You are on page 1of 15

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

Culture-Infused Counselling in Schools Lara A. Nestman University of Calgary

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

Culture- Infused Counselling in Schools For the last five months, I have been working in a large, urban, multicultural school as one of four school counsellors. One of the challenges I face is how to facilitate help to the diverse population that I serve. Specifically, I am currently working with one particular Asian female student whose family does not share the same traditional view on mental health. It has been difficult to establish the best way to serve this student and. I face several professional and institutional barriers. For example, the department head of the counselling centre insists that culture should not be infused into counselling. First, he believes that we need to treat all of our student clients equally because this philosophy is written in the schools mission statement and in the centres code of ethics. He also thinks that there is a common measure of normal behaviour and that problems are derived from the individual, not their context (Hobson & Kanitz, 1996). My paternalistic, Eurocentric colleague asserts that because there is sufficient empirical evidence to support Western based interventions all four counsellors should adhere to these therapies when helping our students. Finally, my colleague thinks that it is unrealistic to expect counsellors to have a culturally sensitive set of interventions for every client that might present (Weinrach & Thomas, 1998). The purpose of this paper is to argue that culture infused counselling is imperative for the profession, specifically in schools. First, what the current literature says about the importance of culture-infused counselling will be examined. From there, the relevance and importance of integrating culture-infused counselling into schools will be analyzed. Synthesis of Literature

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

For the purposes of this paper, culture-infused counselling is defined as the conscious and purposeful infusion of cultural awareness and sensitivity into all aspects of the counselling process and all other roles assumed by the counsellor or psychologist (Arthur & Collins, 2010, p. 18). A competent counsellor is one who not only understands how his or her worldview influences the counselling process, but who also takes an active stance toward understanding the worldview of his or her clients (Williams, 2003). There are key issues that the literature argues for why it is important for competent counselling practice with culturally diverse clientele. They are the following: a) theories of counselling, b) counsellor values, c) diversity of Canada, d) socio-political realities, d) advocacy and social justice, and e) ethical issues. Theories of Counselling For many decades, European and North American counsellors have operated within a homogenous, Eurocentric, white perspective (Pederson, 1995; Sue, Arrendondo & McDavis, 1992; Weinrach & Thomas, 1998). Textbooks, research findings, and theories often contain culturalspecific assumptions (Sadeghi, Fischer & House, 2003). For example, some cultures place an emphasis on individualism rather than on collectivism (Williams, 2003). As a result, some studies have shown that counselling has not been as effective with ethnically different clients as with mainstream clients (Sue, 1988; Sue & Zane, 1987). This could be because of past ineffective counsellor training programs and the lack of culturally sensitive material taught in these programs (Butler, 2003). Theories on counselling become problematic when they do not represent the experiences of the clients being served. The client could end up feeling conflicted or uncomfortable about the

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

counselling they are receiving. It is essential that counsellors reflect on who the counselling theory is written for, what the professional practice implications are, and how the theory can be modified or adapted in practice for a culturally diverse clientele (Arthur & McMahon, as cited in Arthur & Collins, 2010, p. 28). It is important that practicing counsellors who work with culturally diverse population are able to shift their counselling styles to meet the developmental needs of clients (Sue, 1990). Counsellor Values Counsellors would like to believe that they are objective and value-free. However, this belief can seriously impact the counsellor-client relationship in subtle ways. Counsellors might be inadvertently perpetuating practices that disadvantage persons from non-dominant groups (Pederson, 1995; Truscott & Crook, 2004). This is because, just like every other member of society, counsellors internalize the norms of behaviour of their own culture; otherwise known, as ethnocentrism. Examples of unintentional racism which weaken the counsellor-client working alliance are color blindness, color consciousness, cultural transference and cultural countertransference (Pederson). These actions could result in a rupture of the working alliance, clients becoming suspicious of mental health services, and groups/individuals no longer seeking assistance because of the hostility or discrimination they see and feel in counselling (Arthur & Collins, 2010). Therefore, counsellors need to acquire an awareness of self and others as cultural beings and adapt their helping styles to meet the needs of the individuals they serve. Diversity of Canada The changing complexion and diversity of Canada as reflected by the statistics makes it imperative for the counselling profession to take a proactive attitude on cultural diversity (Sue,

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

Arrendendo & McDavis, 1992). Unlike their earlier European counterparts who were oriented more toward assimilation, the 2006 Canadian Census showed that 83.9% of the immigrants who arrived between 2001 and 2006 were born in regions other than Europe (Statistics Canada, 2007a). The share of the population belonging to a visible minority group is rising, and this trend is likely to continue as immigration represents an increasing share of population growth. Other important demographical statistics highlight the increasing diversity of the Canadian population. Aboriginals account for 1 million of the Canadian population (Statistics Canada, 2008). In 2006, 4.6% of the Canadian population had a disability (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2009) and there was an increase by 33% in Canada between 2001 and 2006 of reported same-sex relationships (Statistics Canada, 2007b). From all of these statistics, an argument for culture-infused counselling can be made. Increasingly, working with non-dominant cultures will become the norm rather than the exception. To be fully competent with non-dominant populations, it is crucial that counsellors take action in incorporating standards of practice that reflect the diversity of our society (Sue, Arrendendo & McDavis, 1992). Socio-political Reality One of the arguments for cross-cultural counselling in the current literature is that counselling oftentimes reflects the values of the larger society (Sue & Sue, as cited in Sue, Arrendondo & McDavis, 1999). Arrendendo (1999) argues that counselling is an interpersonal practice that provokes a range of dynamics given the nations socio-political reality. There are two political realities that professionals must acknowledge and address. First, the worldview of the client is linked to historical and current experiences of oppression (Sue, Arrendondo & McDavis).

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

Certain values and factors might be present that support the status quo and restrict the well being of non-dominant individuals and groups (Sue, Arrendondo & McDavis). Second, counselling does not occur in a vacuum from the larger issues that occur in society. The statistics indicating the demographic change in Canada has a major impact on all societal systems. To adhere to the status quo has major ramifications and negative consequences for the psychological profession and society at large (Sue, Arrendondo & McDavis). Thus, promoting pluralism should be a major goal for professional counsellors. Advocacy and Social Justice In culture-infused counselling, clients are seen as expressions of the social and cultural systems that they are part of, and the role of counsellor is expanded to focus on the structures that lead to clients experiencing mental health problems (Arthur & Collins, 2010). If counsellors are to truly be competent, then they need to examine the social structures that are beneath and around people that perpetuate power differences and to introduce efforts to ameliorate social inequities (Arthur & Collins, p. 142). The call for social justice requires counsellors to develop competencies for addressing structure change in organizations, policies, and the larger public arena of social and political advocacy (Arthur & Collins). Ethical Issues The last central argument for culture infused counselling is the provision of ethical counselling. If counsellors lack sufficient training in culture-infused counselling, it is likely they might also lack the skills to deal with ethical issues presented by clients with diverse backgrounds. Pederson (1997) argues that many counsellors might not be sufficiently prepared to interpret ethical guidelines with cultural sensitivity. Counsellors who are unaware of the basis for

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

differences that occur between them and their culturally different clients are likely to ascribe negative characteristics. Without this awareness, the counsellor who works with non-dominant groups or individuals may be engaging in cultural oppression using unethical and harmful practices (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992, p. 480). Such practices are rarely the result of unconscious intention but are rather from colour blindness that prevents counsellors from seeing the world as their client sees it (Truscott & Crook, 2004, p.113). To conclude, counsellors would do well to recognize that culture is central to their practice. Rationale for Cross-Cultural Counselling in Schools The following section details arguments for why the issues previously discussed must be attended to in school counselling. Counselling Theories In order for students to develop healthy self-concepts, cultural diversity must be respected in schools. School counsellors need to be able to help students from a variety of cultural backgrounds develop positive self-esteems while setting educational, career, and personal-social goals. This might be accomplished by developing counselling styles that serve the culturally different client better (Whiteledge, 1994). For example, a school counsellor might have to structure the interview and act in a more directive manner for certain cultural groups (Coleman, 1995). Many of the Western based interventions are intrinsically individualistic. School counsellors need to be aware that some cultural groups work as a collective. Therefore, it would be wise for the school counsellor to provide ways for students and the school to bridge home, family and the community with their particular goals. School counsellors should reach out to the communities to demonstrate that counsellors are sensitive to the notion that not all parents perceive

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

schools as welcoming environments. Language differences and cultural customs can often make school alienating and intimidating places for many parents (Lee, 2001, p. 5). A culturally responsive and sensitive counselling program can function to increase the level of effective participation by families and communities in the educational process (Lee). Values of the School Counsellor One of the major challenges facing school counsellors is their ability to competently address the needs of an increasingly diverse population. School counsellors should make efforts to understand the cultural backgrounds of their students and to understand their own self as a cultural being. In order to do this, school counsellors should attend professional development workshops and conferences on other cultures, and they should examine, understand and deal with their own biases and assumptions to assist others effectively. In order to strengthen the counsellor-client working alliance, school counsellors should monitor their interaction patterns in order to foster more inclusion and affirmation in their interpersonal relationships. Students notice the behaviours and values of their counsellors and teachers through watching and listening non-verbal and verbal messages (Arthur & Collins, 2010). Being mindful of the manner in which they speak, what is said, the nature and consistency of their strategies, and the emotional tone in their voice can be very helpful in determining the effectiveness of counselling and of the strength of the relationship (Holcomb-McCoy, 2004). Consistently monitoring, auditing, and evaluating the counselling process will also strengthen counselling competency (Arthur & Collins, 2010) and prevent unintentional racism from occurring. Having an understanding of different cultures and an awareness of self as cultural beings will help school counsellors develop culturally sensitive competent and ethical practices for the population they serve.

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

School Diversity According to Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2008), over 50,000 children between the ages of 0-14 years and over 120,000 youth between the ages of 15-24 years of age relocated to Canada. Gay and lesbian youth (Fontaine, 1998), aboriginal youth (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, 2007), and other religious and ethnic groups (Esses & Gardner, 1996) are all represented in junior and senior high schools today. Canadian schools are becoming a social arena where children who represent diverse behavioural styles, attitudinal orientations, and value systems have been brought together with one goal to prepare them for academic, career and social success (Lee, 2001, p. 1). With the increasing number of adolescents from diverse backgrounds entering the Canadian school system, it is imperative that school counsellors gain a working knowledge of how to best serve these children. Socio-political Reality In working with these groups, it is critical that school counsellors be flexible and culturally sensitive so that they are not perceived as insensitive, racist, discriminatory or mental health cops (Chung, Bemak, Ortiz & Sandoval-Perez, 2008, p. 314). School counsellors should also be aware of the institutional norms and tacit cultural messages students receive from schools, families, places of worship and the larger society. Counsellors should be attentive to the ethnocentrism that plays out in schools. School counsellors need to be able to recognize and address racism in schools and help to resolve issues of race between students. Non-dominant groups might also demonstrate a sense of defensiveness and embarrassment about their own cultural backgrounds, and/or be the targets of negative stereotyping and hostile prejudices (DAndrea & Daniels, 1995). For school counsellors to ignore these realities is to run the risk of

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

10

cultural oppression and marginalization of non-dominant groups (Arthur & Collins, 2010) in the school and its community. School counsellors and school staff must be at the forefront in teaching and fostering self-acceptance and tolerance as schools become more diverse. Advocacy and Social Justice There are three arguments that highlight the importance of promoting cultural diversity in school counselling interventions. These are access, equity and educational justice (Lee, 2001). All students, regardless of their cultural background, deserve equal access to a quality education. School counsellors need a different perspective from which to operate if they are going to ensure that all students have access to the services that promote optimal academic, career and personalsocial development. For example, this might mean providing services to any students that needs anything from educational testing and assessment to needing help developing healthy relationships with others. School counsellors need to intervene in the educational system on behalf of students in ways designed to eradicate institutional barriers and cultural insensitivities (Lee). Furthermore, counsellors can make teachers and the school administrators aware of culturally responsive approaches to education through professional development workshops (Lee). Ethical Issues Working with a diverse adolescent population raises important ethical questions for school counsellors. The changing population demographics challenges school counsellors to reassess their own professional attitudes and behaviours and take action to ensure that they have the awareness, knowledge, and skill to deliver competent and ethical services to all students (Hobson & Kanitz, 1996). For example, school counsellors might encounter clients whose cultural practices are contrary to societys norms. School counsellors need to evaluate each situation carefully by using

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

11

the appropriate code of ethics for that particular school and provincial jurisdiction and positively respond to the mental health and social justice needs of their culturally diverse clientele given the particular circumstances (Chung et al., 2008). Second, school counsellors need to cultivate an attitude of openness to cultural diversity, make every effort to be aware of their own world view, gain knowledge of cultural aspects of their students, and develop culturally appropriate services (Truscott & Crook, 2004). Summary In contemporary Canadian society, it is no longer feasible for school counsellors to operate within an individualistic, mono-cultural, single framework. The rapidly changing demographics of Canada require our counsellors to pay increased attention to cultural issues in our high school. Failure to integrate and account for the cultures of the students with whom we work and serve may contribute to the counsellors inability to effectively meet their students academic, career, and social-personal needs. This failure will also help to foster a continued atmosphere of oppression and discrimination in our school. It also constitutes unethical behaviour. Our school counsellors need to be provided with, and encouraged to use techniques and interventions that promote access, equity and educational justice. It is incumbent upon all four counsellors of our school to take advantage of professional development opportunities that foster growth and skill development in culture-infused counselling. By having these skills and knowledge, counsellors are then poised to play a significant role in addressing the needs of the diverse population of our school. Our school counsellors can have a positive impact on the social, academic, and career aspects of the students through the use of culturally sensitive counselling styles. As a result, our school counselling centre can achieve the level of accuracy and effectiveness toward which our profession aspires (Pederson, 1997).

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

12

References Arredondo, P. (1999). Multicultural counseling competencies as tools to address oppression and racism. Journal of Counselling & Development, 77, 102-108. Arthur, N., & Collins, S. (Eds.). (2010). Culture-infused counselling. (2nd ed.). Calgary, AB: Counselling Concepts. Butler, S. K. (2003). Multicultural sensitivity and competence in the clinical supervision of school counsellors and school psychologists: A context for providing competent services in a multicultural society. The Clinical Supervisor, 22, 125-141. doi: 10.1300/J001v22n01_09 Chung, R. C., Bemak, F., Ortiz, D. P., & Sandoval-Perez, P. A. (2008). Promoting the mental health of immigrants: A multicultural/social justice perspective. Journal of Counseling & Development, 86, 310-317. Citizenship and Immigration Canada (2008). Facts and Figures 2008: Immigration overview: permanent and temporary residents. Retrieved January 30, 2010 from Citizenship and Immigration Canada: http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/resources/statistics/facts2008/index.asp Coleman, H. (1995). Cultural factors and the counselling process: Implications for school counsellors. School Counselor, 42(3), 1-6. DAndrea, M., & Daniels, J. (1995). Helping students learn to get along: Assessing the effectiveness of a multicultural developmental guidance project. Elementary School Guidance & Counseling, 30(2). 1-9. Esses, V.M., & Gardner, R.C. (1996). Multiculturalism in Canada: context and current status. Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science, 28, 145-152.

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

13

Fontaine, J.H. (1998). Evidencing a need: School counselors experiences with gay and lesbian students. Professional School Counseling, 1, 8-14. Hobson, S., & Kanitz, H. M. (1996). Multicultural counseling: An ethical issue for school counsellors. School Counselor, 43, 1-10. Holcomb-McCoy, C. (2004). Assessing the multicultural competence of school counsellors: A checklist. Professional School Counseling, 7(3), 178-183. Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (2007). Learning - Educational Attainment. Retrieved February 6, 2010 from: http://www4.hrsdc.gc.ca/.3ndic.1t.4r@-eng.jsp? iid=29#M_4 Human Resources and Skills Development Canada (2009). 2006 employment equity data report. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved February 14, 2010, from http://www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/labour/publications/equality/eedr/2006/page07.shtml Lee, C. (2001). Culturally responsive school counsellors and programs: Addressing the needs of all students. Professional School Counseling, 4(4), 1-6. Pederson, P. (1995). The culture-bound counsellor as an unintentional racist. Canadian Journal of Counselling, 29, 197-205. Pederson, P. (1997). The cultural context of the American Counseling Association Code of Ethics. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76, 23-28. Statistics Canada. (2007a). 2006 Census: Ethnic origin, visible minorities, place of work and mode of transportation. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved January 30, 2010 from Statistics Canada:

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

14

http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/080402/dq080402a-eng.htm Statistics Canada (2007b). 2006 Census: Families, marital status, households and dwelling characteristics. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/070912/dq070912a-eng.htm Statistics Canada, (2008). Aboriginal peoples in Canada in 2006: Inuit, Mtis, and First Nations, 2006 census. Ottawa, ON: Government of Canada. Retrieved February 14, 2010 from: http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/080115/dq080115a-eng.htm Sadeghi, M., Fischer, J. M., & House, S. G. (2003). Ethical dilemmas in multicultural counselling. Journal of Multicultural Counselling and Development, 31, 179-191. Sue, D., & Zane, N. (1987). The role of culture and cultural techniques in psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 42, 37-45. Sue, D.W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of Counseling & Development, 70, 477-486. Sue, S. (1988). Psychotherapeutic services for minorities: Two decades of research findings. American Psychologist, 43, 301-308. Truscott, D. & Crook, K. (2004). Ethics for the practice of Psychology in Canada. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press. Weinrach, S., & Thomas, K. (1998). Diversity-sensitive counseling today: A postmodern clash of values. Journal of Counseling & Development, 76, 115-122.

Running Head: CULTURE-INFUSED COUNSELLING IN SCHOOLS

15

Whiteledge, J. (1994). Cross-cultural counseling: Implications for school counsellors in enhancing student learning. School Counselor, 41, 1-5. Williams, B. (2003). The worldview dimensions of individualism and collectivism: Implications for counseling. Journal of Counseling & Development, 81, 370-374.