Comparing Generic Characteristics of Counseling
When counseling diverse groups, it is common to encounter varying characteristics based on clients’ background, cultural beliefs, family units, experience, and many other demographical factors. When comparing generic characteristics of counseling with respect to culture, it is clear that Native Americans are more reserved compared to the Whites. While the Whites value nuclear family unit, the Native Americans value extended family unit. When counseling these different groups, these are the factors that one must understand. In terms of the language, Curry (2011) notes that most of the Native American languages have disappeared. English is increasingly becoming a common language among most of these Natives. The Whites still have a high social class compared to the Native Americans. When counseling clients from diverse backgrounds, understanding their social class sometimes is critical in defining the approach that should be taken to handle them effectively.
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How My Approach Would Reflect My Understanding of My Characteristics and That of Clients
As a counselor, I know that my approach of handling clients may reflect my characteristics and the views I have towards my clients. My characteristics, attitudes and beliefs have direct impacts on my counseling practice. According to Schellenberg and Grothaus (2009), as we grow up in a given community, there are stereotypes and other cultural beliefs that we get to learn. For instance, there are stereotypes about African Americans, Indian Americans, the Hispanics, and other minority groups. The belief is instilled in us and we grow up associating a given group of people with certain practices. It is common for an African American to be associated with violence in this country.
As a counselor, sometimes these beliefs form our attitude towards our clients. We believe that clients from a given ethnic group tend to behave in a given manner. It is not easy to fight such beliefs and attitudes towards certain people. As Pyne (2011) notes, a counselor should be a person who is very open minded. He or she should not classify clients into a certain group that is expected to behave in a certain manner. On the contrary, they are expected to treat every client as unique as possible without any form of criticism. Humans, given that they are judgmental beings, sometimes find it difficult to dissociate their personal feelings with their professional work. Such situations may hamper ability to deliver services to clients effectively.
As a counselor, I know it is my responsibility to tailor my approach to be sensitive to clients from diverse characteristics and experience. To do this, I will need to be competent in terms of emotional control. I must have the will power to fight personal beliefs and attitude that I might have developed within the environment I have stayed. I will need to treat each client as a unique person with a unique case that requires a unique solution. Even if the case presented to me is similar to other cases I have handled in the past, I should remain as open-minded as possible.
I will also need to have special skills to listen. Sometimes listening keenly to what a client has to say and reading their facial and body language may help a counselor to identify special needs of a client. Competencies in reading body language are critical for a counselor, especially when handling clients who are trying to hide part of information (Stansbury, Harley, King, Nelson, & Speight, 2012). With such skills, one is able to know when clients are leaving out some information because of the feeling that they belong to a different ethnic group from the counselor. Trust is another characteristic that a counselor should learn to develop when handling clients from diverse backgrounds. A counselor will only be capable of helping a client if he or she trusts the client.
Impact of Historical and Current Oppressions on My Work
According to Harper, Terry and Twiggs (2009), the United States of America has experienced a long period of racial segregation and oppression of the minorities even after slave trade and slavery was brought to an end. The Native Americans lost their land and were subjected to oppressive rule of the immigrants. The African Americans were treated as second class citizens and were denied a number of rights even though they were considered citizens of this country. Curry (2011) says that even in the modern society, oppression of the minorities is still a common practice in this country. Historical and current oppressions may have negative impacts on my work. When handling a client from a race different from mine, events that happened in the past and oppressions witnessed currently in the country may breed instant mistrust, fear, or even hatred. In such an environment, it is almost impossible to offer counseling services to the client. There will be a complete mental closure to any information coming from the counselor. Instead of focusing on the issue at hand, the two may end up engaging in mental wars.
Internalized oppression and institutionalized racism on individuals and family systems is still common. According to Schellenberg and Grothaus (2011), there are some hospitals that still demand for upfront payment when admitting an African American, while a White is not subjected to such treatment. This is specifically caused by institutionalized racism where a certain section of the society is still regarded as inferior and financially challenged. The decision to demand for upfront is because of the internalized belief that they may fail to pay after the service has been rendered to them. When counseling individuals or families, such beliefs may destroy trust and make it impossible to offer counseling services to the client as would be appropriate. To counteract internalized oppression and institutionalized racism, a counselor needs to always treat clients equally without giving any significance to issues such as race, religion, or social status. Personal bias and stereotypes should be eliminated as much as possible.
Client’s characteristics and concerns on my counseling and advocacy strategies may have significant implications in terms of problem assessment, goal setting, and intervention. As stated above, for a counselor to offer proper help to a client, there must be mutual trust. The client should trust the counselor and the counselor should also trust the client. In case characteristics of the client and their concern on my counseling and advocacy strategy create doubt in their minds, it may completely jeopardize the entire process. Problem assessment will not be possible because the client will not reveal important information to the counselor. As such, goal setting becomes impossible. Under such a difficult environment, counseling becomes a highly complicated process whether one is handling an individual, couple, or family. A counselor should be ready to deal with tribal considerations and diversity in general to offer quality services to the client.
Curry, J. (2011). Addressing the Spiritual Needs of African American Students: Implications for School Counselors. The Journal of Negro Education, 79(3), 405-415.
Harper, F., Terry, L., & Twiggs, R. (2009). Counseling Strategies with Black Boys and Black Men: Implications for Policy. The Journal of Negro Education, 78(3), 216-232.
Pyne, J. (2011). Comprehensive School Counseling Programs, Job Satisfaction, and the ASCA National Model. Professional School Counseling, 15(2), 88-97.
Schellenberg, R., & Grothaus, T. (2009). Promoting Cultural Responsiveness and Closing the Achievement Gap with Standards Blending. Professional School Counseling, 12(6), 440-449.
Schellenberg, R., & Grothaus, T. (2011). Using Culturally Competent Responsive Services to Improve Student Achievement and Behavior. Professional School Counseling, 14(3), 222-230.
Stansbury, K., Harley, D., King, L., Nelson, N., & Speight, G. (2012). African American Clergy: What are Their Perceptions of Pastoral Care and Pastoral Counseling? Journal of Religion and Health, 51(3), 961-969.