It is a little argued fact that since its inception in 1971 multicultural policy has shaped Canada’s national identity and its international image, and has drastically altered the country’s demographic landscape. In response to these changes, counselling programs nationwide have become increasingly aware of the need to understand and respect diversity. As a result, there is a growing need for educational resources and curriculums that critically explore culturally sensitive approaches to therapy.
So what is multicultural counselling? Research shows clients from ethnic minority groups are the least likely to make use of counselling services. One explanation for this is that it is an ethnocentric activity, based on the values of the white middle classes, an approach which can alienate those from other cultures. A multicultural approach to counselling challenges the assumption that one style of interviewing is transferable to all clients. Pederson (1994) proposed a broad definition of multicultural counselling which includes: ‘ethnographic variables such as ethnicity, nationality, religion and language; demographic variables such as age, gender and place of residence; status variables such as social, educational and economic; and affiliations including both formal affiliations to family or organizations and informal affiliations to ideas and a lifestyle’ .
Because a multicultural approach to counselling is relatively new, the implications for practice are still being developed. There is some agreement, however, that whilst maintaining the integrity of the distinctive new approach, multicultural counselling should strive to select and build on the best of current counselling practice.
Three questions which counsellors might use in assessing their approach are as follows): Within what framework or context can I understand this client (assessment)? Within what context do client and counselor determine what change in functioning is desirable (goal)? And what techniques can be used to effect the desired change (intervention)?
In conclusion, examination of their own assumptions, acceptance of the multiplicity of variables that constitute an individual’s identity, and development of a client centered, balanced counseling method will aid the multicultural counselor in providing effective help.
Arthur, N., & Collins, S. (2005). Culture-infused counselling: Celebrating the Canadian mosaic. Calgary, AB: Counselling Concepts. ISBN 0-9738085-0-0. 542 pages
Jereb, R. “Assessing the Adequacy of Counseling Theories for Use with Black Clients.” Counseling and Values 27 (1982): 17-26.
LaFromboise, T. D. “The Role of Cultural Diversity in Counseling Psychology.” The Counseling Psychologist 13 (1985): 649-655.
Pedersen, P.B. (1991) Multiculturalism as a generic framework, Journal of Counselling & Development, 1991, 70, 1: 6-12.
*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA