Counseling American Minorities Term Paper

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¶ … Counseling American Minorities, Sixth Edition (2003) by Donald Atkinson

Counseling American Minorities Sixth Edition (2003) by Donald Atkinson offers much insightful, potentially useful information for current and future counseling practitioners, about culturally aware and sensitive approaches to counseling minority group members currently living in the United States. My own impression of this book was, overall, extremely positive. I only wish that there were others like it, perhaps dealing with minority groups other than the four discussed in this book. As Atkinson states in the "Preface" to his Sixth Edition, the ongoing intention of Counseling American Minorities (which has now been substantially revised, updated, and re-published on six separate occasions, with the first edition, published in 1979, bearing almost no resemblance to the Sixth, published in 2003) is to assist present and future counselors in increasing their levels of understanding, sensitivity, and insight into histories, backgrounds, priorities, belief systems, typical experiences, and special mental and physical health care needs of the four largest minority groups living in America. These four groups are (1) African-Americans; (2) American Indians; (3) Asian-Americans, and (4) Hispanic-Americans.

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The primary focus of Counseling American Minorities, then, is on social attitudes, belief systems, and dominant values of these four largest minority groups (and of various sub-groups within them) living in America today. Atkinson also points out, in his "Preface" to the text, that many other minority groups, each equally worthy of similarly-focused research and attention, live in the United States as well; however, these four groups were chosen above all by the author, since they are the largest, and, therefore, most likely to be encountered by counselors in American psychological, counseling, and other clinical environments. I felt enlightened and enriched by having read Counseling American Minorities, and would recommend the book to counselors; future counselors, and others interested in better understanding and assisting minority group individuals living in the United States.

Term Paper on Counseling American Minorities Assignment

At the end of each chapter, in Sections II through V (in each of those four sections, three separate chapters apiece are devoted to one or the other minority group), the book also includes brief exercises designed to assist individual practitioners with various real-life approaches to counseling that group, based on issues discussed earlier in the chapter. Each chapter also contains, on average, three pages of references for further research.

Another especially useful point this book makes, vis-a-vis each of the minority groups discussed, is that an enormous amount of diversity exists, not only between these respective minority groups, but also within a given minority group. For example, according to Garrett (Chapter 7, "Profile of American Indians," p. 147):

Across the United States, there are more than 557 federally recognized tribes/nations (220 of which reside in Alaska), approximately 150 tribes in the process of petitioning the government for federal recognition, and approximately 30 state-recognized tribes... Given the wide-ranging diversity of this population, it is important to understand that the term Native American encompasses the vastness and essence of tribal traditions represented by hundreds of Indian nations.

Moreover, something very similar may be said of Asian-Americans as a minority group (whose various nationalities and sub-groups include, for example, Koreans; Chinese; Vietnamese; Cambodians; Thai; Filipinos; Japanese; Hmong; Singaporeans; Indonesians, and several others), and Hispanic-Americans (which include Mexicans; Mexican-Americans; Latin Americans; Central Americans; Cubans; Puerto Ricans; Spaniards, and others). Among African-Americans, there is also enormous diversity of skin color (various skin shades among African-Americans, as with other minority groups, often have either a positive or a negative influence on self-image, self-confidence, and acceptance by others, both within and outside of one's group). That, then, is a major reason, as this book suggests, why typical assumptions, stereotypes, and overgeneralizations about these (or any) groups, are both misleading and potentially harmful to group members and outsiders alike, especially from a counseling or other helping perspective. Within each of these many sub-groups, moreover, traditions, attitudes, values, priorities, etc., may be very different from one another.

Other useful background information that Counseling American Minorities offers, includes population and sub-population breakdown statistics, on these four largest minority groups within the United States, and the various sub-groups within them (e.g., percentages and typical geographical locations, within the United States, of immigrant Japanese, Chinese, or Vietnamese groups among Asian-Americans, or of, for instance, the Sioux, Lakota, or Chippewa, among Native Americans). One of the4 more alarming statistics within this book was that of the over-representation of black males within the prison system. The book then analyzes how having so many black men in prisons prohibits their being able to participate in the lives of their families. Perhaps most deleterious of all for the future of the black community, the book points out, is the number of African-American children currently growing up without fathers. This in turn has a negative effect on the ability of black single mothers to find adult male companionship; adequately support their children; or find the time, energy, and resources, to become better educated, and therefore better able to find other than low-skilled, minimum wage employment.

Counseling American Minorities also gives useful overviews of historical and present experiences of each of these minority groups, as a way of framing the discussion of typical counseling needs, and attitudes and expectations about counseling, of members of these minority groups. This is especially useful in terms of being better able to anticipate and understand cultural and other challenges that oneself, as a counselor, might actually encounter, in the course of counseling, say, a Korean graduate student, or an Hispanic single mother returning to college.

The history of slavery within the African-American community, as Counseling American Minorities also points out, is one that even how remains especially cumbersome and problematic for American blacks. For example, while black Americans have made considerable economic progress in recent decades, to the point where a substantial African-American middle class now exists, and the majority of black Americans no longer live in poverty as they did generations ago, the immediate legacy of slavery, in the initial years after Abolition, was one of enormous material deprivation, since newly-freed slaves had no assets, property, or other financial resources, and therefore nothing to start with to either build financial security for themselves or pass on to their children. Black Americans were also, similarly, at least until recent decades, and the beginning of Affirmative Action's college, university, and graduate admission programs, far more educationally deprived than Caucasian-Americans, or even some other minority groups. Black Americans today, even though 21st century educational, economic, and other opportunities are arguably more plentiful than before, are still encumbered by racial prejudice and the lingering economic, psychological, social, and other effects of their centuries-long legacy of slavery within the early United States.

Also inherent in the discussion of each of the four respective minority groups, (and the various subgroups contained within them) is analysis and discussion of ways that counselors might best approach, and succeed in, effectively counseling various members of each group, and typically dilemmas and problems they might describe within a counseling setting. In addition, Counseling American Minorities points out repeatedly, vis-a-vis each minority group discussed, that minority group members' attitudes toward counseling itself are usually very different (i.e., more wary, reluctant, disbelieving, mistrustful, or hesitant) than among typical Caucasian-Americans of European descent.

As the text explains, for example, Native populations, as well as Asian-Americans and Hispanic-Americans, are on the whole more "other-focused" (e.g., focused more on the group; tribe; family, or community than on the self) than are European-Americans, typically. Moreover, while European-Americans are very often focused on personal goals and individual achievements, therefore placing great emphasis and value on job status or personal possessions, Native populations; Asian-American populations, and Hispanic-Americans, for instance, typically place greater value on group harmony and success. Therefore, while a counselor might typically encourage a European-American university freshman to be less concerned than at present about his or her parents' disapproval of a chosen college major or career path, offering that same input to a Native American or Chinese student, for whom family relationships are far more central and interactive, all throughout life, would likely be less effective in helping such a minority student resolve even a very similar dilemma.

Structurally, Counseling American Minorities is divided into seven separate sections, all but the final of which contain three chapters. The first section, "Racial/Ethnic Minorities and Cross-cultural Counseling," contains the first three chapters: "Defining Populations and Terms"; "Within-Group Differences Among [sic] Ethnic Minorities"; and "Addressing the Mental Health Needs of Ethnic Minorities." All three of these were written by Atkinson himself. This introductory section offers a detailed overview of the rationale for, and the theoretical approach to be found within the text. All later chapters and sections, those which focus on the individual minority groups themselves (except for Section VII, which explores "Implications for Minority Group/Cross-cultural Counseling") are written by academic experts from within the four separate minority groups discussed. That approach gives each of these chapters a great deal of power, authority, and immediacy, since their authors are often writing and reflecting… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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