Tag Archives: Diversity

Reflective Practice from a Cultural Standpoint

Posted by: Amal Souraya on January 5, 2016 9:59 am

diversity.relfective.practiceMany of us are cognitively aware of the importance of reflective practice in our work with clients. Reflective practice allows us to stop for a moment and look back at our past actions and experiences in a critical and effortful way. Although reflective practice is beneficial when working with clients in general, I believe it especially important when working with clients from cultures much different than our own. According to the American Psychological Association, it is imperative for psychologists to recognize themselves as cultural beings and as such hold attitudes and beliefs that may inadvertently influence clients that come from a different background. Psychologists, like others, are shaped by their worldviews, ethnicity, culture, heritage, past experiences, family dynamics, nationalities, age, gender, sexual orientation, abilities, media influences, education and other significant culturally related dynamics. Hence, it is advisable to recognize this phenomenon when working with clients in general, but particularly with those who may have a cultural framework that is vastly different than the therapists’. This allows counsellors to be more cautious of their own agenda in the counselling relationship. Additionally, it increases the likelihood that the client will feel comfortable and heard in therapy.

If counsellors fail to view the client relationship from a cultural lens, then some detrimental consequences may occur. A common cultural error that many western therapists make is applying individualistic ideologies to clients who come from collectivistic cultures. For example, in many collectivist cultures the family and the group are more important than the individual himself/herself. Hence, if a therapist were to be working with an individual from a collectivist culture and attempted to counsel this client in ways that were more in-line with an individualistic standpoint, then this could potentially really harm not only the therapeutic relationship, but possibly interfere with that client and his relationship to others in his life.

I am aware that it is impossible to take “ourselves” completely out of the therapeutic process, therefore it is of utmost importance to engage in reflective practice and understand our presence during interactions with clients and how our own worldviews and ways of being may interfere with the therapeutic process. Once we do this we begin to learn more about ourselves; about how our culture is influencing our work with others; and ultimately how we can be more culturally sensitive and present for the clients that we serve.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

 In-laws or Out-laws?

Posted by: Farah Lodi on September 18, 2015 2:15 pm

selfie-801226_1280             All too often I see multi-cultural couples in therapy who’ve been together for a year or so; the novelty of marriage has worn off, and now they are realizing things that usually only surface after you’ve been living together for a while. While the foundation of a good marriage can depend on things like friendship, commitment and a shared meaning in life, each of these factors varies significantly according to cultural norms. It can be hard enough for a homogenous couple to adapt to marriage. A multi-cultural couple has to adapt at a whole different level.

For example, a common problem I see in multi -cultural marriages is differing expectations regarding the rights and responsibilities towards the in-laws. The saying goes that in-laws can make or break a marriage. The collectivist mind-set takes it for granted that in-laws are part of the immediate family, they must be respected, involved and prioritized. It’s expected that in-laws will participate in all aspects of family life, and sometimes even be key decision makers. This view is not shared by those with an individualistic orientation, who may interact with in-laws on a “by invitation only” basis, and who value privacy, autonomy and independence. Another old adage is that you marry a family – this is so true for many cultures where joint living is the norm. In most of the cases that I’ve worked with, the adjustment has to be done by the young couple – rarely does the family system change to accommodate new blood. Just like in the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” where the influence of the girl’s traditional family was all-powerful, and her husband adapted to it. Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Can Diversity Make us Smarter and More Effective?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on July 24, 2015 2:06 pm

Decades of research by organizational scientists, psychologists, sociologists, economists and demographers show that socially diverse groups (that is, those with a diversity of race, ethnicity, gender and/or sexual orientation) are more innovative than homogeneous groups. So simply put….being around people who are different from us makes us more creative, more diligent and harder-working. In one of my recent reading assignments, I learned that diversity is not only about bringing different perspectives to the table. Simply adding social diversity to a group makes people believe that differences of perspective might exist among them and that belief makes people change their behavior.
communityThis, I think is relevant to our practice as counsellors who in some way or another are engaging with clients to shape and change behaviors or address belief systems while working with different therapeutic modalities. When we talk about incorporating diversity in our profession, perhaps this is how it works – by encouraging the consideration of alternatives even before any interpersonal interaction takes place.  This point again is important in informing our interactions with clients when we set up that initial appointment…yes perhaps we might make assumptions based on their names or accent but it might be worthwhile to keep those assumptions in the back burner. It is crucial not let them cloud our counselling approach.

So in a nutshell:

  • Racially diverse groups tend to share information better
  • Diversity enhances different points of view lead to broader thinking
  • Diversity pushes one to abandon the status quo

By: Priya Senroy

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Technology is Expanding a Counsellor’s Toolbox

Posted by: Sherry Law on July 22, 2015 9:37 am

I recently spent some time with a colleague and the idea of video conference counselling came up. Both being technology buffs, we dove right into the idea without hesitation. As we discussed, it became clear to me that there were real ethical arguments to support the idea of integrating technology with therapy. Unfortunately, the fears around the little known realm of technology in counselling creates a demanding barrier of entry, stifling enthusiasm to attempt online therapeutic practice. Hoping to fan some burning embers of excitement, I present three ethical considerations for the use of technology in counselling:

Financial Access

Cost has always been a struggle for people who need mental health assistance. Both the direct cost per session as well as indirect costs can affect people’s budgets, adding pressures to the decline of one’s mental health. For example, taking time off work or out of the day may not always be feasible for people, especially if you have children to take care of, and during a contracting economy where every day matters in the eyes of your employer. The struggle to balance self care, and life responsibilities is very real. Online counselling could reduce the cost of office space rental, parking space rental, and utilities in the office. The savings from such a transition could help to increase access for some clients.

Physical Access

Physical access can be limited due to a person’s living arrangements, or life circumstance. Many people cannot afford a convenient mode of transportation to attend a counselling session. For example, in rural areas, the problem can worsen with some people having to depend on the therapist’s mode of transportation into their area before they can acquire mental health services. The dependency could lead to spotty access at best, and an inconsistent therapeutic relationship at worst. For counsellors working within a rural area, a plethora of other ethical concerns can arise, such as multiple relationships, limits on resources, isolation, and community expectations. Online counselling could not only offer larger variety of therapists for the rural clientele who can specialize, but can subdue altogether some of the ethical issues around rural therapeutic practices.

Continue reading

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA


Posted by: Priya Senroy on March 31, 2015 9:12 am

When we talk about diversity in our counseling practice, I think it’s not just working with diverse culture or diverse population but it’s also having an understanding of the cultural diversity of the materials we choose to use. Whether it’s a piece of fabric, a story or even an activity, each has its own unique characteristic; its unique symbolism and its unique healing purpose. latin americaDiversity is also found in some of the cultural rituals that we celebrate. I find that spring is one of the times when there are many such rituals take place. For me, spring is one of the strangest season and time of the year. While it is a time for birthdays, celebrating cultural New Year, anticipation of what am I going to plan in my vegetable patch, it is also a time to mark anniversaries of heartbreaks. It is during this time that I also get to go back to reading one of my favorite books by Clarissa Pinkola Este: “Women Who Run with the Wolves”. In one of her chapters, she mentions a grief exercise called “Descansos”,  which is basically markers of the changes, the turning points, the deaths (literal and figurative) in one’s life.  She says, “Descansos are symbols that mark a death. Right there, right on that spot, someone’s journey in life halted unexpectedly. There has been a car accident, or someone was walking along the road and died of heat exhaustion, or a fight took place there. Something happened there that altered that person’s life and the lives of other persons forever.”

I have been creating my own Descansos at various life transition events as they can also be seen, metaphorically, as crossroads where choices need to be made.

My background is not from Latin America where Descanos are the roadside shrines that mark the memory where an accident claimed a life. I can, however, relate to the archetypical images and the symbols and what Jung shares as a part of the collective unconscious. For me working with images from diverse cultures helps me to feel connected not only to the materials but also to the psyche of the experiencing the knowledge of the client and the community.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Diversity and Creativity

Posted by: Priya Senroy on September 15, 2014 3:49 pm

It’s back to school time and also a time for refresher trainings and courses. In one of the palces that I work, we had a refresher on diversity and creativity.There has beena big turover in stfaffing broing with it not only perople from a variety of backgrounds and experiences but a variety of thinking styles. It is crucial for any orginisation to have some kind of common vision and be able to work creatively within a diverse framework.

One of the group exercises was to mix up the counsellors from different departments and then strategically group them according to their diversity. The rationale behind this is that an intellectually diverse group operates more creatively and is more likely to generate innovative solutions as when all members are alike, they often reach agreement quickly — and although that may seem to be an asset, it is more often a liability. Only later might they realize that they lost a chance to see things differently and to create something truly groundbreaking, by tapping the experience of outside experts.

Therefore, even though there is unity in diversirty, often it might be benefitial to have opposites work together just to get creative results.Unusual connections produce-exciting results; Steve Jobs said that innovation occurs at the intersection of technology and the arts.

By: Priya Senroy

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Colours of the Rainbow Are the Same, Everywhere

Posted by: Priya Senroy on July 24, 2014 3:37 pm

June and July have been vibrant months in the city of Toronto, colors are not only showcased by the nature but is found regularly on the streets- World Pride was one of them. This summer has also been colorful for a LGBTQ group that I sometimes facilitate workshops for. The group is mixed in ages, sexual orientation , ethnicity and cultural upbringing. There were many differences, many similarities and the diversity was overflowing. They all had one thing in common- they wanted to use the summer months as a way to symbolize the process of coming out-some of them are already out, some of them can never ever while some are contemplating. Whatever their stages of ‘coming out ‘are, the group shared a sense of struggling with their identity.

So delving in suing creative arts, the group explored some creative art therapy interventions which they could relate to , especially the ones who were struggling with identity. I have used these activities with clients with disabilities, clients with gender abuse etc.

The activity “Inside Me, Outside Me” is one example, in which the client creates two self-portraits—one of the publicly presented self, the other of the private, internal, self. For the clients in the early phases of coming out, these may be two very different portraits. The idea of creating self-portraits has been used by many clients in art therapy as a means for externalizing feelings and qualities of the self that are too delicate to expose verbally This activity may use a variety of media or take different forms, such as a mask or box (using the inside as well as the outside). These portraits were used as a gateway for discussion and reflection. Another activity involves puppet making, in which the created puppet “speaks” for the client. When the process stopped, there were sighs of relief and a sense of letting go, which some felt were equivalent to coming out in a safe and non threatening environment. Taking a step forward, the group felt that their personal journeys that they had explored during the workshops could be showcased or just simply shared with other groups. So role plays, movement and embodiment were used to create plays which the group are working on for informal and private sharing in the future.




BY: Priya Senroy

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Lost In Translation

Posted by: Priya Senroy on April 25, 2014 3:40 pm

I am hoping that Spring is finally here and we can get liberated from the scarves and the tons of clothing which I am finding is restricting my body language and sometimes I am also finding it difficult to read my client’s body language. This is especially true for clients in counseling who find it challenging to communicate using words and use their bodies primarily. We know that in counseling, body language is used to help build rapport, by observing the clients body movements and matching them in an appropriate way it can improve communication. On an unconscious level mirroring the clients movements can help them feel more comfortable with their counsellors; reason being people feel more connected to the people who are most like themselves. The counsellor observes the client’s body language at all times, noting any discomfort, as this could indicate difficulty verbalizing something, and further exploration can be carried out to connect to the client’s deeper feelings. Body Language is the unspoken communication that goes on in every face-to-face encounter with another human being. It informs us the true feelings towards us and how well our words are being received by others. I found an acronym in a website which helps me to remember that dos and don’ts of using body language as a counsellor-it is important though to remember that every client t is different and every situation is different so it is important to make sure that using body language takes into  account the  diversity,culture, gender , ethnicity etc. So the acronym SOLERF stands for

S – Squarely face person vs. sitting kitty-corner.

O – Use Open posture vs. crossed arms and legs

L – Lean a little toward the person vs. settling back in your chair

E – Use Eye contact vs. staring off into deep space

R – Relax; keep it natural vs. sitting like a board

F – look friendly vs. neutral or scowling.

For me, every client is always feeling much more than what they are saying and it is important to  be aware of my own body language and making sure that I am keeping the communication simple and make sure that nothing is lost in translation.

Priya Senroy

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Diversity Wheel

Posted by: Priya Senroy on December 6, 2013 4:15 pm

Who can even believe that 2013 is nearly over, we are shoveling snow here in Toronto and life has come to a full circle….speaking of circles,  I would like to share a tool that I recently came in contact with while attending seminar on cultural competences. It’s called the Diversity Wheel. Many  of you might be familiar with it and for those who are not, it might be an useful tool/activity/exercise to incorporate in our interactions with our clients. I have come to realize that all of us are multicultural counsellors working within the melting pot context of diversity.

So the purpose of the Diversity Wheel can be twofold, first it Can be used to educate and inform about the  different levels and types of  diversity; and  secondly to begin the self-assessment process in developing cultural competence with diverse groups. Sometimes called as the Four Level Model, The “Dimensionsof Diversity”wheel shows the complexity of the diversity filters through which all of us process stimuli and information. That in turn leads to the assumptions that we make (usually about the behaviors of other people), which ultimately drive our own behaviors, which in turn have an impact on others.

I would encourage that if interested you can try this out with a group of peers for self learning and then try to incorporate in that whatever areas that you can practice in.

More information can be found in the following articles:




*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

Yoga Psychology

Posted by: Priya Senroy on May 31, 2013 3:57 pm

Dear Readers

Happy Mid Spring!!!!

I have been trying to motivate myself in shaping up for summer and have been thinking of joining Yoga. I practice it when I was young in India but did not like it and obviously did not understand the benefits of it.  So when I recently went to an open house, I heard the word Yoga Psychology and that tweaked my interests. I pondered about how this ancient form of physical activity could have psychology build into it and how can something as diverse as yoga is a part of psychology? While researching I came across an article in the American Psychological Association website which quotes-Studies show the practice( of Yoga)—which combines stretching and other exercises with deep breathing and meditation—can improve overall physical fitness, strength, flexibility and lung capacity, while reducing heart rate, blood pressure and back pain. But what is perhaps unknown to those who consider yoga just another exercise form is that there is a growing body of research documenting yoga’s psychological benefits. Several recent studies suggest that yoga may help strengthen social attachments, reduce stress and relieve anxiety, depression and insomnia. Researchers are also starting to claim some success in using yoga and yoga-based treatments to help active-duty military and veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder. It shares that there are  counselors, therapists and analysts  who have been using Yoga in their practice and while it must be noted that while  teaching yoga to clients without formal training is not the way to go ,  but psychologists or even counselors  can use psychotherapy sessions to practice yoga’s mind-body awareness and breathing techniques. Simple strategies—such as encouraging clients to get as comfortable as possible during their sessions or to pay attention to how their body feels when they inhale and exhale—teach clients to be in the here and now.”These by themselves would be considered yoga interventions because they direct attention to the breath and help unhook people from thoughts, emotions and impulses that are negative or destructive,” says Kelly McGonigal, PhD. Stanford University health psychologist and yoga instructor.

So with this new found knowledge about yoga I will definitely learn and practice the breathing teching and try to use it with my clients and incorporate that while opening or closing sessions. For more information , http://www.apa.org/monitor/2009/11/yoga.aspx  has information and so does these books.

Ajaya, S. (1984). Healing the Whole Person: Applications of Yoga Psychotherapy.

Honesdale, PA: Himalayan Institute Press.

Shannahoff-Khalsa, D. (2006). Kundalini Yoga Meditation: TEchniques Specific for Psychoatric Disorders, Couples Therapy & Personal Growth. New York: W.W. Norton & Company.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA