Diversity-Competent Counselor

Sue and Sue (2008) contended that in the changing world of counseling there is no clinical competence without multicultural competence. In the MCCs, Sue et al. (1992) described three necessary characteristics of culturally competent counselors: (a) awareness of own assumptions, values, and biases; (b) understanding the worldview of the culturally different client; and (c) ability to develop appropriate intervention strategies and techniques. The preceding sections have discussed various ways to understand and work with diverse clients. However, acquiring the awareness, knowledge, and skills necessary for diversity competence must extend far past reading this chapter. Therefore, in this section we discuss gaining self-awareness and gaining additional knowledge and skills.

Gaining Self-Awareness

As the MCCs have outlined, counselors' awareness of self is critical to providing competent services to diverse clients (Sue et al., 1992). Counselors' views of themselves and others are shaped by their experiences as members of multiple social identity groups. Without awareness of the stereotypes, biases, and culturally based reactions, counselors will unwittingly view diverse clients' experiences, issues, goals, and interactions in counseling from their own perspective, which may be inaccurate or harmful to the client. This phenomenon is called cultural encapsulation (Sue & Sue, 2008).

To minimize cultural encapsulation, counselors should develop a clear sense of their place within society, cultural background and influences, beliefs and values, and interpersonal impact on others. Counselors should know their cultural background and how it has influenced their attitudes, values, and biases of normal and abnormal behavior. They also are able to recognize the limits of their competence, recognize the sources of their discomfort with diverse clients, and understand how the dynamics of oppression affect them personally and in their interactions with others (Arredondo et al., 1996). To achieve this, counselors are encouraged to attend to their personal growth, seek out professional workshops, actively seek a nonracist identity, maintain personal and professional relationships with individuals different from themselves, and seek feedback regarding behavior (Arredondo et al., 1996). Counselors can also become more aware of their socialization through a variety of learning activities, such as completing a social group membership profile (Bell, 2007) or analyzing their own social identity development level using a relevant model (Cheatham et al., 2006).

In addition, Helms and Cook (1999) suggested counselors answer the following questions to begin to explore their assumptions about human functioning and the counseling process:

• What do you consider to be normal therapist and client behavior during therapy?

• If group goals are in conflict with the client's individual needs or desires, how do you resolve the conflicts?

• At what age do you believe that a child should leave his or her parents and make a life independent of them?

• What strategies do you use to include the client's support systems as allies?

• Can you describe an instance in which you intervened to change a system to fit the client's need rather than requiring him or her to change to fit the system?

Gaining Additional Knowledge and Skills As has been outlined in the preceding sections, knowledge of client worldview is critical for counselors to understand clients' experiences, issues, goals, and best path to healing and functioning. However, the complexity of worldview and the breadth of diversity make this a monumental task. Counselors should begin by collecting knowledge about their own social and cultural background. Exploration and gathering of knowledge should then extend to populations or cultural groups with whom counselors will commonly work and those about whom they have little knowledge. Exploration should include the group's history within the society, including impact of oppression, and knowledge of the group's culture, including common beliefs and values regarding parenting, family, spirituality, social hierarchy, gender roles, communication styles, and relationship to time and space. Knowledge of a cultural group's areas of strength, resistance, and resilience is also critical (Arredondo et al., 1996; Slattery, 2004).

In addition, Hanna, Bemak, and Chung (1999) indicated that book knowledge is not sufficient for developing adequate knowledge and skills. Receiving supervision from clinicians who are knowledgeable about diversity or who differ in social identity has the potential to increase awareness, knowledge, and skills related to counseling diverse client (Lum, 2003). Lum (2003) suggested making book knowledge and skills come alive by "contacting" diverse communities through becoming familiar with community demographics, reading local alternative news sources, and interviewing community leaders. He also suggested spending time in the community, observing, patronizing businesses, attending social functions, talking with community members, and shadowing helping professionals who have developed effective relationships within the community.

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