What is your Background?

Posted by: Priya Senroy on December 12, 2012 3:54 pm

Wow it is already December, 2012 is nearly over…… and while the world is changing, stereotypes are being broken everyday, clients are being empowered and enables via counselling….I still get stumped when a client poses questions…. The most recent one I got was “Priya—what is your ethnic background?” When probed further, I was told that the client  was not comfortable seeing me because of my ethnic background and when probed further , the client revealed that being from the same background as her, she ‘knew’ that I would be biased and prejudiced and she shared that the agency that I was working for should hire counsellors from different backgrounds so the clients can choose…..Well that posed many questions for me and I decided to do a personal survey to see what other counsellors or agencies thought about this. I got various responses: while most counselling agencies acknowledge the importance of having a culturally diverse counsellor workforce, only some agencies were actively promoting their multicultural services because of concerns about their ability to meet any increase in demand. Some of the specific ethnic counsellors said that even though their offices were located in areas with a relatively dense population of their own ethnic people, the low use of their services was surprising. They all believed it is important to have a deep understanding of the cultural and religious background of their clients in order to be able to provide counselling in a number of languages.

Quoting a section of an article by Pamela K. S. Patrick (http://www.counselingoutfitters.com/Patrick.htm) “While research is limited on the specific focus of this discussion, there is some evidence that the counselor’s culture, ethnicity or diversity characteristics can impact aspects of the counseling process. For example, in one study, clients reported different preferences for self-disclosure when the counselor was African American or Caucasian (Cashwell, Shcherbakova & Cashwell, 2003)”.  She continues that “From another perspective, adherence to Asian cultural values by Asian counselors increased the credibility of client perceptions of the counselor in a study by Kim and Atkinson (2002). While these studies produced meaningful results, each serves to provoke questions about the role of the counsellor’s ethnic, cultural or diversity background as it relates to counselor responses to the counseling process in general. Extending this reasoning, one can hypothesize a number of possible interactions between counselor cultural and diversity background and stress coping as it may emerge in high-stress work environments or settings.”

I think this is an interesting revelation for me when it comes to working with clients from multi-ethnic background.


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

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