What is Cross-Cultural Counseling?

If you are considering a career in psychology or counseling, you might have heard of a relatively new area of the discipline called Cross-Cultural Counseling. The idea is not new but the profession that is arising from the growing global nature of society is just emerging. What is this new profession?

First, We Must Understand What Culture Is.

According to the website GetCeusnow, culture is the “shared values, traditions, norms, arts, history, folklore and institutions of a group of people. “ It is sometimes divided with respect to geographical areas, race, ethnicity and other factors but there are differences within these groups.

For instance, in America we often identify a Native American culture, but there are vast differences between tribal cultures. In some tribes, women own all the property and head the families. In others the role of women is primarily to care for the children.

Culture can be a complex subject. It affects the way people view and react to their environments, and what they view as helpful to them in opposition to the things that are not relevant.

How Does Culture Affect Counseling?

In a common trait of all people, we tend to view our own culture as the best. That means when we help people from diverse cultures, the tendency is to offer solutions that make sense in our environment. Western medicine and the emphasis on science in treating disease, for instance, may not be accepted at all by a client who views illness as a supernatural occurrence.

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The first step in counseling someone from another culture, then, is to have a good understanding of your own cultural values, and how they shape your biases and prejudices. For years US literature has been full of stereotypes of Mexican laborers lulling in afternoon siestas. An examination of the cultural reasons for this behavior, though, shows an understandable response to the heat of the area and the accommodation of breaking up the day, increasing activity in the cooler evening. An assessment of your own biases is essential to helping people from other cultures. Counselors must establish mutual respect with their clients and then offer well-thought-out solutions that are culturally appropriate. Counseling across the barriers of culture demands that the counselor identify the culture of the client, assess his or her preconceived notions and then communicate to establish a working relationship.

Where Do These Counselors Work?

Today, schools teach diversity and industry has stretched across the oceans to include different cultures. Travel between countries is more common today than in years past as well. Counselors who can work to ease the transition of these individuals from one culture to another are in demand in corporations who relocate employees. Not only are there difficulties in accepting new societies, but there are mental disorders like anxiety that can be caused by the moves. Public health organizations use the counselors to increase acceptance of health programs. In fact, counselors who can address the needs of individuals from other cultures are needed in most areas of counseling and in social service organizations.

The median salary for this profession is $42,480, but that is affected by where you work. Governmental agencies and industries may differ widely in compensation, and independent consultants command higher salaries.
The need for people who can reach across cultures to help others will increase as society’s global perspective grows. Cross-Cultural Counseling is a profession that will create training programs and degree programs for itself out of necessity.

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