Multi-cultural counseling may seem like a simple concept, but it is a practice within the field of counseling that can have a major impact on interactions and patient outcomes. Anyone who is planning to work in behavioral health as a clinical specialist must know the challenges that they can be faced with when treating patients who come from different cultures and diverse backgrounds. Here’s what psychology students must know about these unique cultural counseling competencies:
Defining the Competencies
Practice-based psychologists should always take an inclusive approach to accepting clients within their specialty. When someone is referred to the psychologist to address specific types of trauma, life issues, and more, the psychologist needs to have the experience and resume to show that they can treat the patient.
There are also broader competencies that all psychologists, regardless of the age group or specialty area they practice in, must be well-versed in. Multicultural counseling competencies are basic at a surface level but very complex when you look into how cultural barriers can affect treatments. Courses help practitioners adopt culturally-competent counseling practices and approaches to keep clients engaged.
The Cultural Impact
Cultural groups all respond differently to counseling interactions. Some cultures are completely against sharing problems with outsiders in fear of being shamed or degraded. Others are not forthcoming in a clinical setting in the hopes of saving face, which they were raised to do. These cultural habits that are learned at a young age can make interactions challenging.
When counselors learn the competencies and the effective theoretical approaches that are taught, they are able to use many different techniques to connect with patients from different cultures. Some cultures prefer direct communication and eye contact, while others prefer open-ended questions. By learning techniques, counselors can conduct sessions where everyone is comfortable and work toward a common goal.
Counselors Must Reflect
Depending on the area, counselors may have to put a major focus on themselves and their personal beliefs to better be able to move forward in their careers. A big part of counseling clientele from other cultures will be self-reflecting. Since the psychologist also has their own personal beliefs and possibly even prejudices, they will have to really seek education.
Being open-minded and honest with oneself is crucial in this practice area. Without real, honest, and deep self-reflection, a counselor would not be able to address feelings they actually feel and stereotypes they may believe that could hinder their professional identity. The goal is for practicing counselors to grow themselves as people before they can grow in their practices. Learning why things are different from culture to culture can really help build compassion and understanding.
Demand for Multicultural Therapy
The population is growing to be more and more diverse. As there are more minority groups seeking therapy, there’s a larger demand for multicultural therapy services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for counselors is projected to grow by 11% within the next several years. Demand for multicultural competencies is higher in areas with more diverse populations.
It is very important for students to take specialty coursework that builds on cultural understanding and queues. All psychology students should take at least one course in these competencies regardless of their practice area. Use the skills taught in multi-cultural counseling training to improve as a person and a professional.