Multicultural Issues in Counselling


Considering that the 21st century can be characterized as the period of social awakening and upheaval, people with various backgrounds aim to get acquainted with the world in the most appropriate manner. In order to achieve this goal, they usually ask for help from counselors. In turn, social workers are required to provide the highest quality services to their clients who can suffer from various multicultural issues. Nevertheless, numerous counselors fail to recognize human diversity and implement effective interventions to culturally diverse clients. Most frequently, it can be explained by differences in cultural values of the client and therapist. As a result, counselors may accidentally contribute to the spread of different kinds of discrimination.

To recognize the multidimensionality of all clients, counselors should take into account a variety of different factors. Currently, there are many opportunities to improve professional skills in the field of social work. By identifying and analyzing the specific case of a representative of one of the cultural groups, counselors have the opportunity to identify the issues that can occur in communication with this person in the future. Moreover, it is possible to determine the most effective interventions that can be used to help this individual. For example, if a representative of African American culture asks for help from a social worker, it is crucial to base the counseling session on the elements, such as openness to addressing experiences of racism, as well as supporting positive racial identity development.

Importance of Multicultural Counseling Today

Declining stigmatization and increasing globalization are the main reasons why people from different minority groups seek help from social workers at the time. In the past century, the clientele was tremendously different, as the majority of diverse individuals were not intended to improve their emotional and psychological well-being. In turn, they were attempting to address their problems on their own. Furthermore, changing demographics of the US population require counselors to increase their level of knowledge in terms of diversity. Currently, approximately 45% of adult millennials are non-white, which means that therapists are pressured to develop multicultural counseling competence (Chetty et al., 2019). In turn, taking into consideration that a vast number of counselors demonstrate deep knowledge and understanding in specific features of the lives of minority groups, diverse clients do not experience the fear to be discriminated against or oppressed by a social worker anymore.

At the same time, the severity of problems that representatives of minority groups face has rapidly changed. In the past century, black individuals were concerned about the methods that can be used to overcome poverty and lack of education continued in the context of de-industrialization. They were greatly concentrated in unskilled labor and service jobs. In the 21st century, these individuals have managed to minimize the effect of these problems. In turn, considering that some representatives of black minority groups still face racism in different areas of life, they aim to address this problem by counseling with a therapist. Thus, the number of people requiring social help is expected to considerably increase in the next several decades.

Understanding Multicultural Counseling Theory

In spite of the fact that multicultural counseling is a widely known theory in the whole world, this type of counseling can be defined as new development. The first shifts in this area were noticed in 1972 when the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) was founded (Bagher & Alireza, 2016). The main goal of this organization was initially identified as recognizing the multicultural nature of society and ruining barriers that can be faced by diverse clients in both personal and professional life. Considering that the main part of therapists of the past century were white men without proper understanding of diversity, discriminated individuals could not receive appropriate psychological help. Therefore, the foundation of this organization has helped counselors to understand the significance of increasing the level of multicultural counseling competence.

There were no established standards regarding the way therapists should serve diverse clients. Simultaneously, the old ways of performing counseling work were not beneficial for minority groups in the US. Taking into account that this population was not receiving psychological help, their mental health was significantly affected. For instance, people of color were more likely to develop cardiovascular problems, HIV/AIDS, eating disorders, and osteoporosis than white Americans. Even though representatives of minority groups are still impacted by these health issues, their percentage decreases each year. For example, in the period between 1999 and 2015, heart disease deaths dropped by 43% among African Americans, whereas cancer fatal cases and stroke fatal cases dropped by 29% and 41% respectively (Mensah et al., 2017). In other words, the accurate approach to emotional well-being is strongly associated with both physical and mental health.

Developing Multicultural Counseling Competence

Taking into consideration that multicultural counseling plays an essential role in modern society, therapists should use the most effective ways to develop an appropriate level of competence in this area. Despite the fact that there are numerous methods to gain knowledge in the field of social work, therapists are required to follow a several-step model of becoming a competent counselor. First, it is important to pay attention to undergraduate programs that provide detailed information about the principles of serving functions of a social worker and meeting the expectations of diverse clients. In order to receive an undergraduate degree, students usually complete an internship in an organization that offers psychological help to people from various minority groups. It is one of the best steps that can help students understand whether they are capable of serving diverse clients.

Afterward, the person should enter graduate school and receive either a master’s and/or doctorate degree in the field of counseling where the individual would like to work. However, it is the bare minimum to become a therapist, as it is also important to consider regular courses and training sessions in this field. In case the person manages to combine ongoing education and improvement of professional skills, there is a high likelihood that this individual will become a competent therapist to manage the needs of diverse clients. Moreover, counselors should be able to make sound ethical decisions within diverse cultural contexts to avoid potential cases of discrimination during sessions. Subsequently, it is a difficult and time-consuming process of becoming a competent social worker, although this goal can be achieved if a solid foundation of empirical evidence is combined with high-quality on-the-job experience.

Factors Affecting an Individual’s Psychological Development in Counseling

Counselors have always experienced the need for a comprehensive model of human diversity that can be used to address the needs of diverse clients. As a result, the RESPECTFUL counseling framework was developed. Its main advantage for the practice of social work is based on the idea that all factors of an individual’s psychological development should be considered. For example, therapists are required to pay attention to religious aspects, sexual orientation, psychological maturity, economic factors, chronological-developmental issues, traumas, family history, physical characteristics, and location (Michael, 2019). These variables influence the client’s development, which means that the inability of the therapist to understand the significance of these factors can result in the development of problems related to acceptance and awareness in a certain minority group.

During counseling sessions, social workers should remember the issues faced by diverse clients outside the office, including systemic racism, ableism, and religious differences. When it comes to systematic racism, this issue is not tremendously obvious, although it can still be noticed in different areas of life. For instance, in spite of the fact that African Americans account for approximately 14% of the entire American population, over 50% of prisoners in the US are representatives of the black community (Stanley et al., 2019). From the perspective of ableism, people with disabilities are frequently discriminated against as well. For example, the government still fails to incorporate accessibility into building design plans. Finally, whether the person practices Christianity or Buddhism, their interests and beliefs should be accepted and understood during counseling sessions.

Case Scenario

In order to analyze the significance of multicultural counseling in modern society, it would be useful to analyze one of the case scenarios. For instance, the case mentioned below can be taken into consideration. Demi, a 16-year-old African American girl, is seeking assistance for the individual’s counseling. Her main problem is based on the inability to find a common language with a mother.

In fact, race, religion, and traditions have always had a considerable impact on the formulation of the client’s beliefs and behavior. As she remembers, her family has been regularly going to the church since her early childhood. As a result, both church and school have shaped her way of thinking in a morally upright manner. The girl has attended Sunday morning church ever since she was a small child. Also, Demi has been taught to be hardworking in everything that she does. In a family of five siblings, her parents have ensured that everybody should achieve a college education, as they belong to the black minority group. Their beliefs are based on the idea that education opens up many doors that cannot be opened by representatives of their race alternatively. In other words, the client’s parents state that lack of a college education is totally unacceptable to their family. For this reason, it was mandatory for everyone to work hard and concentrate on school.

The main problem in this situation is the fact that Demi is not intended to go to college. She believes that African Americans still face racial discrimination in the workplace on the regular basis. Therefore, the girl does not see the point in receiving a degree and working for a certain organization. She would prefer to improve her professional skills on her own. In fact, Demi is tremendously interested in cooking, especially in confectionery products. She has a goal to improve her skills as a cook and sell pastries with the help of the Internet. Nowadays, social media provides numerous opportunities to achieve this goal. Nevertheless, her mother still insists on the idea of going to college.

Analysis of the Case Scenario

The first thing to understand is that the client belongs to the racial minority group of African Americans. Miscommunication between this girl and her mother is strongly associated with their ethnic history with the dominant culture of the white race. When it comes to the client, she aims to connect her future profession with cooking, which is why the girl does not see a point in going to college. On the other hand, her religious mother believes that African Americans are required to receive a degree in order to achieve financial stability in life.

In this case, therapists should have a deep understanding of three essential factors affecting human development, including race, religion, and education. In terms of race, African Americans report greater experiences of discrimination than other ethnic minority groups. Nearly 42% of African American employees highlight that they experienced workplace racial discrimination at least once (Roscigno, 2019). Consequently, Demi’s beliefs regarding potential episodes of discrimination are fairly justifiable.

In turn, in spite of the fact that religious parents usually have a greater level of tolerance and respect for others, they are also stricter than non-religious parents when it comes to child-rearing. Accordingly, Demi has been growing under the circumstances of numerous restrictions. Some of the restrictions are related to education, as parents are concerned about the future of their daughter. Mother’s point of view is justifiable as well because the number of African Americans in poverty was almost two times greater than the number among the general population in 2018 (Stanley et al., 2019). In order to provide appropriate help, therapists should take into consideration these statistics, as well as specific counseling strategies that can be successfully applied to clients who experience problems due to their racial background.

There are a variety of counseling approaches and interventions that can be utilized by social workers in the process of communication with representatives of black minority groups. However, postmodern, humanistic, and cognitive approaches are considered to be effective strategies in diverse clients. The main similarity among these approaches is the intention to meet the needs of clients considering their cultural barriers and sociological challenges.

In case the approaches mentioned above cannot be applied due to some reasons, social workers should use additional interventions. For example, an invitation for a repair approach is based on the idea to encourage the client to provide their comments on the perception of the discussed situation from the perspective of the therapist. Thus, if the client notices that the social worker does not experience empathy for the client’s intersectionality, this person has the opportunity to correct the conversation flow. Hence, the counselor should discuss this approach with Demi before beginning their session. If the girl gives approval for this intervention, it can be successfully applied to the conversation. Otherwise, additional approaches can be used. Many therapists also use the interventions of identity congruence and spirituality. To conclude, whatever approach social worker selects, it is essential to keep in mind adversities, crises, and traumas experienced by African Americans in real life.

Challenges During Counselling Sessions with African Americans

If the therapist is counseling someone outside their own culture, this person is likely to face some challenges. In turn, if these problems are addressed in the appropriate manner, the client is likely to take advantage of this experience and improve the quality of their life. At the same time, the social worker would be able to gain crucial job experience that can be utilized during sessions with other individuals. Therefore, before the beginning of a counseling session with a diverse client, the therapist should identify potential challenges that can be faced.

One of the main challenges during counseling with the representative of black minority groups is the inability to understand and accept the experience of a certain client. As other individuals, African Americans want to address their psychological problems with the person who conceptually speaks their language and understands the stigma that surrounds their race. In order to make the person feel respected and heard, counselors should develop the skills of cultural awareness and empathy. The second challenge that can complicate the process of counseling is based on troubles with presumptions and perceptions. Social workers should have a deep understanding of how personal features, such as race, can intertwine with the dominant culture. Sometimes, it is difficult for a white therapist to develop the skills of sensitivity, which is essential during conversations about racial discrimination. Lastly, the false pretense held by counselors frequently causes barriers during communication with a diverse client.


Diversity can be defined as an important aspect of an individual’s life. Learning the world in a multifaceted manner rather than one dimension is essential for broadening one’s ideas about certain aspects of life. Therefore, multicultural psychotherapy can be seen as a necessary help in ensuring that the client receives assistance in the appropriate way, especially if the problem comes from a multicultural perspective. It is also recommended for the counselor to take into consideration diversity counseling strategies in order to help the clients in their challenges. For example, human service professionals may help clients to access services or may provide services directly to them. Currently, working in the human service profession requires individual efforts, well-developed professional skills, and a high level of dedication to satisfy the needs of representatives of various minority groups.

From the perspective of a case scenario where a 16-year-old African American girl is asking for assistance, it is essential to understand that it is a complex case. In fact, three elements, such as religion, race, and education, should be taken into account by the therapist. To maintain a climate of confidence, the counselor should support positive racial identity development with the help of specific interventions, including postmodern, humanistic, and cognitive ones. At the same time, it is crucial to develop a mix of professional skills, such as empathy, sensitivity, cultural awareness, and understanding. otherwise, Demi would not feel respected, heard, and understood. In other words, the therapist’s cultural values or bias should not affect the quality of counseling. Hence, considering that minority groups are more likely to face psychological and emotional issues than the overall population, social workers should take appropriate measures in order to meet their expectations in terms of counseling.


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Mensah, G., Wei, G., Sorlie, P., Fine, L., Rosenberg, Y., & Kaufmann, P. et al. (2017). Decline in cardiovascular mortality. Circulation Research, 120(2), 366-380. Web.

Michael, D. (2019). Respectful counseling: A comprehensive and integrative model for the mental health professions (1st ed.). Pearson.

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