The racial/cultural identity development model is a conceptual framework developed by Sue and Sue in order to understand the stages of development of minorities and the struggles they experience when existing in the dominant culture. The model can be useful for social workers when it comes to the improvement of relationships with the representatives of other cultures. Thus, the purpose of the current paper is discussing the stages of racial/cultural identity and evaluating the role of Sue and Sue’s model within the counseling process.
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There are five stages of the racial/cultural identity development model that include stage 1 – conformity, stage 2 – dissonance, stage 3 – resistance and immersion, stage 4 – introspection, and stage 5 – integrative awareness. Each component of the model is characterized by the nature of attitudes towards self, others of the same group, others of a different marginalized group, and a dominant group. At the conformity stage, an individual is depreciating of self, is depreciating or neutral of others of the same group, is discriminatory or neutral towards others of different groups, and appreciating of a dominant group (Sue & Sue, 2016).
At the stage of dissonance, a person is in a conflict between group-appreciating and depreciating within the attitude toward self as well as in a conflict between the emotions of shared experiences and group-depreciating views when it comes to approaching individuals of the same group. Also, a person is in a conflict between group-depreciating attitudes and dominant-held beliefs in regards to the attitudes towards a marginalized group as well as between group-appreciating and group-depreciating views on a dominant population (Sue & Sue, 2016).
At the stage of resistance and immersion, a person is self-appreciating but is group depreciating when approaching a dominant group. He or she is group-appreciating and has the feelings of ethnocentrism when approaching the same group and is in a conflict between feelings of empathy towards the members of a marginalized minority. At the introspection stage, a person has concerns with a basis of self-appreciation in regards to attitudes towards self and has concerns on the basis of group depreciation when approaching a dominant group (Sue & Sue, 2016).
When considering others of the same group, a person has concerns regarding the nature of unequivocal appreciation and has concerns with an ethnocentric basis for judging others of a marginalized group (Sue & Sue, 2016). At the last stage of integrative awareness, a person is appreciating of all groups.
Thus, the racial/cultural identity development model can be of value to practitioners because it is based on the premise that the experiences associated with the belonging to a particular group transcend other feelings and experiences. Within the US society, the significance of race as a cultural definer should never be underestimated because of the range of social biases and the history of oppression. It is beneficial for counselors to have knowledge of the model to conceptualize possible issues that patients from non-American cultures experience within the dominant culture.
Also, through identifying the stages or racial/cultural identity, a counselor will have higher chances of having success when developing and implementing culture-cantered interventions. For the current cultural and racial environment in the United States, understanding the identity issues of clients is essential for the majority of counseling programs as they provide an explanation for the range of either positive or negative experiences of minority populations.
By understanding the stages within the model, counselors that deal with diverse patients can answer the questions of with which groups their clients identify and why, what culturally diverse attitudes they accept and which ones they reject, as well as with which aspects of the dominant culture they are willing to align. By answering such questions, counselors will be able to identify the level of conformity of their clients with both minority and dominant culture as well as determine the reasons for their rejection.
For example, when a counselor determines that his or her client is at the conformity stage of the model, it is possible to conclude that the person has the absence of recognition for racism and its cultural influence on the development and achievement of marginalized individuals.
Usually, stages of racial/cultural development are also associated with various events in clients’ lives. Conformity may be linked to the low degree of communication with family and the increased reliance on friends. This is common among the Western practice of relations as, for example, Asian cultures value family the most. Also, a person at the conformity stage may align himself or herself with the newly-adopted practices of a dominant culture and reject those inherent to the native culture and community.
Therefore, there is a direct link between the stage of a racial/cultural identity and the way a person approaches various relationships. The model is helpful for counselors as it may explain why clients experience some difficulties with adjusting or building connections with other people. Besides, there is an increased need for practitioners to have training in using culture-centric techniques and avoid relying on those techniques that are inherent to their native cultures.
Sue, W. D., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.