Counselors strive to create an environment where their clients feel comfortable and safe to discuss their issues. Taking into consideration how culture impacts the ability to build a trusting relationship, what are three factors or specific aspects of diversity that counselors should consider when working with clients from a different culture, who are of a different gender than you, or who are LGBT? Comment on two of your peers’ considerations that are different from the ones you discussed.
The first consideration a counselor must make when working with clients from differing cultures is to be self-aware of their own beliefs and cultural attitudes. Our text states that the single greatest predictor of treatment success is the relationship between the client and counselor (Capuzzi 2020). The best way the counselor can build this relationship is by being a culturally skilled counselor. “A culturally skilled counselor believes, understands and integrates their self-awareness of racism, sexism and poverty” (Capuzzi 2020). The counselor must always address the whole client and be mindful that everyone’s life experiences and cultural backgrounds are very different. Effective counseling must reflect the client’s specific culture. The sex of your patient will influence the client/counselor relationship and their treatment plan in a number of different ways. Treating a male patient can be very different than treating a female based on their life experiences. A female client may prefer to work with a female counselor only due to past sexual abuse or domestic violence. It may take men longer before they are comfortable talking about their emotions and counselors may be met with resistance if they push too soon (Capuzzi 2020). When working with members of the LGBTQ community it is important for the counselor to be aware of the societal rumors surrounding this group, such as they can choose their genders and sexual identity (Capuzzi 2020). There are many considerations to keep in mind specific to this community. Our text states that when making a treatment plan for a member of the LGBTQ community, the following factors must be considered: life stage, coming out process, support available, current and past relationships, degree of comfort with sexual identity and issues related to career, finances and health (Capuzzi 2020). Whatever the client’s background and cultural identity may be, it is up to the counselor to be culturally competent and adjust the treatment plan accordingly. The relationship built between the client and the counselor is critical to their success.
Capuzzi D., Stauffer M. D. (2020) Foundations of Addictions Counseling. 4th edition. Pearson Education
It is extremely important that I understand how culture impacts my ability to build a trusting relationship with my client. “Culturally skilled counselors, believe, understand, and integrate their self-awareness of racism, sexism, and poverty (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020).” Prejudices, biases and privilege, or lack of privilege, has enormous influence in our lives. I need to build cultural humility. “Cultural humility is the ability to maintain an interpersonal perspective that is other-oriented in relation to aspects of cultural identity that are most important to the client (Hook, et al., 2016).” “The relationship between client and counselor is critical (Florentine & Hillhouse, 1999).”
While reading the chapters for this assignment, I had to become self-aware. I had to ask myself questions and get honest with myself. I asked myself: If a mother admits to neglecting her children, will I be empathetic? If a man admits to abusing his children, will I be empathetic? If a woman leaves her husband for a woman, will I be empathetic? If a person of color mistrusts me because I am white, will I be empathetic? If a client wants to be referred to as “they,” will I make sure I do that? Can I call a person “he” if he presents as a woman to me? I need to be hyper-sensitive to my past biases and eliminate them from my thinking.
Having a diverse group of individuals is the norm. I need to be aware of each person’s social, psychological and biological differences. For example, a woman can carry shame if she is a mother. She may not have had the support of her family because she “left” her children to go to treatment. A man could feel shameful for being unemployed and not providing for his family. A bisexual client could feel misunderstood and be angry that people think they are “confused.” A transgender client may have been socially outcast even in the immediate family. A person of color could feel very angry at the oppression and lack of fair treatment. “Counselors advocate for the elimination of biases, prejudices and discrimination in our culture. (Arrendond & Toporek, 1996).” It is my job to be the change in the world. Being self-aware and asking myself serious questions about my own biases is where that will start.
Psychologically there are differences in clients. Women may be more prone to depression and anxiety, men may be more prone to aggression and violence. LGBTQ clients may be more prone to suicidal ideation. Biologically there are differences as well. The health concerns that each group faces are unique.
Treatment programs often have co-ed group therapy. We are all aware that many women have experienced sexual assault. Women have been able to discuss this more and more. They may not feel comfortable talking about it in front of men. Men, however, have not been talking about sexual assaults against them. Perhaps they feel too ashamed and have a fear of being shunned. Since men usually use substances to suppress feelings, treatment may be overwhelming. Those who identify as being in the LGBTQ community, have endured tremendous harassment and may feel untrusting to their peers in treatment. I need to acknowledge the strength and courage each client has.
The authors of our textbook said that women may not be suited for Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) because they have to admit their powerlessness, and because of their lack of power in society, this may inhibit them (Capuzzi & Stauffer, 2020). I completely disagree with this. Powerlessness is about the substance. In AA we admit we are powerless over alcohol and that our lives have become unmanageable. The authors are showing their bias by saying this. I do, however, agree with the authors when they say that mixed groups may be hard for women to open up in.
Each client’s culture needs to be understood. I need to educate myself. I need to learn everything I can about others and myself. It is vital, that if I am going to be effective as a counselor, that I learn about cultures and the impact they have in a person’s life and on our trusting relationship as counselor-client.
Arrendondo, P., Toporek, R., Brown, S. P., Jones, J., Locke, D. C., Sanchez, J., & Stradler, H. (1996).
Capuzzi D., Stauffer M. D. (2020) Foundations of Addictions Counseling. 4th edition. Pearson Education.
Florentine, Robert, & Hillhouse, Maureen, P., Drug Treatment Effectiveness and Client-Counselor Empathy: Exploring the Effects of Gender and Ethnic Congruency. First published January 1, 1999. Sage Journals
Hook, J. N., Watkins, C. E., Davis, D. E., Owen, J., Tongeren, D. R., & Ramos, M. J., (2016). Cultural Humility in Psychotherapy supervision. American Journal of Psychotherapy, 70(2), 149-166.