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Multicultural counselling issues

Gender plays role in racial discrimination because males and females of a different ethnicity are treated in different ways.  In particular instance, females of a specific ethnic group experience at least two forms of discrimination based of her race, gender, religious belief, age and social status.  The term racism is strongly associated with hatred and prejudice of an individual’s identity including any aspects of his identity and sexual orientation hence females experience a different manner of discrimination.
International groups such as the United Nations have regarded racial and gender discrimination as two independent issues resulting in females continuing to suffer from numerous types of injustices.  It is thus essential that the gender component of racial discrimination be well understood in order to draw actions towards racial discrimination that are helpful to both males and females.
There are several instances when the issues of gender and racial discrimination interconnect (Crenshaw KW, 2000).  The interplay of these two concepts may take different modes and arise in different circumstances.  One situation involves gender-based violence.  In this situation, females are more likely to experience more cases of violence because discrimination that is influenced by gender depicts females as the most defenseless elements of society.

Inclusion of the concept of racial discrimination thus generates violence on females, making them twice at risk of violence.  These kinds of circumstances tend to be more difficult because certain women from remote areas may be hesitant in reporting any violent incidents that they have experienced because they are concerned that no action will be performed with regards to their report or that their statement will be received with indifference or hostility.
Another situation wherein gender is interconnected with racial discrimination can be observed among impoverished women.  It has been estimated that approximately 1.3 billion individuals who are living in extreme need are women (UNDP, 2000).  Such condition is strongly related to their inability to receive any form of education as well as training courses hence rendering them under-qualified for most of the available employment.
Simultaneously, the trends of globalization and alteration in governmental laws have resulted in more problems for women because gender inequalities were exposed.  One example can be observed among governments that do not provide unemployment insurance of single mothers or female heads of households. The merged effect of gender and racial discrimination may also hinder the retrieval of women to economic resources, including loans, credit and real estate property and can also affect the treatment they receive when they request for social services from the government.  Such hardship thus endangers women to poverty and financial hardship.
Gender is also intertwined with the issue of racial discrimination in terms of education.  It has been discovered that the global literacy rate for women is significantly lower than that among men.  The discrepancy in literacy rate between men and women is even greater in developing countries.  More than half of out-of-school children are girls and that among illiterate adults, two-thirds are comprised by women.  These gender-based illiteracy reports show that females have less access to educational resources which in turn results in a lower rate of participation in training programs.
Such decrease in education restrains females in their full understanding and awareness of their legal rights, including the right to be employed and to own real estate properties.  The access of females to education through attendance in school is also affected by circumstances of early pregnancy, childrearing and domestic family responsibilities.  The lack or insufficiency of knowledge on reproductive health among women due to poor access to educational resources further hampers the living conditions of women.  It is well-known that education is strongly correlated with employment options and financial stability, hence women are at a disadvantage with regards to availing such opportunities.
2.  Due to the increasing diverse population in our society, it is imperative for mental health practitioners to increase their cultural awareness and cultural competence in the process of psychotherapy.  A culturally competent therapist is one who has moved from ignorance to being educated with his/her own cultural heritage and to respecting differences.  In addition, he/she is cognizant of how his/her values and biases affect minority clients.
A culturally competent therapist must acquire specific knowledge related to the history of cultural standards and lifestyles about the minority group with which he/she is working.  It is also important to have a thorough knowledge of socio-political factors and how they affect these marginalized groups in relation to the majority culture.  In addition, a culturally competent therapist should understand value assumptions (abnormality and normality) that are fundamental in the major schools of therapy and how they may influence the values of the culturally different.
Some major models may limit the abilities of the culturally different client due to the generic characteristics of therapy including language issues; culture bound values and class-bound values. At the skills level, a culturally competent therapist should be able to tap into a wide variety of verbal and nonverbal responses. The focus should be to practice with a multitude of response modalities rather than relying on narrow set of skills in therapy.
The application of psychology is largely a product of individualistic cultures and may be questionable when applied to collectivist cultures.  Individualistic and collectivist cultures are exact opposites on a continuum of how people interact with others and the collectivist values may often clash with the individualistic values inherent in the counseling and psychotherapy process.
The psychoanalytic approach emphasizes achieving insight through the discovery of unconscious thoughts, feelings and motivations, which is similar to other ethnic cultural concepts such as striving for self-development through the process of introspection.  Although insight-oriented approach is appealing to most clients of different ethncities, they practice the process of self-examination privately and not revealed to others.  Hence, clinicians should attend to the possible uneasiness of the client while exploring the most intimate thoughts and feelings in their inner world.
For example, most Asian clients anticipate quick symptom relief when they actually do seek mental health services.  Rather than mere reliance of free association, the clinician could instill structure in the therapy session by asking questions and giving directions to the client.   This would not only maximize the effectiveness of therapy outcome but also meet the client’s expectations in treatment.  One way of addressing of this problem is for the clinician to educate the client at the onset therapy the nature and rationale of psychoanalytic approach to ease the client into the process.
Some of the more commonly complaints made by Asian clients is their impatience in the process of psychoanalytic therapy with the clinician’s pace in addressing the client’s symptoms; focus of the past rather than the present and lack of structure in the session.   Exploration of the client’s life events that are relevant to them such as migration experiences would inadvertently elicit important information such as past memories of childhood and or parental influences.  Clinicians should be aware of other culture’s worldviews and values and the similarities and differences that exist with the host culture.
These values and beliefs are inherent in tales, fables and myths in a culture.  For example, hierarchical transference is common in Asian cultures where the client brings the Asian values of filial piety (children’s obligation to care for elderly parents) and respect to authority.  In addition, authority figures are idealized as benevolent in Asian cultures hence the client experiences a positive relationship with the therapist similar to that of a parent and child, in which the client will obey and respect the therapist.  Clinicians can work through this transference by offering a positive interpretation of this type of hierarchical transference as well as respecting the client’s cultural values.
3.      The refusal to work with a homosexual client is an ethical violation because counseling should be provided to any individual regardless of culture, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity.   The Rehabilitation Act Amendment of 1992 discretely describes that actions of inequitable treatment of minorities or members of an ethnic group or gender have been observed in majority of rehabilitation operations.  Research has indicated that cultural diversity is a common factor that a counselor has to deal with during his routine operations and that positive results have increased when personal information with regards to the patient are disclosed to the counselor prior to treatment or consultation.
Disclosure provides ample time for the counselor to prepare himself for the encounter with the patient, together with the patient’s background, including sexual orientation, religious belief, cultural background and ethnicity.  The refusal of a counselor to work with a homosexual client thus is an ethical violation because the counselor restricts himself from providing his services to any individual who requests his service.  Every individual should have an equal opportunity to request and receive services from a counselor and any other healthcare practitioner, regards of the details of his background.
For my future counseling practice, I will also employ the self-disclosure strategy in order to accommodate the multicultural setting of my practice.  I think the if I start to self-disclose my information to the client before counseling, the client will feel more relaxed and comfortable to interact with me during counseling sessions because my client will feel that he is not alone in terms of self-disclosure choices.
References
Crenshaw KW (2000):  Gender-related aspects of race discrimination, background paper for Expert Meeting on Gender and Racial Discrimination, 21-24 Novem-ber 2000, Zagreb, Croatia (EM/GRD/ 2000/WP.1).
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) (2000): Poverty Report 2000: Overcoming Human Poverty.
 
 
 

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