Immigrants and children of immigrants represent increasingly large numbers of school-aged children and youth in the United States (Grant & Rong, 1999; McDonnell & Hill, 1993). In recent years, students of Asian and Hispanic backgrounds have constituted the largest proportions of immigrants in elementary and secondary schools (U.S. Department of Education, 1997). Because immigrant children may be overwhelmed by the demands and challenges associated with living in a new country (Mak, Westwood, Ishiyama, & Barker, 1999), the psychological adaptation of these children has been the subject of increasing focus in the psychological and mental health literature (e.g., Cole, 1998; Fuligni, 1998; Handal, Le-Stiebel, DiCarlo, & Gutzwiller, 1999; McLatchie, 1997; Sam, 2000).
In addition to struggles associated with their psychological adjustment, some immigrant children come from homes in which English is not the primary language spoken and/or their parents may know little about the educational system (Caplan, Choy, & Whitmore, 1991; Suarez-Orozco, 1989). Furthermore, many immigrant families tend to settle in large urban cities that have troubled school systems (Fuligni, 1997). Despite these types of challenges, studies have consistently reported that many immigrant students may experience less difficulty with educational pursuits than what might be expected (e.g., Caplan et al., 1991; Gibson, 1991; Kao & Tienda, 1995; Rosenthal & Feldman, 1991). Some reasons offered for this phenomenon include the high educational achievement and socioeconomic statuses of their parents (Fuligni, 1997), a family environment that is supportive of achievement (Gibson, 1991; Waters, 1994), and their association with an achievement-oriented peer group (Steinberg, Dornbusch, & Brown, 1992). However, academic success does not guarantee healthy psychological adjustment.
Although the educational achievements of some immigrant children are promising, little is known about the ways in which school counselors' attitudes may affect their ability to work effectively with these students and their concerns. Although attention to multicultural issues seems to be increasing in some school counselor training programs (Durodoye, 1998; Hobson & Kanitz, 1996; Johnson, 1995), some school counselors still may feel unequipped to address the mental health issues of immigrant students who experience adjustment problems (Lockhart & Keys, 1998; Reynolds, 1999). Consequently, a growing number of studies have begun to empirically examine aspects of multicultural counseling competence in school counseling personnel. Multicultural counseling competence is referred to as counselors' attitudes/ beliefs, knowledge, and skills in working with individuals representing various cultural groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1998). Constantine and Yeh (2001) found that prior multicultural training and having an independent self-construal (i.e., a tendency to base one's self-definition on one's unique attributes and abilities and on the importance of distinguishing oneself from others) were each positively associated with female school counselors' self-reported multicultural competence. Furthermore, Constantine (2001b) reported that prior multicultural training, espousing an eclectic or integrative approach to counseling, and perceiving oneself as being emotionally able to respond to others were each significant predictors of self-reported multicultural counseling competence in school counselor trainees. Moreover, Constantine (2002) found that higher racism attitudes and less mature White racial identity attitudes were associated with lower levels of self-perceived multicultural counseling competence in school counselor trainees. Holcomb-McCoy (2001) reported that school counselors tended to rate themselves as most competent in discussing their cultural heritage and background and how culture affects the way they think and less competent in areas of racial identity development and multicultural knowledge. Despite these studies' contributions to the school counseling literature, none of them have focused specifically on school counselors' ability to consider and integrate salient cultural information in the context of working with students of color, particularly immigrant students who may be experiencing difficulties in adjusting to a new and different cultural context. It seems that school counselors' capacity to perceive and conceptualize cultural information in a complex and sophisticated manner would have important implications for their ability to work effectively with immigrant students.
One potential dimension of counselors' competence in working with multicultural populations may be their ability to conceptualize clients' mental health concerns by differentiating and integrating multicultural knowledge pertaining to their issues (Ladany, Inman, Constantine, & Hofheinz, 1997). Conceptualizing clients from a multicultural perspective indicates that counselors are cognizant of, and can integrate, the impact of various cultural factors on clients' presenting issues and can identify an appropriate treatment plan for working with clients based on this knowledge (Constantine & Ladany, 2000). Thus, counselors' multicultural case conceptualization ability may consist of two distinct, but interrelated, dimensions. The first factor or conceptualization is based on counselors' recognition of factors that may be contributing to the …