School Counselors' Universal-Diverse Orientation and Aspects of Their Multicultural Counseling Competence

Article excerpt

Within the next 50 years, children of color will comprise nearly 60% of all school-aged children in the United States. Currently, in large urban cities such as New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles, the percentage of White school children is less than 20% of the total enrollment (Orfield & Yun, 1999). In recent years, the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) adopted and revised a position statement encouraging school counselors to ensure that culturally diverse students have "access to appropriate services and opportunities promoting [their] maximum development" (ASCA, 1999). However, little is known about school counselors' attitudes toward culturally diverse students and the resultant impact of such attitudes on their ability to address the needs of these students.

Multicultural counseling competence refers to counselors' attitudes/beliefs, knowledge, and skills in counseling people from diverse cultural groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). One aspect of being multiculturally competent is having an awareness and acceptance of both similarities and differences among others (Sue et al., 1992). Vontress (1988, 1996) noted that being aware of and accepting of others' similarities and differences is a vital goal for counselors who work with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. Effective multicultural counseling is rooted in the premise that although people share common or universal experiences (e.g., basic biological functions or life processes), they also have important differences based on cultural group memberships such as race or sex (Fuertes, Miville, Mohr, Sedlacek, & Gretchen, 2000; Miville et al., 1999; Vontress, 1996). An awareness and acceptance of both similarities and differences among people is identified as universal-diverse orientation (UDO; Miville et al., 1999).

UDO consists of three components: "(a) relativistic appreciation of oneself and others, (b) seeking a diversity of contact with others, and (c) a sense of connection with the larger society or humanity as a whole" (Fuertes et al., 2000, p. 158). According to Miville et al. (1999), individuals' UDO may allow them to bond with others who are similar, while also understanding and appreciating people who are different. In particular, counselors' ability to effectively communicate and interact with clients in therapeutic relationships involves the counselors' competence in focusing on both similarities and differences (Miville et al., 1999). Thus, school counselors' awareness of how culturally diverse students may be alike and different from them may be vital to building successful alliances with these students (Fuertes et al., 2000).

School counselors' cultural group memberships may have significant and varying effects on their social attitudes and beliefs, both within and across cultural groups (e.g., Coleman, 1995; Helms, 1990; Miville et al., 1999). Hence, it is important that such attitudes and beliefs be examined in relation to aspects of their ability to provide culturally competent services to students. Moreover, because numerous cultural (e.g., racial, ethnic, sex, social class, sexual orientation, religious affiliation) differences may exist between school counselors and their students, it is vital that these counselors are cognizant of such differences so as to sufficiently consider the impact of students' cultural backgrounds in their lives.

The purpose of this study was to explore the relationship between school counselors' UDO and their self-reported multicultural counseling knowledge and awareness. Because previous multicultural education has been found to be significantly positively associated with school counselors' self-perceived multicultural counseling competence in several investigations (e.g., Constantine, 2001; Constantine & Yeh, 2001), the variance contributed by this construct was accounted for prior to examining the contribution of UDO to these dimensions of school counselors' self-reported multicultural counseling competence. …