This paper seeks to explore the reason for ethical standards when handling multicultural issues and ethical responsibility held by counselors belonging to one of the ten specified multicultural groups when dealing with clients from a majority as compared to a minority group. Ethical standards helps to remove negative bias associated with issues relating to differences in ethnicity, race, culture or socioeconomic status of the people involved.
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According to Ivey et al. (1997, p134) multicultural counseling is a metatheoretical approach that appreciates the fact that all helping methods ultimately exist within a cultural context. Multiculturalism envisages cultural and social diversity which include gender, sexual orientation, disability, social status, age, religion and ethnic identification. This calls for understanding of the differences among various people on the basis of these parameters. Multicultural counselors owe respect to their clients from different cultural backgrounds. By showing respect, their clients are able to value their ethnic identification and values and discover the potential within them; this is the first step to the psychological process. For counselors to understand their clients the counselor must first understand and appreciate personal cultural values and biases as these are the driving forces behind the attitudes towards his clients’ culture, race, values, or beliefs. Appreciation of any existing difference helps prevent the counselors from giving in or being pulled back by their attitudes towards other cultures.
There should be clear understanding of one’s racial and cultural heritage because it gives meaning to terminologies and issues in the counseling process. Counselors’ unique abilities, dreams, expectations and weaknesses influence their interaction with and perception of people of different cultures. The counselor also understands a person’s race and responses resulting from discrimination, oppression and stereotyping based on a person’s culture or racial affiliation. Counselor as a human being needs self awareness to avoid racist frame of mind. This calls for regular consultation and counseling by a senior counselor as well as refresher courses for further training. (Ivey et al, 1997)
Counselor’s understanding of client’s world is very important as this affects the type of issues to be dealt with in the counseling process. Negative attitudes and racial stereotype associated with the client’s culture dictates the client’s decisions, actions, perceptions towards others and the type of disorder the client is likely to be experiencing. Social interaction with the client gives the counselor a deeper understanding of the client’s cultural, religious and spiritual values. The counselor is therefore able to come up with culturally appropriate intervention strategies. These strategies accommodate the client’s language of choice, social class, family values, social limitations, community intervention program and eliminating prejudices. A competent counselor is aware of the institutional barriers and policies that discriminate the client from accessing services which are available to others on the basis of gender, race, language or age. Multicultural counselors acquire information about the client by understanding the client’s socioeconomic background and community resources and how they affect the client’s decisions and perceptions towards other racial groups. (Sue and Sue, 1999)
The counselor is to help work through the client’s difficulties especially those stemming from racial prejudices, discrimination, language differences and socioeconomic advantage. This essentially calls for the counselor to understand and control personal emotions, attitudes and beliefs towards the client. The counselor should also make the client adopt positive attitudes towards individual potential and respect for cultural differences.
Ivey, A.E., Ivey, M.B and Simek-Morgan, L. (1997) (4th Ed). Counseling and Psychotherapy: a
multicultural perspective, Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Sue, D.W and Sue, D. (1999) (3rd Ed). Counseling the culturally Different: Theory and Practice
, New York: Wiley.