Cross-Cultural Counseling: South Asian Americans, Native Americans and Middle Eastern-AmericansTerm Paper

Pages: 9 (2622 words)   |  Style: APA  |  Bibliography Sources: 3

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[. . .] There have been three major explanations advanced for these conditions:

1. Many South Asian-Americans have achieved significant financial success and community members are focused on maintaining cultural integrity and cohesion, as well as a positive image to the outside world which requires a certain amount of denial of "unpleasant" issues such as mental illness;

2. The existence of a "cultural proscription" that discourages South Asian-Americans from discussing intimate problems and emotional difficulties with anyone outside the family, because the family is viewed as the major and most appropriate support structure for individuals; and,

3. A lack of awareness and education about the complex dimensions of mental health problems that resulted in a stigmatization of psychopathology in the community and the view that seeking counseling is a sign that a person is insane with the result being that an acknowledgment of such issues may stigmatize people seeking counseling and their families (Dasgupta, 2007, p. 82).

To their credit, Asian-Americans in general and South Asian-Americans in particular have succeeded in weathering and even overcoming these perceptions through academic endeavor, hard work, and thrift that have contributed to a strong sense of self and culture, even when transplanted to the United States or elsewhere. In this regard, the authors of "Culturally Alert Counseling" point out that, "Immigrants and first-generation South Asians have a strong ethnic identity wherever they are in the world and are aware of the differences between them and the host culture. They do not feel that they have to deny such differences because their ethnic pride is extremely strong" (p. 326). Another group where ethnic pride remains strong is Native Americans, who can also represent a challenging culture for counselors as discussed further below.

Native Americans

About one percent of the American population, or about 4 million people, are Amerindian and Alaska natives (American ethnic groups, 2014). Despite a resurgence in ethnic pride among most Native American peoples, as a group, they remain marginalized compared to mainstream American society. For example, Scholl (2007) reports that, "Native Americans complete undergraduate degrees at a rate of 11.5% compared with 27.0% for the general population" (p. 48). In addition, Bhungalia (2008) emphasizes that, "Native American women experience the highest rate of violence of any group in the United States. Native American women suffer violent crime at a rate three and a half times greater than the national average" (p. 6). .Moreover, Native American undergraduates are the least likely to continue on to their sophomore year of college compared with all other racial groups in the U.S. (Scholl, 2007). According to Scholl, "Incidence of psychological concerns may contribute to this population's relatively high attrition rate" (2007, p. 48). This population also suffers from higher incidences of substance abuse, alcoholism and suicide than their mainstream American counterparts (Bhungalia, 2008).

Like their South Asian-American counterparts, Native Americans also tend to underutilize mental health care counseling services compared to mainstream American society (Garrett & Pichette, 2000). Although Native Americans as a group tend to underutilize mental health care services at lower rates, these rates are affected by the perceived level of cultural competence exhibited by the counselor (Scholl, 2007). As Scholl points out, "Consequently, counselors need to better understand those factors that contribute to Native American adjustment difficulties and use of counseling" (p. 49).

These are important issues because the research to date indicates that non-Native American counselors do not respond appropriately to Native American values and beliefs (Scholl, 2007). In fact, Scholl emphasizes that, "Importantly, the counselor's level of cultural responsiveness predicts not only Native American client engagement in the counseling process but also whether positive outcomes are achieved" (2007, p. 49). Clearly then, effective cross-cultural counseling with Native Americans requires independent research on the part of the counselor, and this research would reveal that one reason that Native Americans are reluctant to participate in counseling is their mistrust of non-Native American figures of authority, including counselors (Scholl, 2007). In sum, when Native Americans perceive a lack of cross-cultural understanding on the part of counselors, they are even less likely to participate in counseling sessions (Scholl, 2007).

Besides independent research into Native American cultures and values, other factors that have been shown to contribute to the perception of counseling competence include: (a) familiarity with Native American values; (b) the provision of client-centered qualities (i.e., genuineness, positive regard, and empathy; and (c) the flexible application of traditional counseling approaches (Scholl, 2007, p. 49). By taking these factors into account, counselors can develop an improved understanding of their clients' environment and identify counseling preferences in ways that confirm the counselor's efforts to bridge cross-cultural gaps. In this regard, Scholl advises that, "When Native American clients' preferences for counselor role are not confirmed in actual encounters with counselors, they tend to experience increased feelings of skepticism and mistrust, which are associated with negative counseling outcomes" (p. 49). This assertion is supported by studies that have shown Native Americans are at twice the risk of ending counseling after a single session as their mainstream counterparts (Scholl, 2007).

Conclusion

The research showed that Middle-Eastern Americans, South Asian-Americans and Native Americans have all taken very different paths to get to where they are in the United States today, with each of these groups experiencing different types of challenges to their assimilation into mainstream society. Besides the powerful stereotypes that abound about these groups, there are some harsh cultural realities that exist that constrain their willingness to participate in counseling. In some cases, there are strong cultural imprecations against seeking mental health services for fear of being labeled "insane" and the stigma that is attached to that condition, or based on a fundamental distrust of Western authority figures and healthcare practitioners. Finally, the research also showed that in every instance, effective cross-cultural counseling required significant effort on the part of counselors to learn about the cultures and values of the people they encounter in their professional practices.

References

American ethnic groups. (2014). CIA world factbook. Retrieved from https://www.cia.gov / library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/us.html.

Bhungalia, L. (2008, Spring). Native American women and violence. National NOW Times,

33(1), 5-10.

Burke, M.T. & Chauvin, J.C. (2005). Religious and spiritual issues in counseling: Applications across diverse populations. New York: Brunner-Routledge.

Dasgupta, S.D. (2007). Body evidence: Intimate violence against South Asian women in America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Garrett, M.T. & Pichette, E.F. (2000). Red as an apple: Native American acculturation and counseling with or without reservation. Journal of Counseling & Development, 78, 3-13.

Nassar-McMillan, S. & Zagzebski-Tovar, L. (2012, Spring). Career counseling with Americans

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"Cross-Cultural Counseling: South Asian Americans, Native Americans And Middle Eastern-Americans."  Essaytown.com.  October 21, 2014.  Accessed September 22, 2018.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/cross-cultural-counseling-south-asian/2143116.