Immigrants in any country in the world have always had a harder time adjusting to the conditions and circumstances of living than local residents. This is why it is essential to take a particularly thoughtful approach when working with them in therapy. It is necessary to be sensitive and careful due to both hardships that immigrants inevitably experience in their lives away from the native land and cultural differences that may be present between them and therapy professionals.
First of all, it is a fact that government policies play a big role in defining the ways immigrants adapt to living in the United States. Perreira and Pedroza (2019) state that administrative practices and laws influence their access to essential services such as education, healthcare, food aid, and others. In addition, immigration enforcement processes have a significant impact on the health of immigrants and their families, as well as on their participation in administration programs (Perreira and Pedroza, 2019).
While there is no way to determine to what extent the government’s contributions actually impacted my family’s experiences, I can confirm that it is, indeed, very hard to start a new life in a new land. My mother, in particular, in addition to having to devote almost all her time to work in order to make ends meet, struggled without the knowledge of the language and any support system. One cannot deny that immigrants are inherently in a vulnerable position in a foreign country.
One of such vulnerabilities is related to cultural differences that might manifest themselves in communication. According to Shulman (2016), the fact that non-white people are still separated from white and mainstream America makes it inconvenient for both groups to discuss race. As a consequence, there are white social workers who might have little to no previous contact with people of color and, therefore, little to no knowledge of how to interact with them in interracial practices.
At the same time, minorities might tend to have increasing mistrust of the system’s representatives, who seem to know nothing about them, and, therefore, cannot be trusted with help (Shulman, 2016). It corresponds to my family’s experiences in interactions with America’s white citizens. While we believe that most of the time, they mean no harm, they often come across as ignorant and rude due to a lack of knowledge about our experiences – or lack of desire to understand them. That leads to us being especially cautious anytime we are around white people.
It is only reasonable that one question that a minority client might have when dealing with a majority employee is whether the assistant actually has good intentions. Shulman (2016) notes that respect and professional courtesy are of particular importance for minority clients, who often get less from society. It is true – since we tend not to expect any special treatment, it is always nice having your comfort and personal space actually being paid attention to. Social workers are encouraged to warmly welcome clients, address them by their names, and remove physical barriers to communication. Confidentiality is advised to be maximized, and the worker should not hurry when working with the client and speak of a lack of time only in the session’s final minutes (Shulman, 2016). As a result, we can truly relax and trust the professional to take care of our issues.
Moreover, social workers need to understand differences in perception based on race, ethnicity, culture, and so on, which the client can bring to their experience. Most workers can overlook these important differences with surprising ease, which, unfortunately, can be confirmed by many of my acquaintances who have attempted to go to therapy. It is almost as if white professionals have gotten accustomed to seeing the world through the prism of their so-called white privilege, and it is hard for them to switch over to our perspective sometimes. That is why it is essential that, nowadays, training programs for social workers focus on cultural sensitivity. Luckily, strategies for clinical practice teaching to specialized groups are reported to emerge.
Evidently, ethics play a crucial role in service delivery as well. Professional, ethical codes state what is considered to be a proper professional way of behavior. For example, Hodge (2016) cites the Code of Ethics for the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) as having the guidance of social workers’ conduct as its main purpose. The Code enumerates a number of standards to govern a specialist’s practices and points to professional ethics as the basis of the profession of a social worker.
It is of interest to note that the NASW Code of Ethics explicitly refers to religion in its numerous ethical rules. For example, according to Hodge (2016), the Code requires social workers to make attempts to understand religious diversity alongside the oppression faced by believers. It is of essential importance to my family, as we were raised cherishing our faith in God, and we make sure our kids grow up feeling the same kind of spiritual connection to Him. Under no circumstances will any of us tolerate any questionable remarks towards our faith – especially not from a specialist who is supposed to respect their clients’ beliefs and values and take them into consideration when working.
To conclude, immigrants are in need of professional help that is extremely delicate and culturally appropriate. Social workers, while responsible for trying and providing anyone asking with decent treatment, are still to be careful when it comes to immigrants, who suffer more than locals in a foreign country. Essentially, a professional is to be patient and understanding and turn to Ethical Codes in moments of doubt and in need of advice.
Hodge, D. R. (2016). Spiritual assessment in social work and mental health practice. Columbia University Press.
Perreira, K. M., & Pedroza J. M. (2019). Policies of exclusion: Implications for the health of immigrants and their children. Annual Review of Public Health, 40, 147–166.
Shulman, L. (2016). Empowerment series: The skills of helping individuals, families, groups, and communities, enhanced. Cengage Learning.