Postmodern approaches, specifically those based on ideas from social constructionism such as narrative therapy and solution-focused therapy, are currently being used in a variety of contexts and with multiple cultures. The authors suggest ways in which narrative therapy and solution-focused therapy may appropriately be used with Latino/a populations. The authors review basic tenets and techniques of both narrative and solution-focused therapy emphasizing their application to Latinos/as.
Western ideas about counseling and psychology are being utilized throughout much of the world too often with little thought about how those ideas fit the contexts in which they are being used. In recent decades both psychology and counseling have developed multicultural competencies for practice, at least with regard to practice in the United States (Murphy-Shigematsu, 2000; Smith, Balcii & Montilla, 2006). However, to assume counselors have knowledge about and work with an understanding of these competencies and possess the skills and characteristics to work effectively with culturally diverse individuals and families may be naïve and even problematic (Gonzalez, Biever, & Gardner, 1994; Seeley, 2004; Smith et aL, 2006). Among the difficulties of uncritically transporting Western models into other cultures are that models may not be consistent with existing norms and values of another culture or country and may even violate them (i.e., individualism vs. collectivism and community). The impact of the above may be a weakening of the unique culture of the population or that mental health services may simply be unhelpful.
In addition, ethical guidelines generally accepted in the United States may be out of place in other countries. For example, the strictures about touch, gift giving, personal space, and bartering that are now part of what is considered ethical practice in the United States violate cultural norms and values in some countries and within certain cultural groups in the United States. One pitfall is the belief that the counselor can learn about a culture and thus know about individuals within that culture. Having preconceived information about a client's culture and background is only useful when viewed as a beginning to understanding; otherwise, the counselor may hold and reinforce superficial and stereotypical ideas about the client and the context in which the client resides. In addition, having only broad homogeneous ideas about a particular culture will not help counselors work with clients who are multicultural, multiracial, or multhingual, and who may have a plural sense of identity (AEgisdotter & Gerstein, 2005; Seeley, 2004).
For counseling and family therapy to be effective, services should be congruent with the culture of the client. One difficulty for counselors is a lack of understanding that Latinos cannot be clustered into a specific category due to the heterogeneous nature of the population. Smith et al. (2006) emphasized that there are numerous differences among Latino individuals and cultures, and that no single therapeutic approach, counselor ethnicity, or set of characteristics has been clearly linked to outcome.
Latino/a culture cannot be defined as one entity. Montilla and Smith (2006) described Latino/a culture as a policulture that is a "multicolor and multiethnic group of human beings with an array of cultures, beliefs, and traditions that defy simplistic explanations and categorizadon" (p. 28). Counselors must regard thents as unique and resist the temptation to understand clients' worldviews and values too quickly, particularly if that understanding is based only on the counselor's knowledge of a particular ethnocultural group (Kouyoumdjian, Zamboanga, & Hansen, 2003). The Latino/a policulture is described as having some commonalities, however, which should be recognized by counselors (Montilla & Smith, 2006). One of those is …