, parents might perceive them as lacking utang na loob – serious infraction of social mores.” (Fortune, 2012, p12).

This quote manages to summarize a huge misunderstanding that existed between my mother and I throughout much of my childhood. As an American child, I failed to understand my Filipino mother’s expressions of love through action, (Fortune, 2012).   Preferring to hear and witness outwardly visible affective indicators of her love, it was instead an unseen dedication to her duty as my mother. As I only am able to contextualize now, it seems the underlying the cultural gap between us, was the byproduct of a failure to acknowledge key differences among us. At the core of these differences were varied views of what it means to be a person in the world, and what perspective we are to take it in from.

With this in mind as the focus of the paper, I begin with a discussion of the concept of inclusive cultural empathy. This concept provides a view of empathy from a unique multicultural perspective. Understanding how this concept as it relates to the overall notion of culturally competent counseling is critical if I am to effectively communicate it in such a manner. Also included in this paper is a brief review of the relationship between emotions and culture, and concluding commentary on with how to incorporate these insights into my future career development.

Inclusive Cultural Empathy.

Empathy is derived from the German word “Einfuhlung” which directly translated means “one feeling”, (Pedersen, et al, 2008, p42). From this perspective, empathy can be thought of as an ability to understand another’s experiences as if they are your own.   Best understood as an ability to relate to others due to shared experiences, the western Euro-American definitions predominating mental health are clearly problematic (Pedersen, et al, 2008). With traditional conceptions of empathy tending to reflect this cultural viewpoint, a more culturally inclusive perspective is vital. (Chung, 2002; Pedersen, et al, 2008).  What follows is a definition of this concept from literature:

“Inclusive Cultural Empathy describes a dynamic perspective that balances both similarities and differences at the same time integrating skills developed to nurture a deep comprehensive understanding of the counseling relationship in its cultural context.” (Pedersen, et al, 2008, p.41)

In light of this definition, it is useful to note that providing empathy in a culturally relevant manner requires more than simply understanding. Adding to the ability to “put yourself in the clients shoes”, is the notion of being able to adeptly communicate this (Pedersen, et al, 2008). After all, as a shared experience the therapist communicates and the client experiences, this notion encompasses two often culturally diverse perspectives. With culture as the key divergent component it is important to understand its influences over our emotions and our preferred means of affective communication. Therefore before beginning to discuss inclusive cultural empathy as a component in multicultural counseling I will discuss research on the nature of emotion from both a cultural and biological perspective.

Understanding Emotion.

“Emotions can be defined as psychological states that comprise thoughts and feelings, physiological changes, expressive behaviors, and inclinations to act.” (Vohs, et al, 2007, p285). Overall, two divergent perspectives exist regarding research that focuses on the nature of emotion.  Appraisal theories are based on the premise that emotions result from the way we appraise and interpret our environment. Research that utilizes this theoretical perspective focuses on culture and its influence over our manners of emotional regulation, perception and interpretation (Ellsworth, 1994). In contrast to this, categorical theories tend to view emotions as universal, innate and discrete.   Focusing on basic emotions such as fear or sadness, research from this theoretical perspective tests the hypothesis that feelings are hardwired byproducts of neural programming. (Ellsworth, 1994, p28).

Then & Now.

In reviewing literature for this paper, I found it interesting that research seemed to reflect the field’s developmental history overall. Based upon a predominantly westernized Euro-American perspective, the mental health field historically focused on DSM-based empirical data (Hays, 2008; Pedersen, et al, 2008). Along the way, notions such as social context and cultural relativitism seem to have been forgotten until recently. Interestingly, it seems the meaning of empathy in literature has undergone a shift in definitive focus reflecting these changes:

“The underlying assumptions about psychology are moving from a mono-cultural to a multicultural basis with profound consequences for counseling. The old rules of psychology focused on dissonance reduction. The new rules focus on the tolerance of ambiguity.” (Pedersen, et al, 2008, p224)

As per this historical shift, I begin with a review of biological perspectives of emotions, and then discuss emotions in relation to culture. I will then conclude by reviewing inclusive theories providing insights from both perspectives.

Emotion: A Biological View.

Universality Thesis. Some research exists that focuses on a limited number of innate and universal emotions as “basic” in nature. (Ellsworth, 1994). Described as matters of neural programming hardwired into the species overall, this research reflects a “Universality Thesis of Emotions.” (Effenbein & Ambady, 2002). While still asserting some degree of cultural variation this perspective stresses the universality to facial expressions in relation to basic emotions across culture. (Ellsworth, 1994; Ekman & Friesen, 1971). Referred elsewhere as categorical theories, research utilizing this perspective comprises the following key propositions: “(1) universality of facial movement as a form of emotional expression, (2) universality of attribution and understanding of key facial expressions, and (3) an associated rate of correctness regarding these attributions across culture” (Russell, 1994).

Examples of Studies. In one study by researchers Ekman & Friesen, the universality of facial expressions across cultures, was examined (Ekman & Friesen, 1971).   Using samples of individuals from cultures with little exposure to western society, research results supported their hypothesis, (Ekman & Friesen, 1971). Nonetheless, it is important to note in this research that “The growing body of evidence of pancultural element in emotional facial behavior does not imply the baselessness of cultural differences” (Ekman & Friesen, 1971).

While this study exists as an example of research that predominated the field prior to its focus on multicultural competency, recent literature focuses on contextualize these results. For example, Elfenbein & Ambady in 2002 re-examine the universality of emotional recognition, (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002). In this study, it is found that while emotions were universally recognized, varied degrees of accuracy were noted. With greater in-group accuracy in expression and recognition, an advantage was also seen in culturally diverse settings (Effenbein & Ambady, 2002). Also notable was the fact that minority groups displayed greater degrees of accuracy in recognizing emotions from majority groups, as opposed to the other way around, (Elfenbein & Ambady, 2002).

Emotion: A Cultural Perspective.

Appraisal Theories. Appraisal theories of emotions interpret emotions as byproducts of the way people interpret and understand their environment, (Ellsworth, 1994). Research utilizing this theoretical perspective has traditionally focused on a few key dimensions such as: (1) individualism/collectivism, (2) certainty/uncertainty (3) Attention to Novelty (4) Valence/Degree of Perceived Pleasantness, (Ellsworth, 1994). Differences in emotional expression are largely attributed to emotional regulation, stating that culture defines the beliefs about appropriateness of emotional expression. Accounting for differences in understanding of emotional expression, the assertion is made that culture “provides a framework for understanding culturally general emotional phenomena,” (Ellsworth, 1994). With this as a quick and dirty overview of current research from this perspective, what follows are key insights I found particularly intriguing.

Emotion as a Social Function. Emotions function as cultural scripts that are comprised of an array of biological and cultural factors, (Kitayama & Markus, 1994). Developed as a result of individual, interpersonal and collective experiences, they represent culturally constructed adaptations to our surroundings. In this respect emotions are a “psychological process that may be seen primarily as social and cultural in nature” (Kityama & Markus, 1994):

Emotion as a Perceptual Process. When viewed within the context of a perceptual process, emotions can be seen as a level of readiness in response to immediate events (Frijda & Mesquita, 1994). For example, individuals experience emotions in response to events they encounter that are deemed significant. This significance is determined by the manner in which this situation is then appraised. This form of appraisal exists as a byproduct of both individual temperament and cultural influences. Culturally this appraisal reflects a system of meanings that are social in origin. Emotion then can be seen as a form of readiness to act, that reflects norms of expression based on cultural imbued interpretations (Frijda & Mesquita, 1994).

Emotion From a Goffmanesque Perspective. Yet another perspective of emotions can been seen when taken in the context of social interaction.   From this perspective they aren’t internal affective states influenced by cognition but a form of interaction with others and our surroundings. (Frijda & Mesquita, 1994). For example, witnessing emotional displays in others can be viewed as a social event. In expressing these feelings we “transmit important messages about ourselves in relation to our surroundings” (Leu, 2001). When we then interpret someone’s behavior we do so within the framework of norms regarding behavior, and cultural meaning systems. As a result of this event appraisal and the emotional responses we can then respond accordingly. Emotion in this respect contains five characteristics reflective of culture including: “1. quality, 2. intensity, 3. behavioural expression, 4. the manner in which they are managed and 5. Organization.” (Leu, 2001) This all occurs within what may be called a cultural framework defined as follows:

“A cultural framework includes a group’s sense of and attitudes toward emotions, that is what emotions are or feelings are, why they are experiencing, and what their significance is in social life, as well as the implicit answers to questions like when does one feel, where does one feel, and how does one feel.” (Frijda & Mesquita, 1994, p.99)

Culture & Biology: An Integrated Perspective.

In pulling together the insights from all of the above research, it seems to me all of the insights above play a part as elemental insights into what makes us work as humans. In other words, there are both biological and cultural factors that exist in influencing emotions. What follows is an example of research that considers particular/cultural factors, alongside the universal/biological ones.

Affect Valuation Theory. In an article titled, “Cultural Variation in Affect Valuation”, a key differentiation is made between ideal and actual affect, (Tsai & Fung, 2006).   Whereas our ideal affect reflects what we want to feel, our actual affect reflects our current emotional state. Based on the Affect Valuation Theory this research hypothesizes a difference between ideal and actual affect with greater cultural influence on ideal affect preferences, (Tsai & Fung, 2006).

With results of the study supporting their hypothesis, a brief example is provided that compares collectivist and individualistic cultures. With an individualistic cultural orientation likely to endorse values such as elation and excitement, participants from such cultures are likely to express this as an ideal affect orientation (Tsai & Fung, 2006) In contrast to this, collectivist cultures value a calm peaceful and relaxed state and participants are likely to endorse these as ideal affect preferences (Tsai & Fung, 2006).

As an interesting side note to this, it may be useful to mention the Marsha Linehan’s research that focuses on the concept of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. I learned about this theory while in therapy myself.   Differentiating between primary and secondary emotions as a way of better understanding our emotions, it is a useful application to the above research.

While primary emotions comprise our immediate reactions to an event, our secondary emotions are aessentially our own interpretations of our emotional states. In other words, secondary emotions exist as “feelings about our feelings”. Utilizing the above research as an example, individuals from a collectivist culture would display more negative reactions to their own displays of excitement as a result of their own cultural references.

Empathy & Multicultural Counseling.

“Empathy has been described as the counselor’s ability to enter the client’s world, to feel with the client rather than for the client, and to think with the client rather than for or about the client. Empathy requires the therapist’s ability and effort to place him- or herself symbolically in the position of the client and understand the client’s world, “(Chung & Bernak, 2002, p154).

After a brief review of relevant literature on the nature of emotion and its relation to culture, a clearer understanding of inclusive cultural empathy seems vital. What follows is a bit of clarification on the concept, and how it fits in within the concept of cultural competency.

Clarifying the Concept.

Defined as an ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, empathy is a culturally relevant concept. Traditional perspectives of empathy are naturally self-limiting, based on a perspective that is largely empirical and individualistic in orientation. In contrast, culturally inclusive empathy is a useful dynamic perspective that requires two seemingly divergent viewpoints. Essentially, this concept requires that a counselor hold onto their own cultural perspective while maintaining an appreciation for their client’s culture (Chung & Bernak, 2002). Ensuring the counselor holds onto their own cultural perspective can be a useful and essential assurance against potential countertransference (Chung & Bernak, 2002) At the same time, appreciating and understanding a client’s culture is critical in the difference between sympathy and empathy (Chung & Bernak, 2002).   With this clarification in mind, what follows are key recommendations for the development of inclusive cultural empathy.

Developing Inclusive Cultural Empathy.

It seems in reviewing all of the above research, the best advice I found to develop inclusive cultural empathy existed as a reiteration of what I learned in this course. Essentially, two bits of advice stand as key insights I intend to utilize in moving forward. I discuss these each in turn below.

Attitudes, Knowledge, & Skills.  The concept of inclusive cultural empathy can best be understood as a dynamic process that exists as an exchange between client and counselor, (Pedersen, et al, 2008). It comprises three key skills: Affective Acceptance, Intellectual Understanding, & Appropriate Interaction (Pedersen, et al, 2008). With intellectual understanding best understood as a knowledge of similarities and differences, it is an essential to note this is not enough in and of itself. Affective acceptance requires that a counselor acknowledge culturally learned assumptions underlying divergent forms of affective communication (Pedersen, et al, 2008).  Finally, effectively communicating this means developing key interactive skills and abilities through ongoing direct contact within the community (Pedersen, et al, 2008). It is interesting to note that this discussion reflected much of what discussed in the class handout titled, “AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies” (Arredondo, et al, 1996).

An Ecclectic MAP/FACTS Approach. Alongside this ongoing commitment to the development of key skills as they relate to inclusive cultural empathy, is the need to utilize what our textbook describes as an eclectic approach, (Hays, 2008, p176):

“Eclecticism in psychotherapy can take two general terms. The first involves an integration of diverse theories into one transtheoretical mode. The second, known as technical eclecticism, describes the increasingly common practice of systematically choosing and using a wide range of interventions and procedures.” (Hays, 2008, p176)

Firstly utilizing the “Addressing Model” in a modified Axis-6 relevant to the DSM-5 (Hays, 2008), it will be essential to assess for sociocultural context throughout the counseling process, (Hays, 2008). Additionally, ongoing case conceptualization in the form of ongoing hypothesis formulation and testing will be important (Johnson, 2013; Pedersen, et al, 2008; Thomas 2007).  This ongoing hypothesis testing can occur much as described in the five-part FACTS Method approach including question formulation based on a knowledge and experience, and then assessing and adjusting as necessary, (Hays, 2008; Johnson 2013; Pedersen, et al, 2008; Thomas, 2007).   In conclusion, I wrap up this paper with a quote from an article titled “The relationship of culture and empathy in cross-cultural counseling.” (Chung & Bemak, 2002) This article contains a listing of seven useful guidelines in communicating cultural empathy:

“Counselors will not be effective working with clients from different cultural backgrounds if they cannot communicate cultural empathy in a way that demonstrates that they understand and appreciate the cultural differences and their impact on the therapeutic process.   Ridley (1995) identified the following seven guidelines for communicating cultural empathy….(a) describe in words to the client his/her understanding of the client’s self-experience; (b) communicate an interest in learning more about the client’s culture; (c) express lack of awareness regarding the client’s cultural experience; (d) affirm the client’s cultural experience; (e) clarify language and other mods of cultural communication; (f) communicate a desire to help the client work through personal struggles and challenges; and, (g) at an advanced level, help the client learn more about himself or herself and become more congruent.” (Chung & Bemak, 2002, p157)

Images: 1,

References

Abraham Lincoln University, (n.d.) Counseling Skills & Techniques.  Retrieved from:  http://courses.aiu.edu/COUNSELING%20SKILLS/10/10.pdf
Australian Institute of Professional Counselors, (n.d.).  Counselor skills series: Verbal & non-verbal communication skills.  Retrieved from:   http://courses.aiu.edu/COUNSELING%20SKILLS/10/10.pdf
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.
Chung, R. C., & Bernak, F. (2002). The relationship of culture and empathy in cross-cultural counseling. Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, 80(2), 154-159.
Drab, K. (n.d.) The top ten counseling skills.  Retrieved from:  http://www.people.vcu.edu/~krhall/resources/cnslskills.pdf
Ekman, P., & Friesen, W. V. (1971). Constants across cultures in the face and emotion. Journal    of Personality and Social Psychology, 17(2), 124-129. Retrieved from:          doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0030377
Elfenbein, H.A., & Ambady, N. (2002) On the Universality and Cultural Specificity of Emotion Recognition: A Meta-Analysis. Psychological Bulletin. 128(2). 203-235.
Ellsworth, P. C. (1994). Sense, culture, and sensibility. In S. Kitayama, & H. R. Markus (Eds.),   Emotion and culture: Empirical studies of mutual influence. (pp. 23-50) American         Psychological Association. Retrieved from: doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10152-001
Fortune, B. V. (2012). Acculturation, intergenerational conflict, distress and stress in Filipino -American families. (Order No. 3535626, Regent University). ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , 115-n/a. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/1283231958?accountid=28125. (1283231958).
Frijda, N. H., & Mesquita, B. (1994). The social roles and functions of emotions. In S. Kitayama,            & H. R. Markus (Eds.), Emotion and culture: Empirical studies of mutual influence. (pp.    51-87) American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10152-002
Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice. (2nd Ed.) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Johnson, R. (2013) Forensic and Culturally Responsive Approach for the DSM-5: Just the FACTS. Journal of Theory Construction & Testing, 17(1), 18-22.
Kemper, T. D. (1981). Social Constructionist and Positivist Approaches to the Sociology of        Emotions. American Journal Of Sociology, 87(2), 336-362.
Kitayama, S., & Markus, H. R. (1994). Introduction to cultural psychology and emotion research. In S. Kitayama, & H. R. Markus (Eds.), Emotion and culture: Empirical studies       of mutual influence. (pp. 1-19) American Psychological Association. Retrieved from:  doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10152-010
Klafehn, J., Chenchen, L, & Chi-yue, C. (2013). To know or not to know, is that the question? Exploring the role and assessment of metacognition in cross-cultural contexts. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. 44(6). 963-991.
Leu, C.M. (2001). Emotions as Dynamic Cultural Phenomena. The Journal of Linguistic and  Intercultural Education, 4. 62-75.
Linehan, M. M. (1997). Validation and Psychotherapy. In A. Bohard & L. Greenber (Eds.) Empathy Reconsidered: New Directions in Psychothrerapy. Washington DC: AC 352-392.
Markus, H. R., & Kitayama, S. (1994). The cultural construction of self and emotion: Implications for social behavior. In S. Kitayama, & H. R. Markus (Eds.), Emotion and    culture: Empirical studies of mutual influence. (pp. 89-130) American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/10152-003
Pedersen, P. B., Crethar, H. C., & Carlson, J. (2008). Inclusive cultural empathy: Making relationships central in counseling and psychotherapy (1st ed.). American Psychological Association. Retrieved from: doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/11707-003
Prout, T.A., & Wadkins, M.J. (2014). Esssential Interviewing and Counseling Skills. New York: Springer Publishing Company.
Russell, A.J. (1994). Is There Universal Recognition of Emotion from Facial Expression? A  Review of the Cross Cultural Studies. Psychologial Bulletin 115(1). 101-141.
Sherer, K.R. (1997). The Role of Culture in Emotion-Antecedent Appraisal. Journal of     Personality and Social Psychology. 73(5). 902-922.
Thomas, J. C., Hersen, M., Sage eReference (Online, s. (Online service), & Sage Publications, i. (2007). Handbook of Clinical Interviewing with Adults. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Tsai, J.L, Knutson, B., Fung, H.H., (2006). Cultural Variation in Affect Valuation. Journal of      Personality and Social Psychology. 90(2). 288-307. Retrieved from:           http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/131977868  0?accountid=28125
Vohs, K.D., Baumeister, R.F., & Sage Productions, i. (2007). Encyclopedia of Social  Psychology. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Productions.

Share This:

Transactional Analysis

***This post is a study exercise as a I prepare to take the NCE exam.  It contains excerpts from other posts that can be found hereherehere…&… here***

Eric Berne, (1910 – 1970) was born in Canada as Leonard Bernstein.  His father was a physician who died when Eric was young.  His mother was a writer.  In an effort to follow in his father’s footsteps, Eric Berne also became a physician, graduating in 1935.  After completing his internships, and becoming an American citizen, he changed his name to Eric Berne.  He started his practice in Connecticut and married his wife, Ruth in the early 40’s.  They had two children together.

Rosenthal, (2005) states that Transactional Analysis is often referred to as a “Populist Therapy Method”, since it is fun and easy for the laymen to understand.  While developing his approach, he made a point of simplifying the language and wrote several books on the subject including.

An overview of Transactional Analysis….

matryoshka-970943_1920Utilizing insights from this theory, my therapist keeps nesting dolls on the coffee table in her office.  Utilizing them in conversations from time to time, they have been productive tools for reflecting on the opposing ego states underlying my stuckness.  It seems my own “inner critic” and “hurt child” are fighting for “control” and as a result I’m getting nowhere.  Now that I’m a student, and reading Eric Brene’s works, it may be useful to quickly review some essential concepts.

Selfdefinition.org (n.d.) describes transactional analysis as a theory of social intercourse.  According to Eric Berne, “The human brain acts in many ways like a camcorder, vividly recording events.” (ericbrene.com, n.d.).  While not necessarily remaining available for conscious retrieval, the emotive consequences of these events and our experiences of them remain.  It is only when interactions and events, trigger these memories that the effects of these events arise.  This cognitive process is much more complex in an individual with PTSD as you might imagine.  In an effort to provide convenient constructs to discuss the transactional process between these ego states, Eric Brene created several key concepts in this theory.  For example, structural analysis involves an examination of the various mental states I described earlier (“inner critic” vs. “hurt child”).  In contrast, transactional analysis examines the dynamics of social interaction and how these elements of our psyche play their role.  The nesting dolls in my therapy sessions provide a convenient method of illustrating Eric Brene’s concepts of ego states.  Rather than conceiving of these ego states as Freudian structures in the brain, Berne states they are “phenomenological realities” (ericbrene.com, n.d.), that represent consistent patterns of reacting to life events.  Additionally, these phenomenological realities are based on past choices in response to life events.  Therefore, his conception of personality development is less determinstic than Freud.  For example, my own “hurt child”, reflects Eric Brene’s child ego state in which past experiences are experienced from the standpoint of their emotive impact.    In my specific instance, this is where most of my unresolved traumas exist.  In contrast, the Parent ego state, represents my own “critical parent”.  The critical parent’s camcorder provides an overview of early life experiences and the implicit messages they contained.  Finally, as I understand it, Berne’s adult ego state, reflects closely Marsha Linehan’s wise-mind concept.

T.A. Ego States…


529807Ego states refer to experiential realities that also represent a consistent pattern of relating with the world around us (Ingram, 2012)  Analysis of ego states is called Structural Analysis (Rosenthal, 2005).  Since, only one ego state is dominant at any point in time, our communication style and body language often communoicates which ego state we are operating out of (Rosenthal, 2005).

Three primary ego states exist in transactional analysis: parent, adult and child. The parent ego state is a representation of the way parents and other authority figures conduct themselves. The parental ego influences us by echoing the learned rules and morals communicated to us from authority figures throughout our life. Two main forms of parental ego states include the nurturing and critical parent. The child ego state, in contrast, is archaic and emotionally 490629driven. Comprised of our own first-hand early childhood experiences, it reacts impulsively with others on the basis of these deep emotional memories. Two versions of the childlike ego state exist: the rebel and hurt child.  Finally, The adult ego state is much like the wise-minded DBT perspective. In this respect, it is fully present in the moment and is capable of making realistic appraisals based on all perspectives, including thoughts and emotions. As somebody who is trying to lose weight, a funny description of each state is provided in my textbook:

“[rebellious child] I’m going to eat what I want and you can’t stop me…[hurt child] I know I am bad; what’s wrong with me. I’m trying, but just can’t…[nurturing parent]…don’t worry, I know you’re stressed. Go ahead and have some ice cream…[critical parent] you should take those pounds of. What’s wrong with you?! You’re an indulgent loser…[Adult] Lets come up with a plan where I can maintain a steady weight loss of one pound a week yet still eat foods I enjoy and have certain meals where I can disregard the rules.” (Ingram, 2013, p 295)

Basic Concepts….

Defining Transactional Analysis

Transactional analysis can be thought of as an attempt to understand social interactions between individual ego states (Rosenthal, 2005; selfdefinition.org, n.d.).

TRANSACTION – a unit of social intercourse, where two or more individuals interact

TRANSACTION STIMULUS – the actions and/or words from another acknowledging our presence & reacting to our behaviors.

TRANSACTIONAL RESPONSE –  is naturally our chosen manner of responding to transactional stimuli.

Types of Transactions

Berne also classifies types of social transactions in his theory, these include: (1) complimentary transactions; (2) cross-transactions; and (3) gimmicks, (Rosenthal, 2005).

Complementary Transactions

complimentaryAre predictable interactions based on the natural order of a relationship between individuals.  Responses are predictable, parallel and can proceed in this manner as long as all individual respect the parameters of the relationship, (selfdefinition.org, n.d.).   Rosenthal, (2005) describes these as healthy relationships. For example, when interacting with my kids I’m adopting a parent ego state, they can expect when they talk to me.

Cross-Transactions

pac10Rosenthal, (2005) describes these as unhealthy relationships, (i.e. hurt child / critical parent).  Communication that is not complementary creates conflict and causes a breakdown in understanding.  It can be best described as a form of transference.  For example, let’s say I’m talking to my husband about the bills.  I assume I’m talking to an adult.  However, I get a response from his “Hurt Child”, and pouts when I begin discussing our spending this last month.

Gimmicks

Gimmicks are used in games for a payoff – or ulterior motive (Rosenthal, 2005).  Selfdefinition.org, (n.d.) notes that they can involve the activity of more than two ego states are at play during an interaction. Gimmicks are based on our social needs.  In order to meet these social needs, our true feelings psychologically can contradict how we behavior in the social transaction.

In my last internship I received no support or training and was overwhelmed.

I initially engaged in a complementary transaction with my supervisor, and notified them the 70+ hour work week was too much.

However this didn’t work, they were desperately understaffed.

Therefore, I bided my time, appearing appreciative and friendly.

However, I was seething in frustration underneath.

I desired to make a good impression.

This is a gimmick.

Strokes

selfdefinition.org (n.d.) defines as a unit of social interaction that are interpreted as a form of physical or verbal recognition.  They can involve a form of intimate physical contact or include verbal recognition.  Rosenthal, (2005), notes that they can be either positive or negative.

Rituals & Procedures

Typically socially interactions exist as a series of events that are learned as a result of previous interactions.  Procedures are series of complex transactions such as the standard greeting of a casual acquaintance when you ask them about how they’re doing and they say fine in the grocery store.  They serve the purpose of allowing us to folllow social rules while acknowledging others without expending a great deal of mental energy.  In contrast, rituals are byproducts of external social requirements (i.e. scripts, schemas and/or frames).  An excellent example of a formal ritual includes the typical Catholic mass (selfdefinition.org, n.d.).  We all know what’s expected and behave accordingly.

Games

Like rituals and procedures, games exist as a series of typical events in the course of our interaction with others.  However, what makes them unique are that they include a series of gimmicks and can be characterized by an ulterior motives, and concealed motivations.  Rosenthal, (2005) describes them as containing underlying messages that contradict our behaviors, preventing intimacy and honesty.  They are repetitive in nature and color the nature of our unhealthy relationships.

Berne’s Scripts

In his book “Transactional Analysis in Psychotherapy”, Eric Berne, (1961), provides a theory which is useful in analyzing social interactions.  His theory uses the concept of life scripts to describe a set of “unconscious relational patterns” (Erskine, 2010, p. 24).  Developed in childhood, they are relational patterns that reflect our attachment history and are repeated throughout life.  Scripts exist within limbic memory and influence our thoughts, perceptions and behaviors.  Finally, they provide “a generalization of specific experiences and an unconscious anticipation…that will be repeated throughout life” (Erskine, 2010, p. 22).  Berne uses the term “transference phenomena” (Ereskine, 2010, p. 15) to describe this repetitive nature reflected through our relationship history.

Our life script unfolds “like a novel based on messages accepted in childhood.  Therapy is based on creating new decisions and re-writing your own life script.”  A physician by the name of Stephen Karpman, (who studied under Eric Berne)(, has developed a “drama triangle” that builds on this concept.  It consists of the concepts of the concepts persecutor, victim & rescuer.  These roles are described below:

Life Positions…

transa6In the second of his videos (theramin trees, 2010), delves into how our own ego states interact with significant others.  Why is it this endless cycle occurs?  In answer to this question, (theramin trees, 2010), mentions the concept of “life positions”.  In transactional analysis, this concept refers to a consistent belief about ourselves in relation to others.  As a broad stance we take in relation to others, it might convenient to think of “life positions” as self-imposed roles.  We distort our realties through these life positions, and utilize patterns of interaction with others as preferred coping tools.   Naturally, the benefit of a “life position” is its pay-off.  Theramin trees (2010), suggests to viewers, that in addition to desconstructing transactions to gain clarity, we should let go of the payoff that allows these cycles to continue.  Without the payoff (i.e. need fulfillment) the “life position” is no longer a logical choice.

“I’M OKAY YOU’RE OKAY”

Since this position conceives everyone as equals, it promotes well-being in your social interactions  You do not act from a position of superiority or inferiority so are effective in meeting your own social needs in a positive and mutually healthy relationships

“I’M OKAY YOU’RE NOT OKAY”

This life position “causes clients to blame others for their difficulties and cause paranoia and criminal tendencies, (Rosenthal, 2005).”  You place yourself in a dominant or superior position over others and tend to project inadequacies onto others.  Donald Trump Exists Here.  

“I’M NOT OKAY YOU’RE OKAY”

This is my own life position as a result of childhood ostracism. It caused me  to feel inept and inferior to others, and led to feelings of severe depression and suicide ideation during my teens.

NOBODY OKAY

Rosenthal (2005) states people here are often “homicidal, suicidal, both or schizoid”.  Are frequently overwhelmed with feelings of anger or betrayal.  It is characterized by extreme apathy and existential hopelessness.

A Personal Application…

“Transactional analysis often regards the experience of ‘ feeling stuck’ as the manifestation of an impasse or an intrapsychic conflict or interpersonal roadblock…my own aim here is to broaden the theory of impasses, exploring whether and how ‘stuckness’ may constitute a developmental opportunity” (Petriglieri, 2007, p185).

Resistance from this theoretical perspective can be “explained as a battle between inner parts: one part wants to change, while the other does not…” (Ingram, 2013, p 234).   According to transactional analysis, within us exist ego states that represent experiential realities from various stages in life.  Within each ego state is a typical coping style or pattern of relating to those around us. As I recall, two in particular have been engaged in a perpetual lifelong battle….

My Hurt Child

The child ego state can be thought of as an inner mental recording of painful childhood experiences.  When encountering triggers that remind us of these events, we’re sent back in time.  Emotionally, we can re-enact these early experiences with those around us. For example, within me lives a “hurt child” who was bullied kid and had no friends.  This hurt child asks, “I know I am bad; what’s wrong with me” (Ingram, 2013, p. 295).  She is submissive, insecure, with no sense of self.  Filled with a sense of shame, she seeks validation and acceptance from others – wherever she can get it…

My Critical Parent

The parent ego state reflects messages we receive from authority figures in our lives and standards of conduct we were taught.  My own critical parent, consists of messages from my parents that emotions were bad and creativity was a waste of time.   My critical parent consists of message from parents and teachers who ignored and overlooked the bullying.

My critical parent might say “you should take those pounds off. What’s wrong with you?! Your an indulgent loser (Ingram, 2013, p. 295).”  
My hurt child will be filled with feelings of insecurity as a former “ugly duckling”.  Shame takes over in reaction to the random characteristics that happen to define my meatsuit

References

Berne, E. (1961). Transactional analysis in psychotherapy: A systematic individual and social psychiatry.
ericberne.com (n.d.) A description of transactional analysis.  Retrieved from:  http://www.ericberne.com/transactional-analysis/
Erskine, R. G. (2010). Life scripts: A transactional analysis of unconscious relational patterns. London: Karnac.
Ingram, B.L. (2012). Clinical Case Formulations: Matching the Integrative Treatment Plan to the client. (2nd ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. ISBN: 978-1-118-03822-2
selfdefinition.org (n.d.) Games people play by Eric Berne. Retrieved from:  http://selfdefinition.org/psychology/Eric%20Berne%20-%20Games%20People%20Play.pdf
Theramin trees [screen name] (2010, June, 10) Transactional Analysis 1: ego states & basic transactions  Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nKNyFSLJy6o
theramin trees [screen name] (2010, June, 17) Transactional analysis 2: games. Retrieved from:  http://youtu.be/YOqJ4sc9TAc
Petriglieri, G. (2007). Stuck in a moment: A developmental perspective on impasses. Transactional Analysis Journal. 37(3), 185-194.

Share This:

Post Archive of My Favorite Subjects….

imageIts funny, I was never a good student growing up.   The bullying was tough, & focusing on my education was impossible.  As an adult, I find myself back in school pursuing a graduate degree.  I have to admit I’m a bit of a “geek”, I really enjoy education as an end goal in itself.  This page contains an alphabetical list of favorite subjects (As well as a miscellaneous array of fun stuff).

Assessments

What is the WHODAS???
The Hamilton Depression Rating Scale
An ACE’s Study Assignment
Treatment Plan
Biopsychosocial Assessment
Mental Status Exam
Suicide Assessment
Understanding & Handling Resistance


A Review of Basic Counseling SKills

Confrontation, reflecting, focusing & influencing
Questioning & Listening Responses 
Active Listening Skills
Basic Attending Skills
Empathy, what is it? 
Feeling the Incompetence
Validation: what is it exactly?


Blast from the Past

The Story of an Almost Suicide
The Happy Family Game
Raggedy Ann & The China Dolls
A Recovering Schlumpadinka
“Why couldn’t I be what they want?”
“I’m sort of like a social plague. Why do I have to be me?”
In my Own Defense
I Suffer From Pathological Naviete
The Girl Who Refused to Speak
In my an “other”
An Interview with my Mother
I am a parental child and scapegoat
OMG he’s leaving us!


Case Formulation

MCC 670 – Data Gathering Assignment
MCC 670 – Metamodal Questions
MCC 670 – BASIC SID
MCC 670 – Defining the Problem 
MCC 670 – Setting Outcome Goals
MCC 670 – Subjective vs Objective
MCC 670 – Treatment Plan
MCC 670 – Crisis & Trauma
MCC 670 – Clinical Hypothesis
MCC 670 – Attachment Interventions
MCC 670 – Body & Emotions
MCC 670 – Existential & Spiritual Models
MCC 670 – Social & Environmental Models
MCC 670 – Behavior & Learning Models
MCC 670 – Cognitive Models
MCC 670 – Psychodynamic Models


Counseling Ethics

Boundary Setting
Informed Consent…
Nature & Limits of Confidentiality


Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)

DBT Skills – Emotional Regulation
DBT Skills – Interpersonal Effectiveness
DBT Skills – Distress Tolerance
DBT Skills – Mindfulness
DBT Skills – Radical Acceptance
What is DBT?


Group Therapy Classes…

((During my very first internship, I was expected to run several therapy groups independently. No curriculum was provided, so I had to scramble to learn the subject.  What follows is a log of research-related information which chronicles this experience.)))

Codependency Class Research
Parents in Recovery Research 

Identity & Self-Perception

Identity Defined
Personal Identity – on being full of hot air
Ego vs Shadow
On Being Contrarian
The Nature of Belief Systems
The Go-It-Alone-Mentality
PART ONE: I am a “Seer of Unseeable Things”
PART TWO: Understanding “Unseen Things”


Life Lessons

The Art of Failure
psychology of the Trump supporter
Second Chances
Loving what is right or hating what is wrong?
Seeking answers: on my computer
Living in Oppositeland
Feeling the Gratitude….(& A Few Oprah Favorites)
A Genogram Assignment
An Emotional Hot Potato
A Quick Show-N-Tell
One Life. Live it!
Promises
Is there a cure for Intellectualizing???
A Final Creative Project
What Would They Say?


Misunderstanding & Forgiveness

Anatomy of a Misunderstanding
& Cancer Trumps PSTD
Transactional Analysis (A Move Beyond Understanding)
The Power of Forgiveness
What Forgiveness is & isn’t
Collateral Damage
“I message” vs. “you messages”
“And” Statements vs. “But” Statements 


Myers Briggs Typology (MBTI)

INFP: “A food log for the mind…”
Understanding Introverted Feeling
Understanding Extroverted Intuition


Motivational Inteviewing & The Stages of Change

Stages of Change
What is Motivational Interviewing?
Motivational Interviewing & Resistance
Motivational Interviewing & Ambivalence
“Git Er Done!!!” – Motivation & Change
Stages of Change: Treatment Needs & Strategies….
Stages of Change & Domestic Abuse Survivors
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Changes Talk


Nature of Love

Twisted Self-Deception
Codependency, what is it???
The Irony of Love
It’s Unspoken Rules


Sometimes I Feel Overwhelmed: here is me “pissing & moaning” about it

shit job
I hate my fucking job
Pulling my Head Out
OMG!!! I Really Need to Take a Frickin’ Chill-Pill…
Sofa-Surfing With My Husband…
When Will This Fuckin’ Hell End???


Parenting Experiences

and it only took one month!
My Shameful Parenting Story
Good-Enough Parenting
Happy Birthday Piglet!!!
My Mother’s Day
He Turns 16 Today!!!
Sofa-Time Snuggle
OMG He’s Leaving us!!!


Self-Help Junkie

Insights from Brene Brown
Understanding Shame


Stuckness & Resistance

“Getting Unstuck” & Why I Started this Blog
Defining Goals for This Blog
My Merry-Go-Round
An Underdog’s Credo: “Choking vs. Panic”
Arrested Development (Erikson Not the Show)
Dealing with Uncooperative Clients
Understanding & Handling Resistance
Coercion & Confrontation
Accepting Responsibility: shame, blame, guilt & Resentment


Studying The DSM-5

mdd-vs-dysthymia
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Dexter Morgan
Psychopathology & DSM Diagnosis
Dexter Morgan
schizophrenia
childhood onset schizophrenia
the accurate diagnosis of psychosis
Generalzied Anxiety Disorder
G.A.D. – “The Stress is Killing Me!!!”
An Overview of Childhood Anxiety Disorders…
An Overview of Autism
An Overview of ADHD
An Overview of Bipolar Disorder
An Overview of Depression
Conduct Disorder & ODD (An Overview)
Borderline Personality Disorder


Studying for the NCE – “Assessment Section”

Rosenthal on Assessment Section of NCE
Transforming Raw Scores
Validity
Reliability
Cognitive Assesssments
Norm/Criterion/Self Referenced Scoring
Basic Assessment Skills 
NCE Assessment Section – “The SASSI”
NCE Assessment Section – “The MMPI”
NCE Assessment Section – (Midterm Review Notes???)
NCE Assessment Section – (Cognitive Assessments)
NCE Assessment Section – (Reliability)
NCE Assessment Section – (Validity)
NCE Assessment Section – (Transforming Raw Scores)


Studying for the NCE – “Family Therapy Section”

Rosenthal on Family Section of NCE
Essential Family Skills
What is Family Therapy?
Solution-Focused Family Therapy
Murray Bowen Family Systems Theory
A Family Genogram
Contextual Family Therapy
Symbolic-Experimental Therapy
Satir Human Validation Process Model
Imber-Black Family Secrets
Strategic Family Therapy
Narrative Family Therapy
Emotionally Focused Therapy


Studying for the NCE – Research & Program Evaluation

NCE – Research & Program Evaluation


Studying for the NCE – Group Therapy

NCE – Group Therapy


Studying for The NCE – Social & Cultural Foundations

Multicultural Competency
A Cultural Self-Assessment
Culture & Rapport
Counseling Latino Clients 
Psychological Testing Bias
Counseling Older Adults
Asian-American Families
Understanding LGBT Clients 
Understanding Native Americans


Studying for the NCE – Counseling Theories

Choosing a Theoretical Orientation
Introduction To Behavioral Approaches
Classical Conditioning
Operant Condition-Inspired Models of Therapy
Karen Horney (Psychoanalysis)
Alfred Adler (Alderian Psychology)
Carl Jung (Analytic Psychology)
What is Psychodynamic Therapy???
Freud’s Ego Defense Mechanisms (Psychoanalysis)
Sigmund Freud (Psychoanalysis)
Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy
Aaron Beck’s CBT
Bandura’s Social Learning Theory
Carl Rogers Nondirective Approach
Transactional Analysis
Reality Therapy 
Existential Psychotherapy
Gestalt Therapy
Narrative Therapy
Solution-Focused Therapy


Studying for the NCE – Human Growth & Development

Attachment Therory
Robert Kegan “The Evolving Self”
R. J. Havinghurst
Lev Vygotsky
Harry Stack Sullivan
Margaret Mahler
Freud’s Psychosexual Stages
Lawrence Kohlberg
William Perry
Jean Piaget


Studying for the NCE – Career Counseling

Rosenthal Overview of Career Counseling
Prescriptive vs. Proscriptive Decision Making
Self-Efficacy
Super’s Model
SSI Method
Parson’s Steps


The Nature of Emotions

The Nature of Emotions: Part #1
The Nature of Emotions: Part #2
The Intelligence of Emotions…
The Intelligence of Emotions, (Contd.)
Feelings about Feelings
Stolen Watermelons Taste Better


Miscellaneous

Dreams, Plans & Goals!!!
Fuck Facebook!!!


 Trauma & Healing Old Wounds

(HERE’S MY HUBBY’S STORY)“It was the most miserable day of my life” 

The earliest origins of my trauma started at home and continued at school.  There was no abatement for me, it was ongoing and continual.  I was completely alone
  1. (IT STARTED AT HOME) Happy Family Game
  2. (IT CONTINUED AT SCHOOL) The Girl With The Cooties
  3. (& THE BULLYING GOT REALLY BAD) Bullying as a Group Process
  4. (& THEN I EXPERIENCED OSTRACISM BY MY CUNTY COUSINS) Raggedy Ann & The China Dolls
And these experiences left me with a lousy self-esteem & years of built-up misunderstanding that took a while for my family to work through  They struggled to accept the traumas I was working through, & strangely enough I had to apologize for the reality of this fact.
  1. (HERE’S WHERE I HAVE TO APOLOGIZE FOR MY OWN HURT)Anatomy of a Misunderstanding 
  2. (THIS DESCRIBES MY FEELINGS OF SHAME & INVALIDATION) Shame, Invalidation & A Little Baggage
  3. (& HERE IS THE COLLATERAL DAMAGE) Collateral Damage
But leaving home didn’t solve matters.  I carried the aftereffects of these early experiences with me & They infected my life, like the bubonic plague.
  1. (THIS IS A CONSEQUENCE OF PROLONGED SOCIAL ISOLATION)“Why Couldn’t I Be What I Want?”
  2. (THIS IS WHERE I ATTRIBUTE MY LIFE – A BYPRODUCT OF A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE CIRCUMSTANCES – TO MYSELF….SINCE EVERYTING IS COMPLETEY MY FAULT) “Why do I have to be me?”
  3. (THEN HERE IS WHERE THINGS GET REALLY BAD, I MEET “IT”) Stages of Change
  4. (THEN THIS IS WHERE I MEET AN ASSWIPE WITH ZERO EMPATHY WHO TAKES ADVANTAGE OF ME) A Recovering Schlumpadinka
  5. (AND THIS IS WHERE I FEEL COMPLETELY BROKEN & ALONE) The Story of an Almost Suicide
However, it does get better, but not without a few hiccups along the way.  Here are the latest posts describing my journey toward healing.
  1. (THEN MY PARENTS SUPPORT MY SISTER THRU CANCER & I REMEMBER THE TRAUMA OF BEING ALONE IN THE HOSPITAL AFTER A SUICDE ATTEMPT.  THEY WERE NEVER THERE FOR ME)  & Cancer Trumps PTSD
  2. (THIS IS WHERE I TAKE A CLASS ON THE DSM-5 AND REALIZE I HAVE DISSOCIATIVE PTSD) Dissociative PTSD
  3. (THIS IS WHERE I WRITE DOWN MY SURVIVAL PLAN FOR A WORLD THAT FEELS LIKE A HOT POTATO)A PTSD Survival Plan
  4. (THIS IS WHERE I RECOGNIZE TRAUMA AS A COLLECTIVE & SOCIOLOGICAL PHENOMENON) Collective Trauma
However, I hate to leave on such a down note.  Here are my reflections on this lifelong journey of healing.  
  1. (HERE I DESCRIBE THE OPTIONS FOR THOSE WHO WISH TO BEGIN HEALING) Holding onto Hurt or Letting it Go
  2. (HERE IS A BIT OF ADVICE I HEARD FROM A CLIENT) HOPE = “Hold on Pain Ends”
  3. (HERE I REFLECT ON HOW HEALING HAS ALLOWED ME TO GET “UNSTUCK”) “Getting Unstuck & Why I Started this Blog”

Finally, here are a few references pages, containing critical information I need to access often.

This link provides information on how to properly complete essential paperwork I will encounter as a therapist.
This post provides an overview of the Mental Status Exam.
This post provides an excellent summary of Substance Use Disorders as discussed in the DSM-5

Share This:

NCE STUDY – Understanding LGBT Clients…

(((I am currently studying for a licensure exam & completing an internship.  This blog post is intended as a study exercise.)))

PART ONE: A Literature Review Paper…

According to research, higher rates of mental health diagnosis, substance abuse and suicidal ideation exist within the LGB by community (Biescheke, et al, 2007, Hays & Iwasama 2006; Herek & Greene, 1998).   With mental health diagnoses concentrated in the areas of anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation, it is important to note these issues are commonly correlated with “minority stress” in research, (Biescheke, et al, 2007, Hays & Iwasama 2006; Herek & Greene, 1998). Defined as a form of social stress related to stigmatized minority status, it will be essential to start off with a discussion of this concept. (Meyer, 2003, p675).

In this paper, I begin by discussing the concept of “minority stress”. I then discuss key issues common within the LGB community: identity development, coming out, and internalized homophobia. I conclude by providing a summary of how these key issues affect LGB youth and how to develop a treatment plan with these factors in mind.

Minority Stress.

In attempting to understand the concept of minority stress, it is vital to understand how discrimination exists as its cause. With social discrimination bringing about a stigmatized status amongst LGB minorities, the result is the minority stress they are forced to contend with (Herek & Greene, 1998; Meyer, 2003)

Discrimination as Cause.

Firstly in contextualizing the nature of minority stress, it is important to understand the nature of the discrimination they encounter. In a book titled “Stigma and Sexual Orientation” there is a brief review of research that examines the underlying motivations of assaultive acts against LGB victims. The conclusions made from this research are that assaults on LGB individuals can be seen as resulting from motives best defined as “a learned form of social control of deviance”, (Herek & Grene, 1998, p7). In this respect the motives aren’t entirely personal in nature, but simply an extreme form of gender norm reinforcement, (Herek & Greene, 1998).

“To reconcile the apparent contradiction between the socially normative attitudes held by assailants and the visciousness and brutality of their behavior….during the course of my research I came to conceptualize the violence not in terms of individual hatred but as an extreme expression of American cultural stereotypes and expectations regarding male and female behavior…From this perspective, assaults on homosexuals and other individuals who deviate from sex role norms are viewed as a learned form of social control of deviance rather than a defensive response to personal threat.” (Herek & Greene, 1998, p7)

Stigma as Cause of Minority Stress.

With this perspective in mind it is important to note that the definition of stigma is simply a “characteristic of persons that is contrary to a norm of social unity”, (Herek & Greene, 1998, p108). Key aspects of the underlying causes of stigma exist external to the individual. Additionally, when you note that such a stigma is associated with an elemental component of one’s overall identity, the result is minority stress. Understanding the nature of this minority stress as comprising an array of interrelated individual and social factors is essential, and will be discussed next.

The Nature of Minority Stress.

It is clear, when taking time to understand the nature of minority stress, it exists as an interrelated set of social, group, and individual components, (Meyer, 2003). For example, society is comprised of social structures that appear to stand against an LGB minority lifestyle. Additionally, the social environments in which an LGB individual lives often create a meaning system that completely negates their experience (Meyer, 2003).   Against these social factors, are other variables such as family dynamics, social environment, and individual factors that also play a part. For example, individual factors such as methods of handling stress and forms of cognitive appraisal influence the nature these social factors have on a person:

“The more an individual identifies with, is committed to, or has highly developed self-schemas in a particular life domain, the greater will be the emotional impact of stressors that occur in that domain.” (Meyer, 2003, p678)

Distal / Proximal View of Minority Stress

In attempting to bring some clarity to the interrelated factors that comprise minority stress, a research article I found (Meyer, 2003), describes an interesting perspective of stress worth mentioning. Firstly, this research proposed that stress is comprised of three components as discussed in the following quote:

“I have previously suggested three processes of minority stress relevant to LGB individuals. From the distal to the proximal they are (a) external, objective stressful events and conditions (chronic and acute), (b) expectations of such events and the vigilance this expectation requires, and (c) the internalization of negative societal attitudes. (Meyer, 2003 p676)”

While well beyond the scope of this paper, the article then goes on to provide some discussion of how such factors are interrelated.   The crux of this theory’s proposed stance is that such abstract social concepts become relevant psychological through the manner in which we decide to cognitively appraise them (Meyer, 2003, p676).

Common LGB Issues

In attempting to further put into perspective key issues common within the LGB community, a few key observations can be made that help put them into context.   In this section I discuss three key issues in the LGB community: (1) identity formation, (2) coming out, and (3) cognitive appraisal.

Identity Formation.

“In social identity theory and identity theory, the self is reflexive in that it can take itself as itself as an object and can categorize, classify, or name itself in particular ways in relation to other social categories or classifications.” (Stets & Burke, 2000, p224).

As the above quote indicates a person’s identity is essentially an internalized subjective construct of “you”. (Stets & Burke, 2000). In this respect, it can be thought of as a byproduct of our interpretations. For individuals with a sexual minority status, developing a positive identity is problematic as a result. (Bieske, et al, 2007, p19).

Before going further it must be noted briefly, that much in-group diversity exists within the LGB community. For example, contextual factors such as cultural background, sexual preference, and gender orientation influence individual LGB identities. Adding to these factors is the historical context within which a person lives.   Finally, adding to the confusion is the fact that the three components of sexual orientation (same sex identity, same sex behavior, same sex attractions) don’t exist in equal degrees with all LGB identifying persons, (Hays & Iwasama, 2006). Finally, while stage theories help to conceptualize the identity formation process, it must be noted, that identity development isn’t necessarily experienced like that first-hand. Instead often described as a fluid and abstract notion, it is more accurately understood as a lifelong process.

Coming Out.

It is important to note, that unlike many minority groups, LGB individuals have the option of concealing this stigmatized status (Hays & Iwasama, 2006). Early on in the process of LGB identity development, this concealment is often an essential coping mechanism. Having said this it should also be noted that coming out “is associated with lower psychological stress” (Hays & Iwasama, 2006, p224).

Internalized Homophobia.

Another key factor to note, that makes the LGB community unique amongst all minority groups, is their status is often not shared within the family (Hays & Iwasama, 2006). As a result, LGB individuals are often raised within a cisgendered, heteronormative environment to varying degrees (LGBTQA, 2014). The consequence of this is a learned belief system defined as “internalized homophobia” (Hays & Iwasama, 2006). Overcoming this is key in the coming out and identity formation process for LGB individuals.

Counseling LGB Youth.

In taking time to consider what the concept of minority stress means in the daily lives of LGB youth during key developmental years, concepts such as Marsha Linehan’s “invalidation” and Brene Brown’s “shame” come to my mind.

LGB youth, in the early developmental stages of form an adult identity, often deal with the issues above as an internal struggle without little outside guidance.   In doing research for this paper, I found two great resources that were helpful in allowing me to develop a rudimentary understanding of how to begin to formulate a treatment plan for this community of individuals. In providing counseling for any LGB youth, the eclectic counseling perspective mentioned in our Hays textbook, (2006), would be my starting point. Key insights, such as what I discuss from these resources, will be helpful in the ongoing case conceptualization and treatment formulation process.

Early LGB Identity Development.

The first key insights I found beneficial were within the video link provided in the assignment description for this week. Titled, “Working with Gay/Lesbian Youth Clients”, this video provides samples of counseling scenarios with LGB youth clients. What I found most interesting were the varied stages of development displayed within each counseling session.   With each stage of development there exists a unique set of characteristics, and counseling considerations with each stage. I discuss each of these stages briefly below.

Identity Confusion Phase.

During this early phase of LGB identity development, the client is experiencing a growing internal awareness that is not well defined.   As noted earlier, the majority of LGB individuals often hold this minority status alone in the family. Without any family or friends to provide guidance, the growing internal awareness can be experienced at first as just “being different somehow” (Sage Productions, 2014). Often understood within a heteronormative family environment, the growing awareness of homosexuality exists against within an array of denial strategies.   Often not ready to admit such feelings outwardly, or put labels to things, ongoing self-rejection is an early core issue. Key goals during this stage include: (1) empathetic listening, (2) building trust, (3) validating confusion, (4) assessing suicide risk potential, and finally (6) probe for greater specifics regarding situations and associated feelings, (Sage Productions, 2014).

Early Identity Acceptance.

During the early identity acceptance stage there exists a clear awareness of the nature of one’s attraction. With a greater degree of awareness, there still exists much internal confusion and heightened degrees of anxiety in moving forward.   Key goals during this stage include: assessing the use of support systems and providing tools with which to address anxiety in a healthy manner (Sage Productions, 2014).

It is useful to note, in concluding my remarks on this stage with a brief quote from another resource that sheds light on the importance of a support system for LGB youths:

“Through reappraisal, the in-group validates deviant experiences and feelings of minority persons….It is important to distinguish between group-level and personal resources because when group-level resources are absent, even otherwise-resourceful individuals have deficient coping. Group-level resources may therefore define the boundaries of individual coping efforts.” (Meyer, 2003, p677)

Late Identity Acceptance.

With greater internal clarity and awareness of oneself, the process of coming out to oneself and others becomes the overarching goal during this stage. Continuing to assess the degree of clarity, helping clients to forge a new positive identity will be important focuses during this stage of the counseling process.

In concluding this brief discussion on LGB Identity formation, it must be noted that much in-group variation exists. An in depth discussion of this matter is well beyond the scope of this assignment. Therefore, this discussion is just a brief cursory overview that is helpful for me as a useful as a form of rudimentary case conceptualization.

Addressing Key Stressors For LGB Youth.

“Four stressors are of particular importance to lesbian, bisexual and gay youth, (a) overt acts of abuse, harassment, and violence, (2) development of one’s identity as a sexual minority person and related internalized homophobia, (3) disclosure of sexual orientation to others and related lack of adult social support, and (4) development of platonic and romantic relationships with other lesbian, gay male, and bisexual peers.” (Safran, et al, 2001, p217)

Understanding key issues associated with a stigmatized sexual minority status as an LGB youth is one critical matter that cannot go without mention. When you consider the overt expressions of hatred, heteronormative environments along with a scarcity of social support, the heightened risks to an individual’s well being become clear. An article titled “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth”, lists stress reduction, anxiety, and depression as three key issues for individuals in this community, (Safran, et al, 2001).  I discuss each of these in turn briefly below:

Depression & CBT.

As per the cognitive behavioral perspective, stigmatizing experiences alongside negative environment factors and a “dysfunctional attribution style” are what lead to feelings of hopelessness in LGB a youth (Safren, et al, 2001). Utilizing CBT techniques such as cognitive restructuring are useful in addressing negative preconceptions of any same-sex attraction, (Safren, et al, 2001, p221).   Alleviating thinking errors such as “catastrophizing” (Safrem, et sl, 2001), and self-blame, can help with depressive systems. The importance of this consideration becomes clear in light of the higher rates of substance abuse and suicide associated with the greater prevalence of depression,

Anxiety & CBT.

It’s not surprising that LGB youth experience higher rates of social anxiety when you consider the lack of social support they often receive. In fact, preconceived “what if’s”, (often in the form of worst case scenario conceptions), frequently underlie this anxiety, and can produce an avoidance-based coping style. Ultimately, this fear of self-disclosure and social situations can only limit normal adolescent development.   Assisting LGB youth through cognitive restructuring and varied forms of social support can give these individuals a new frame of reference with which to move forward (Safran, 2001).

Stress Reduction & CBT.

“It is not the stressors themselves that cause depression but that one’s cognitive interpretation plays a mediating role. From a cognitive-behavioral perspective, external acts of homophobia, if occurring chronically, uncontrollably, or unpredictably, can lead to internalized homophobia, as well as helpless or hopeless attributions.” (Safram, 2001, p222).

Addressing one’s ability to cope with daily stressors is yet a final key priority that cannot go without mention. In fact, I find this notion of internalized homophobia as a root cause especially troubling. It will be useful to conclude this paper by discussing internalized homophobia (and the stress that comes with it), from within the framework of the earlier discussion.

Firstly, it is important to note that LGB discrimination is best understood as “a learned form of social control of deviance”, (Herek & Greene, 1998, p7). Stigma resulting from this is simply due to holding a characteristic which “is contrary to a norm of social unity”, (Herek & Greene, 1998, p108). Based on these definitions, internalized homophobia can be thought of as a stigmatized self-concept based on discriminatory experiences. This internalized homophobia, influencing ones identity and belief systems, produces minority stress as a result, (Herek & Greene, 1998; Meyer, 2003).

Having said all this, I conclude with the thought that it seems once belief systems of ourselves become internalized they exist as self fulfilling prophecies. We become what we believe we are and get what we are told is possible. CBT a can become a much-need coping tool in this by helping LGB youth understand they always have the ability to choose otherwise.

PART TWO: Exploratory Exercise Paper….

((ABSTRACT – In this paper I provide a summary of my experiences in joining in with an LGBTQI University Organization Meeting.  I start with a review of relevant literature and end with a discussion of insights gained.  From this experience I have concluded that continued service within this community is essential in order to serve it effectively as an LGBTQI ally.))

Initial Thoughts

Approximately, 33% of females and 37% of males have had a climax with somebody of the same sex after 18 (Rosenthal, 2005).  Additionally about 10% of the U.S. Population identifies as gay & lesbian (Rosenthal, 2005).  A quick literature review shows a higher rate of mental health diagnosis, substance use, and suicide within the LGBT community as a whole (Biescheke, et al, 2007; Herek & Green, 1998).    Additionally, mental health diagnoses heightened in the areas of depression and substance use (Biescheke, et al, 2007; Herek & Green, 1998).  Additionally, a book titled “Stigma & Sexual Orientation (Herek & Green, 1998), makes it clear that discrimination (and the stigma that exists as result) are predominant causes of these high rates of mental health and substance abuse problems.

To understand this discrimination as cause, it is important to step back and understand the concept of identity a bit.  As the above quote alludes to, identity is an internalized construct of the self, based on an interaction with others and the environment.  When you consider how discriminatory acts against one’s very identity, I can only imagine how stigmatizing and shame-inducing and invalidating this might be. Defined as “a characteristic of person’s that is contrary to a norm of social unity” (Herek & Green, 1998, p. 108), stigma can produce a highly problematic identity formation process.  When taken alongside ostracizing reactions of family and friends LGBT individual’s internalized homophobia, transphobia and minority stress are often the norm (Herek & Green, 1998).

Summary of my Experience…

(((Here I provide just brief excerpts from my paper, in order to show, that there is much left to learn.  As I have discovered, intention means little if there is no action to back it up.  Understanding the privilege that comes with being a cisgendered heterosexual is critical.  Ignorance is never an excuse for any shortcomings in my desire to act as an LGBTQI ally as a future counselor)))

The Importance of Community….

“An element included in virtually all sexual-orientation models is finding and developing some sort of connection to the LGBT community. Community is important in helping break the sense of isolation and despair that can occur from being different, which is an early piece of identity development, (Biescheke, et al, 2007, p. 213).”

The first thing that struck me was how welcoming and friendly everyone was.  While I am a cisgendered heterosexual, I felt an immediate belonging and camaraderie within the group.  As a bullied child with few friends, I also struggled in my teens and 20’s.  It is for this reason, that I immediately appreciated the efforts of this organization to provide members a chance to interact with others who implicitly understood them.  The interaction was light-hearted and fun.  We decorated cookies while watching a movie and engaged in casual conversation.

In-Group Trust.

Implicit social norms existed that presumed an understanding of relevant social norms.  These implied social norms appeared to allow a heightened level of trust to exist amongst participants regarding things such as proper rules of preferred pronoun usage for example.   As somebody mentioned to me at one point: “It is simply nice to just hang out and have fun”.  This comment really struck me as I came to appreciate in that moment the privilege of cisgendered heterosexual.   I was able to just be me unselfconsciously.  For example, the idea of being “clocked” as a trans person, puts you constantly on edge.  I came to realize how luck I was to not know what this is like.  The idea of in-group trust stands out as a essential from this perspective.  Community organizations such as this provide participants a chance to be themselves “unselfconsciously” as I live my life 100% of the time.

I left the experience wondering if my own ignorance regarding the LGBTQI community reflected what I’ve witnessed within the extended family as a biracial child.  While I cringed at the thought of this, I reminded myself that all I can do by denying this fact is perpetuate it.  Self-awareness, on the other hand, is ultimately empowering if it leads to change and growth.

“privilege also tends to isolate people, cutting them off from information and experiences related to specific minority groups that could be helpful and enrich their lives…privileged areas are often in those areas in which people hold the least awareness.” (Hays, 2008, p. 42).
 

Identity as a Foundation of Self

During this meeting I became aware elemental sexual preference and gender identity are as fundamental aspects of daily living.  While conceived of in black and white terms for the cisgendered heterosexuals,  these concepts in reality are much more fluid. This fact helped me understand better why LGBT community in Omaha was so protective.   I left this experience with a profound realization of how being LGBTQI can potentially affect  all aspects of your life.

In-Group Diversity

The LGBTQI community is very diverse and is an umbrella term that comprises many sub-groups.  For example, sexual orientations vary greatly from lesbian, gay, bisexual, and even asexual.  Additionally within the trans community you have concepts such as FTM, MTF, bigender, gender, trans, and genderqueer.

**Here’s a link to a list of terms that I could useful.
**Here are some tips to being a better LGBTQI ally.

In conclusion, it appears there is much left for me to learn.  Developing multicultural competency will be a life-long commitment & personal journey as I increase my understanding of those communities I hope to serve within.  

References

Bieschke, K.J., Perez, R.M., & DeBord, K.A. (2007). Handbook of Counseling and Psychotherapy with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Clients. Washington D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Bilodeau, B.L. & Renn, K.A. (2005).  Analysis of LGBT Identity Development Models and Implications for Practice. Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation: Research, Policy and Personality. 111, pp. 25-39.  
Hays, P. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice. (2nd ed.) Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Hays, P., & Iwasama, G.Y. (2006). Culturally Responsive Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Assessment, Practice, & Supervision. Washington, D.C.: American PsychologicalAssociation.
Herek, G.M. & Green, B. (Eds.) (1998). Stigma and Sexual Orientation. (Vol. 4). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Johnson, R. (2013) Forensic and Culturally Responsive Approach for the DSM-5: Just the Facts. Journal of Theory Construction & testing. 17(1), 18-22.
LGBTQI (2014). About LGBTQI+ In Lincoln, Nebraska. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Lincoln.
Mays, V.M., Cochran, S.D. (2001). Mental health correlates of perceived discrimination among lesbian, gay and bisexual adults in the United States. American Journal of Public Health. 91(11). 1869-1976.
Meyer, I.H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin. 129(5). 684-697.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.
Safren, S.A., Hollander, G., Hart, T.A., & Heimberg, R.G. (2001). Cognitive-behavioral therapy with lesbian, gay and bisexual youth. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice. 8. 215-223.
Sage Productions. (2014) Working with Gay/Lesbian and Youth Clients. Retrieved from:https://ssoblackboard.bellevue.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_328162_1%26url%3D
Stets, J. E., & Burke, P. J. (2000). Identity theory and social identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63(3), 224-237. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/212780126?accountid=28125

 

 

 

 

 

Share This:

NCE STUDY – A Cultural Self-Assessment….

(((I am currently studying for a licensure exam & completing an internship.  This blog post is intended as a study exercise.)))

PART ONE – A Cultural Self-Assessment….

According to our textbook, a bias is simply a “tendency to think, act, or feel in a particular way.” (Hays, 2008, p24). Personal biases emerge as a result of our upbringing and sociocultural background, (Hays, 2008). Our life history provides us a worldview, value system, identity and cultural background that produce the very biases we carry into therapeutic relationships, (Hays, 2008). In light of this fact, a cultural self-assessment is the first step toward developing greater multicultural competency as a counselor. I start this self-assessment by utilizing the Addressing Model to provide a rough overview of my sociocultural history.  I then move on to a series of interview questions, which can help to shed light on areas of privilege, as well as value systems, and identities.

Utilizing the Addressing Model

Age and Generational Influences

My Parent’s Generation.

My mother was born in 1938 and my father was born in 1941. They are members of the “silent generation”, born just prior to the baby boom (Martin, 2004). Their earliest years of life occurred while the world was at war. My mother, from the Philippines, grew up in the middle of war. My dad, an American, was ignorant of war altogether. They were both raised to work hard, get an education, and pursue the American Dream. For my mother’s family this meant gathering resources to put both of their two daughters through medical school and then help them to immigrate to the states. For my father’s family, this meant raising their sons in a strict household, expecting them to work hard, and then put themselves to school. In the end, they all did so, earning advanced degrees.

My Generation.

I was born in 1969, and grew up in a small college town in South Dakota. Unlike many of my generation, I was spared from having to experience divorce first-hand, with divorce rates soaring to 50% in my childhood (Amato & Cheadle, 2005). With everyone in my extended family enjoying long and happy marriages, I have come to value the commitment of marriage and family.

Typical of many women in generation, I am fairly skeptical of the idea of “having it all”; a popular notion existing in westernized cultures in the aftermath feminist movement (Genz, 2010). While very appreciative of the strides made, I’ve witnessed many women struggle to keep up with home and work life in frustration. With many women in my generation have chosen to put off family, or opt out all together, I’ve chosen to put off career pursuits in favor of focusing on my family life, while my kids were young (Genz, 2010).

Developmental Disabilities

            Fortunately, I have no physical disabilities or health issues whatsoever. I’ve had the privilege of ignorance that comes with living in a healthy body, and never having to think about living with disability. (Hays, 2008). Nonetheless, I’ve found plenty of opportunity in my life to learn about living with disability. As a Hospital Tech I have had a great deal of opportunity to work with disabled individuals. As the mother to a son with a congenital defect, I’ve gained insight into experience of raising a child with special needs. I’ve developed an awareness of what it is to deal with physical disability on a daily basis. In fact, I’ve felt a great deal of satisfaction from these experiences, and wish to explore this area as a potential career path.

Religion and Spiritual Orientation

            My religious background is complicated, by the fact that my family isn’t unified in its religious beliefs. My father is an atheist, my mother is devoutly catholic, and my sister considers herself a “born-again” evangelical Christian. As an agnostic, I can see everyone’s point of view and respect each one, as right for that person. I don’t feel it is right for anyone to impose their religious beliefs on others. Nonetheless, I do find the other members of my family disagreeing on matters quite often. My sister and mother disagree with the others beliefs on the grounds that it goes against their own. My father refuses to talk about it altogether and this annoys my mother and sister.

Ethnic & Racial Identity

“The ecological model of racial identity development acknowledges that there are many different ways people of mixed racial heritage may identify themselves….These identities do not necessarily coincide with how other persons identify them. Thus the private identity may be different from the public identity assumed or validated by others.” (Root, 1998, p240).

I am a biracial individual, born to a Filipino mother and White father. A book written about my hometown, by author May-Lee Chai, titled “Hapa Girl” (2007), provides a good depiction of my childhood environment overall.   Also biracial, she was a senior in high school when I was a freshman and endured much of what I did growing up.

My racial identity can be best described as a personal knowledge I hold within.   It isn’t reflected in my phenotypic appearance and consequently is rarely acknowledged in my interaction with others. (Root, 1998). As a result, my identity as biracial is held with pride despite often being refuted and criticized by others. Additionally, because I’ve never been to the Philippines, it isn’t based on any cultural heritage. (Root, 1998) While purely American, from a cultural perspective, I claim both my Asian and American heritage from an identity viewpoint.

Socioeconomic Status

The socioeconomic status of my family of origin is solidly upper middle class. In contrast, my family of procreation would most likely be somewhere in the lower middle class. My husband comes a working class background, and had a rough home life. Adding to this, until recently, I’ve put off career pursuits in favor of family. As a result, I have experienced some downwardly mobile, in a matter of speaking. By marrying someone of a different socioeconomic class, I’m aware of the huge cultural divide between my husband’s family and my own. I feel comfortable in both worlds, yet my husband doesn’t enjoy being around my extended family, (despite getting along with my parents). A quote from a book titled “Reading Classes” by Barbara Jensen (2012) that sums up my husband’s experiences well:

“I knew I wasn’t middle class like some others in the movement, and I believed I wasn’t as smart as they were. I knew my brain worked okay, but they knew more, lots more, and I wanted what they had. They often referred to authors I had never read or even heard of. They used words I didn’t understand, and they often talked about their college experiences, worldly travel, orchestral music, and other things with which I had little opportunity and experience. They appeared to all understand one another, but sometimes I just pretended I understood, and then I felt ashamed of both not knowing and pretending.” (Jensen, 2012, p18)

Sexual Orientation & Gender

Sexual Orientation & Cisgender Status.

Regarding the issue of sexual orientation and gender identity, I happen to be a cisgendered heterosexual.  Being cisgender, I moved through life with a body that matches my gender of identification, (Levy, 2013). Being a heterosexual, I have a sexual preference that is deemed acceptable by all facets of our society (Levy, 2013). I have never felt the need to think about my sexual orientation or gender identity to the extent I have my racial identity. Any thought I do give to such matters has been purely political in nature, since I’ve always been very supportive of LGBT rights. Having said this, I do feel simply believing in equal rights isn’t enough With ignorance, can come a lack of awareness of things such as subtleties of interaction and the imposition of our biases that can indeed be felt as discriminatory, regardless of their intention, (Hays, 2008)

Being Female.

While being a female certainly implies a second-class status, it must be noted that the degree to which this is experience varies by culture. Fortunately, my sociocultural background has been one which values and empowers women.   Having said this, it would be fruitful to learn about the implications of being female in cultures other than my own, as a matter of perspective.

Indigenous Heritage & National Origin.

On the one hand, I’m an American living in the United States and have no experience living in another country. I am neither an immigrant nor of indigenous heritage. On the other hand, with a mother who emigrated from the Philippines, I’ve witnessed a bit of what it is like to balance the influences of two competing cultures. Described best as a biculturalism, or dual identity status, (Framboise, 1993), raising a family in a foreign culture was certainly problematic for my mom. From my perspective, the cultural gap that resulted did require time to work through. Having not occurred until well into my own adulthood, I have a relationship with my mother today, which is very different from that of my childhood.

Cultural Self-Assessment Interview

In this portion of the paper, I move on to a series of self-assessment interview questions. It is my intention to answer each within the Addressing Model framework. I will consider how each question applies to my sociocultural history as described within this model.

“When I was born what were the social expectations for a person of my identity?” (Ajuoga, 2014).

My biggest struggles with social expectations associated with identity, are in the areas of: (1) gender roles, (2) race identity, (3) socioeconomic class, and (4) religious affiliation. Other addressing components such as disability, sexual orientation, and indigenous heritage, have been of little concern. I will address these areas of struggle in turn, leaving female gender roles issues, for later.

Racial & Ethnic Identity. As mentioned already, I have experienced a great deal of confusion regarding my ethnic identity. My own biracial identity has been largely met with messages of disapproval, with others needing to inform me what they believe is the correct one (Root, 1998). It has taken some time, to sort through this issue as I’ve learned to let go of the idea that validation from others is ever a realistic expectation.

Religious Identity. While my mother’s family is devoutly catholic, my father’s family is predominantly agnostic and atheistic. The competing perspectives from this interfaith family background yielded an array of contradictory expectations (McCarthy, 2007). As my sister and I matured, our chosen routes diverged greatly. I came to identify myself as agnostic, while my sister has joined an evangelical church and embraced those ideals. The biggest issues in our family have come as we’ve tried to maintain a sense of integrity while also respecting others’ beliefs (McCarthy, 2007).

Socioeconomic Identity. Maria Root discusses in her work on mixed race identity, that individuals from such backgrounds can often develop negative biases against one side of their family as result of negative treatment, (Root, 1998). Within my father’s extended family I have experienced just this growing up. The ignorance and ethnocentrism they display, alongside the pride, and unwillingness to see any other perspective has been the source of much pain. As a byproduct of this experience, I’ve developed a negative bias against their upper middle class socioeconomic ideals (Root, 1998). It’s only in my adulthood, that I’ve been aware of how much I rejected this component of my identity, while embracing husband’s working class background instead, (Root, 1998). Coming to terms with this will be essential in my growth as a counselor (Hays, 2008).

 “When I was a teenager, what were the norms, values, and gender roles supported within my family, by my peers, in my culture and in the dominant culture” (Ajouga, 2014)

Overall, a great deal of conflict exists regarding norms, values, and gender role expectations within my extended family. In her article an article on biculturalism, Teresa LaFrombroise, discuss the impact of living between cultures (LaFrombroise, et al, 1993). This article mentions feelings of psychological discomfort as the initial result of a dual identity-based conscious that can have potential benefits in the long run, (LaFrombroise, et al, 1993). Having many conflicting identities, as mentioned previously, I’ve experienced much of this discomfort and have likewise developed many fruitful life lessons as a result.

Gender roles.

Within my family, gender roles brought about much confusion as a child.   Conflicting messages existed as a result of complex familial generational and cultural gaps. My dad’s family came from a traditional background, with the belief that women were supposed to stay at home. In contrast, my mother’s family was very forward thinking. Since my maternal grandparents were both teachers, it was very important their daughters go to school. Having two daughters finish medical school was a source of great pride.

These competing perspectives left me with a conflicting and contradictory array of familial gender-based role expectations. Against this backdrop, was the generational influence of being born in the aftermath of the feminist movement, (Genz, 2010). Not feeling the need to having it all, I have instead discovered a path that has worked for me.

Norms and Values.   While there were many conflicting norms and values within my extended family, this wasn’t really the biggest issue in the context of day-to-day life as a child. The greatest source of conflict existed between the values and norms my parents held me to in contrast to what was expected in my hometown. Norms and values regarding: (1) relationships and dating, (2) parental roles, (3) rules of emotional expression, as well as (4) appearance and demeanor stand at the forefront as most problematic.

In keeping with her cultural background, my mother assumed the role of matriarch, and was largely responsible for setting parental limits. My dad, busy at work most of the time, didn’t want to interfere. As a result, my mothers cultural belief systems were the standard we complied with at home. Naturally unbeknownst to them, this key factor resulted in an array of problems throughout my childhood, when it came to fitting in (Chai, 2004; Fortune, 2012).

For example, regarding the issue of appearance, my mother didn’t allow me to shave my legs or wear makeup, and I was bullied endlessly for it (Chai, 2004). In the arena of dating, I was absolutely forbidden from even considering it until we finished college, because that’s how it was for her growing up, (Fortune, 2012). Added difficulties resulted from differences in parenting role expectations between my mom’s culture and my hometown environment, (Root, 1998). Cultural differences such as these, caused many parents and teachers to misunderstand my mother. They often thought poorly of her parenting style, because it was so different from what they knew. This added to my difficulties in trying fitting in at school.

How was my view of the world shaped by the social movements of my teen years?” (Ajouga, 2014)

With a population that was mostly white, middle class, and well educated, my hometown had a very ethnocentric feel to it (Chai, 2004). At school, a large portion of my classmates came from families that called this town home for several generations. This gave many of my classmates the benefit of a large social and familial network, as well as consistent socialization, on how to follow the values and norms of the local culture (Chai, 2004).   Without this knowledge base or support system, fitting in was difficult, and I was bullied throughout much of my childhood, (Chai, 2004). As per Brene’s Brown work on shame, my personal view of the world was based on an underlying identity based on shame as she defines it:

“The definition of shame that emerged from the research is, ‘ an intensely painful or experience of believing we are flawed and therefore unworthy of acceptance, and belonging.” (Brown, 2006, p45)

“When I was a young adult, what educational opportunities were available to me? And now?” (Ajouga, 2014)

While I did enter college with many opportunities for learning, my ability to make the most of them limited by my problematic childhood history.   Nonetheless, having been born into an upper-middle class environment to two highly educated parents, provided me with many privileges I failed to appreciate at the time, (Hays, 2008). Today, after having come to terms with my past through counseling, I’m grateful for the opportunity to make the most of these privileges and pursue this degree.

“What generational rules make up my core identity (eg., auntie, father, adult child, grandparent)?” (Ajouga, 2014)

Key generational roles which are strongly associated with my identity, include my roles as a daughter and mother. In fact, I hold my role as parent before any others in my life. Having nearly lost my oldest after several open heart surgeries and then suffering a miscarriage before giving birth to my youngest, I value my time with my kids greatly. It’s been my goal in life to learn the lessons from my parents, and be there in ways they were not able to. Making sacrifices for my kids, showering them with affection and cherishing our time together are key priorities in my daily life.

Regarding my role as daughter, while I’m not as close to them as I’d wish, I do strongly identify with my duties to them. As the oldest child with a background in health care, its expected that I be there to care for them when they age.   I plan on trying my best to live up to this expectation as a show if respect and love, knowing action and not words work best a communicating such things with them.

PART ONE: Conclusion

In completing this assignment, I’m actually surprised at how much I learned about myself. Rereading my personal history has been quite enlightening, as a much-needed perspective within to contextualize the outcome of my life.   It’s cleared while my complex sociocultural history yielded much stress as a child, its also provided me with wonderful opportunities for personal growth. Inspired by this fact, I am committed to a lifelong process of learning as a counselor and plan to use these insights as I worked completing my degree.

PART TWO:  Becoming a Culturally Competent Counselor

“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.

Towards a Solution

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.

PART TWO:  Conclusion

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.

References

Ajouga, P. (2014). Re: MCC 638 Week Two Overview. Retrieved from: https://ssoblackboard.bellevue.edu/webapps/portal/frameset.jsp?tab_tab_group_id=_2_1&url=%2Fwebapps%2Fblackboard%2Fexecute%2Flauncher%3Ftype%3DCourse%26id%3D_328162_1%26url%3
Amato, P. R., & Cheadle, J. (2005). The long reach of divorce: Divorce and child well-beingacross three generations. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(1), 191-206. Retrieved from: http://ezproxy.bellevue.edu:80/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/219746544?accountid=28125
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]
Brown ,B., (2006). Shame resilience theory: A grounded theory study on women and shame. Families in Society. 87(1) 43-52.
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.
Fortune, B.A. (2012). Acculturation, intergenerational conflict, psychological distress and stress in Filipino-American families. Regent University, Virginia.
Genz, S., (2010). Singled Out: Postfeminism’s “New Woman” and the Dilemma of Having It All.  The Journal of Popular Culture, (43)1, 97-119.
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.
Jensen, B. (2012). Reading Classes : On Culture and Classism in America. Ithaca: ILR Press.
LaFromboise, Coleman, H.L.K. & Gerton, J. (1993). Psychological impact of biculturalism: Evidence and theory. Psychological Bulletin. 114(3) 395-412.
Leahy, R.L. (2008) The therapeutic relationship in cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy. 36, 769-777.
Levy, Denise L. “On the outside looking in? The experience of being a straight, cisgender qualitative researcher.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services 25.2 (2013): 197-209.
Martin, C.A. (2004) “Bridging the generation gap (s).” Nursing2013. 34(12)62-63.
McCarthy, K. (2007). “Pluralist Family Values: Domestic Strategies for Living with Religious Difference” The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. 612(1) 187-208.
Root, M.P.P. (1998) Experiences and processes affecting racial identity development: Preliminary results from the biracial sibling project. Cultural Diversity and Mental Health.  4(3) 237-247.
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.
 

 

Share This: