Research Paper: Relevance of Family Counseling

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Relevance of Family Counseling in Multicultural Counseling

Therapy clients from ethnic minority groups are often less likely to use counseling services compared to those from majority groups. This is because as stated by Harper, Terry, & Twiggs, 2009(Waldegrave (2009)

, the majority white group often has values that view counseling as an ethnocentric activity and therefore those from ethnic minority groups are alienated from these services as a result of this. Multicultural counseling has gained popularity in psychotherapy as a way to accommodate the differences that exist between these ethnic groups. Family counseling as a method has also been shown to be second most effective technique after cognitive behavioral therapy )

. The utilization of family counseling as a technique in multicultural counseling has not been studied widely, which is the rationale for this article. An understanding of the relevance of family counseling to multicultural counseling will help counselors appreciate family counseling as a method and understand how to apply it in their future sessions. The Bible in the Book of Genesis states that when we accept others, we view them in God's image (Gen. 1:26-27). The Bible in the book of Romans 15:7 reiterates the same message saying that we should accept one another. Rom 3:23 adds to this and says that we need to accept those individuals who are in need of redemption. Therefore, counselors must ensure they accept differences existing between individuals and respect this through multicultural competence.

Origins of multicultural counseling

Multicultural counseling has its origins in the mid 1970s during the period of the American Civil Rights Movement. During this time, it emerged that people from a particular ethnic group did not request counseling at all. Even when they did, they attended a single session and never came back again. This raised questions as to why clients from these minority groups did not request counseling and when they did, could not persevere the sessions Hildebrand, L., Gray, & Hines, 2008()

The major reason for this cited in literature is that, at the time, counseling was majorly ethnocentric Day-Vines et al., 2009.

Many scholars argued that approaches that were used by counselors had distinctive values that mainstreamed ideologies common in the majority white group Ponterotto, 2009.

These approaches led members of minority groups to feel that counseling was not relevant because their cultures were different.

Application of multicultural counseling in practice

Roy Moodley, 2010(Marbley (2011)

states that multicultural counseling has been applied in practice since the early 1990s when it became greatly appreciated by psychotherapists. Scholars agree on the three major competencies that skilled counselors need to develop in order to embrace multicultural counseling fully )

. These are increased awareness of their assumptions and values, striving to understand the view of different cultural groups and to develop appropriate techniques and strategies of counseling.

Increasing awareness of their values and assumptions

Practitioners need to engage in a cyclic process of multicultural self-awareness. This means that they need to be able to think about themselves, identify values that are dominant in their culture and find alternative values based on differences in the cultures. In this process, counselors should understand the cultural relevance of their names, values and beliefs that they hold in their culture, cultural standards that they uphold in their professional and their unique abilities that influence how they relate with culturally diverse individuals. This will enable the counselor to understand where they currently stand in terms of multicultural ideologies Diller, 2010()

Understanding the view of different cultural groups

Marbley, 2011(Marbley (2011)

argues that the counselor needs to gain knowledge and understanding of the different cultural groups that they expect to serve and how these groups differ. Acts 17:26 states that we are all one race and that we should coexist. This presents the case for unity of the whole human race and urges counselors to understand human diversity. The counselor should begin by developing an empathic understanding of members of cultural groups different from that of the counselor in order to understand how the members of these minority groups feel as a result of being from different backgrounds )

. The next thing is for the counselor to identify strategies, techniques, and guidelines that they might decide to follow to be able to hand these clients from different cultural groups.

Develop appropriate strategies and techniques

After gaining cultural self-awareness and developing an understanding of the different cultures of clients, counselors should then begin to develop strategies and techniques of counseling that are tailored towards the needs of clients from different cultural groups Aga Mohd Jaladin, 2013.

These strategies should be culturally appropriate. These strategies should include nonverbal behavior that has been found to be effective in ensuring the success of counseling activities. However, non-verbal behavior should be coupled with active listening to ensure that the counseling is effective.

Multicultural perspective of family counseling

Family therapy or counseling encourages change within the family by focusing on the individual family members or the family as a whole. In family counseling, the therapist acts as an agent for change and facilitates the change process within the family or individual with the help of the problem. To facilitate this change, the counselor should be sensitive to multicultural issues that exist in a family. These may include the cultural values, morals, beliefs, gender, customers, practices, and expectations. Often, the counselor needs to understand the ability of family members to access social amenities when understanding problems and generating solutions. Impoverished families often are not able to access these social amenities, which creates different cultural context factors for understanding how to handle the case.

The structure of families also depends on the culture of the family members. Family structure influences how family members interact with each other. For example in Asian families, mothers are the authority figures in the eyes of children because they often are completely in charge of these children. The same may not be the case for other ethnic groups. Some families have little or no structure such as family members interact with a lot of ease and there is no particular hierarchical pattern for their interaction.

Hays and Erford (2013)

also suggest that the clinician should understand the history of each member of the family, their cultural values, how they define themselves within the family and the influence of culture on the individuals. Harper et al. (2009)

argue that by ignoring the cultural perspective of each family and how their structure differs renders the strategies and techniques to be used by the counselor ineffective. This is because instead of solving the problem that brought the individual or family to therapy, the counselor may exacerbate the problem. The therapist needs to consider how the family's culture influences their structure, the level to which each family member follows the culture, additional considerations that need to be addressed in order for the counseling to be effective and culturally sensitive, and culturally acceptable changes that need to be made in order for the strategies to be effective. It is only when the counselor has identified the cultural aspects that have an effect on the counseling strategy that the appropriate therapeutic strategy and technique reflective of this understanding can be applied.

Subsystems

Brooks (2008)

supports this and states that families have structures and subsystems that exist within these structures. The most common subsystems are often the spousal, sibling, and parental subsystems. These three subsystems often dominate the culture and create the relationships between the family members. The counselor should identify the types of subsystems in the structure of the family. Whether these are functional or dysfunctional is also essential. The influence of these subsystems on the culture of the family members, in terms of their beliefs, values, and practices, should also be evaluated. Waldegrave (2009)

argues that, in family therapy, subsystems are an essential component.

In this type of family therapy that considers the importance of family structure, referred to as structured family therapy, it is important to understand that these systems, even in one family, may vary depending on the time, place, and events. A quintessential example is when the spousal subsystem in a family changes when one parent is away on business or holiday. Similarly, other subsystems may also change. Within the configuration of each family, each family's subsystem may experience periods of health and lack of functionality. It is important to understand that the culture of the family may influence these subsystems.

Flexibility in multicultural family counseling

When initiating and conducting family therapy, it is important for the counselor to be flexible to effectively understand and develop a therapeutic relationship with the family Godart et al., 2012.

If a counselor is rigid and unwilling to accept change, he or she may end up being inconsistent and ineffective with their therapy strategies resulting from using stereotypical subsystems or subsystems that are not consistent with the family's dominant culture. This form of rigidity leads in lack of empathy and a genuine concern for the emotional health of the family. It leads to… [END OF PREVIEW]

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