Major crises, such as natural disasters, may lead to highly adverse consequences for a large number of individuals. These individuals often may require the assistance of third persons to cope with the disaster and return to their normal lives afterward. Because of this, the services of a counselor might be invaluable in such situations. Also, counselors might help overcome certain legal, ethical, or multicultural challenges and/or barriers faced by an individual during and after a crisis. This paper analyzes such potential challenges and how counselors may help deal with them.
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Ethical, Legal, and Multicultural Challenges and Barriers
During a crisis, a variety of situations that pose a challenge from an ethical point of view may emerge. For instance, sometimes a dilemma may arise about whether to withhold information from the public, which, according to a popular belief, should help avert chaos and panic; but this entails a risk of losing more lives and property in the disaster. Crisis response professionals, as well as civilians, may set priorities about whom to help and whom not to assist based on their personal views, which may be prejudiced (for instance, somebody might choose not to prioritize the provision of aid for people of color, LGBT people, or homeless persons due to their bias; Hermann & Herlihy, 2006; Killen-Harvey, 2006). Numerous other issues may arise in a crisis.
People may also face legal barriers during and after a crisis (Crandall, Parnell, & Spillan, 2010). For example, individuals may have lost their identification documents during an emergency, which might cause additional problems for them, e.g., delay the possibility of gaining shelter. Persons who are immigrants (especially if they are not legal immigrants) will likely experience more problems and face more “red tape” than the U.S. citizens (Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2007). Crisis response specialists may also be bound by legal regulations (Crandall et al., 2010); for instance, the crisis response model provided by the legislation may be suboptimal, potentially decreasing the effectiveness of crisis response teams.
It is also a possibility that, e.g., a multicultural background also poses a challenge. For instance, Black people are a group that generally has a lower socioeconomic status than White individuals; during the emergency caused by Hurricane Katrina, Black people from poor neighborhoods sustained some of the heaviest losses (Andrulis, Siddiqui, & Gantner, 2007). This was also partially due to cultural barriers because African Americans were not always able to understand and follow the orders of evacuation (Andrulis et al., 2007). Representatives of some cultures may be more reluctant than others to follow evacuation orders, act differently than others, and so on (Collins & Pieterse, 2007). This may also pose a barrier during an emergency.
Overcoming Ethical, Legal, and Multicultural Challenges and Barriers
On the whole, it is paramount for counselors to assist individuals during and after a crisis to help reduce the adverse influence of that crisis. Because ethical issues may arise during a crisis, it is important that counselors supply aid to those who may have suffered from prejudice during a crisis, and offer help to various groups of the population that are vulnerable in a certain manner (Crandall et al., 2010). Counselors should also advocate equal treatment (including the provision of information) of all the disaster victims, regardless of their age, gender, race, and so on. The assistance of a counselor may be invaluable to people who have sustained serious losses due to an emergency, and it is pivotal that the counselor adheres to ethical principles such as responsibility and humanistic care, especially during a crisis (James & Gilliland, 2017).
When it comes to legal barriers that individuals may be faced with during or after an emergency, it should be noted that counselors may be capable of providing valuable support to individuals having such problems (James & Gilliland, 2017). Because after a crisis, people often have to cope with psychological trauma related to their losses during the disaster, the assistance of a counselor might be extremely useful. Counselors dealing with people who have experienced a crisis may sometimes help with legal issues by referring their clients to corresponding specialists, or simply provide basic information about some legal issues (for instance, using some brochures and other materials created in collaboration with professionals in the sphere of law).
Finally, counselors could help overcome challenges resulting from cultural differences between various groups (Consoli, Kim, & Meyer, 2008). For instance, counselors can provide training and education services that might help prepare to or reduce the adverse consequences from an emergency, e.g., people of color (Andrulis et al., 2007). Also, by understanding the unique values and peculiarities of various cultural groups, counselors can supply the representatives of such groups with the type of assistance that they desire, instead of providing them with that which is not considered very important by those individuals (Andrulis et al., 2007; Collins & Pieterse, 2007; Consoli et al., 2008).
On the whole, counselors may play a significant role in addressing a crisis or mitigating its consequences. The psychological assistance, as well as the advice provided for the customer, may help the latter to deal with the issues currently plaguing them so that they could faster return to normal lives.
Andrulis, D. P., Siddiqui, N. J., & Gantner, J. L. (2007). Preparing racially and ethnically diverse communities for public health emergencies. Health Affairs, 26(5), 1269-1279.
Collins, N. M., & Pieterse, A. L. (2007). Critical incident analysis based training: An approach for developing active racial/cultural awareness. Journal of Counseling & Development, 85(1), 14-23.
Consoli, A. J., Kim, B. S. K., & Meyer, D. M. (2008). Counselors’ values profile: Implications for counseling ethnic minority clients. Counseling and Values, 52, 181-197.
Crandall, W., Parnell, J. A., & Spillan, J. E. (2010). Crisis management in the new strategy landscape. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Federal Emergency Management Agency. (2007). Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, as amended, and Related Authorities. Web.
Hermann, M. A., & Herlihy, B. R. (2006). Legal and ethical implications of refusing to counsel homosexual clients. Journal of Counseling & Development, 84(4), 414-418.
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James, R. K., & Gilliland, B.E. (2017). Crisis intervention strategies (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Killen-Harvey, A. (2006). Trauma among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning youth. Culture and Trauma Brief, 1(2), 1-3. Web.