Social Justice Counseling

Although emphasis on social justice counseling as a paradigm unto itself is recent, the origins of social justice within the counseling professions are much deeper. According to Kiselica and Robinson (2001), social justice has been an integral part of the counseling profession since the early 1900s, when counseling pioneers Frank Parsons and Clifford Beers responded to the exploitation of immigrants to the United States and the inhumane treatment of people with mental illness, respectively. Both believed that counseling should address larger social, political, and economic issues that contribute to clients' problems.

Despite these deep roots, social justice concepts made few appearances in the counseling literature until the 1970s. Articles published during this time addressed such topics as systemic barriers to client well-being (Dahl, 1971) and advocacy for marginalized groups (Gardner, 1971; Killinger, 1971; Ream, 1971; P. M. Smith, 1971). Psychological problems, which had been viewed as originating inside the client, were now linked with factors outside the client (Jackson, 1995).

Calls for adoption of a social justice counseling perspective continued in the 1980s. Katz (1985) argued that all counseling theories and practices emerge from limited cultural contexts and thus are not value-neutral. Moreover, she claimed that adhering to traditional counseling paradigms promoted a White, middle-class status quo and that counselor denial of the value-laden nature of the helping process was a significant barrier to understanding diverse client concerns.

Several key events occurred during the 1990s that advanced the social justice counseling perspective. In 1999, Loretta Bradley was elected ACA president, and during her tenure she selected "Advocacy: A Voice for Our Clients and Communities" as her presidential address theme. That same year the formation of Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ), a division of ACA, served to legitimize the social justice counseling perspective (Ratts, 2009a).

During the new millennium, the social justice counseling perspective continues to gain support. Since 2000, Division 17 of the American Psychological Association has published two special issues of The Counseling Psychologist dedicated to social justice issues in counseling. Additionally, the ACA Advocacy Competencies, which serve as a "how to" manual for addressing issues of social justice and oppression in counseling, were finalized in 2003 by a taskforce of CSJ leaders (Toporek, Lewis, & Crethar, 2009).

In summary, both multicultural and social justice counseling perspectives share at their core assumptions that counselors must consider clients' social and cultural contexts during the counseling process, that oppression significantly affects the lives of many diverse clients, and that counselors must go outside the boundaries of traditional counseling theory and technique to serve these clients. Given the historical, philosophical, and practical connections that exist, counselors should understand that both are needed to adequately address the impact of social and cultural differences and oppression on diverse clients (Ratts et al., 2004). Accordingly, in this chapter we address diversity in a broad sense and discuss both macrolevel and microlevel conceptualization and interventions of diverse clients and their environments.

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