Multicultural counseling is an emerging concept in the field of counseling, and especially in situations where both the client and the counselor are from diverse cultural backgrounds. The United States has undergone significant socio-demographic changes in recent years and for this reason, multiculturalism is now as important part of our lives.
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Moreover, the U.S has become a religiously and culturally diverse country and for this reason, counselors are more likely to exhibit their own cultural biases while attending to clients. Cultural distinctness affects the communication process between the client and the counselor, thereby impacting on the patient-counselor relationship and the results of the counseling session.
This reflection paper has identified religious and spiritual diversity in the United States as a major form of cultural biases. It examines the origin of these biases, along with the measures that needs to be taken in order to overcome them.
People from different ethnic and racial backgrounds believe in the power embedded in their spirituality and religion. They believe that spirituality and religion affects their wellbeing, lives, and good health. Therefore, spirituality and religion are important to different racial and ethnic groups as they provide meaning to life, joy, comfort and pleasure.
However, beliefs tied around spirituality and religion varies from one ethnic community to another, and lack of exposure to other cultures may result in cultural bias. From my own experience, the origin of cultural bias due to religious and spiritual diversity emanates from limited exposure to other cultures (Sumari, & Jalal, 2008).
Lack of interaction or involvement with people from other religious groups has limited my abilities to learn the religious and spiritual beliefs of other cultures. This could be the reason why I have to grapple with issues of prejudice, religious discrimination, and stereotyping when dealing with clients from diverse religious and spiritual beliefs.
The other cause of cultural bias is the societal setting in which we live. For example, I was raised in a predominantly Christian society and this has limited my level of interaction with other religious groups. For instance, I always find a gap between Christianity and other religions, especially when it comes to beliefs, norms, and values. Therefore, as a Christian, I might feel intimidated while working with clients from other ethnic groups should such clients choose to discuss with me their religious beliefs and practices.
Cultural bias as a result of spiritual and religious differences could be overcome through multicultural counseling (Neukrug, 2012). To achieve Multicultural counseling, one is required to learn the religious beliefs of other cultures (LeBeauf, Smaby, & Maddux, 2009). The first step would be to learn the values and beliefs of other racial and ethnic groups. This would prepare me to be more culturally sensitive as a counselor.
Gaining the necessary skills and knowledge would accord me the cross-cultural competence needed to practice multicultural counseling. The other way to gain multicultural counseling competence would be to interact with people from other cultural backgrounds. This is vital in helping one to understand other cultures, and improving our interpretation of diverse religious beliefs and values. This would also improve communication and reduce religious stereotyping and/or biases likely to undermine the counseling process.
Common cultural biases in the United States could be due to spirituality and religious diversity in the country. Its major causes are limited exposure to other cultural practices and societal settings.
This limits the counselor’s ability to learn religious and spiritual beliefs of other cultures in regards to religious beliefs and values. The proposed solution to this issue is to embrace multicultural counseling by learning about the religious beliefs and values of other cultures. The other way would be to interact and get involved with people from other cultural backgrounds.
LeBeauf, I., Smaby, M., & Maddux, C. (2009). Adapting counseling skills for multicultural and diverse clients. In G. R. Walz, J. C. Bleuer, & R. K. yep (Eds), Compelling counseling interventions: VISTAS 2009(pp. 33-42). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Neukrug, E. (2012). The world of counselor (4th ed). Belmont: Brooks/Cole.
Sumari, Melati., & Jalal, Fauziah Hanim. (2008). Cultural Issues in Counseling: An International Perspective, Counseling. Psychotherapy, and Health, 4(1), 24-34.