Teaching Person-Centered Multicultural Counseling: Collaborative Endeavors to Transcend Resistance and Increase Awareness

By Cornelius-White, Jeffrey H. D. | Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development, Fall 2005 | Go to article overview
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Teaching Person-Centered Multicultural Counseling: Collaborative Endeavors to Transcend Resistance and Increase Awareness


Cornelius-White, Jeffrey H. D., Journal of Humanistic Counseling, Education and Development


A person-centered approach to teaching multicultural counseling resulted in a broad array of significant learning experiences. This article describes the instructor's nondirective attitudes, the class-chosen content and process topics, and outcome data. This article also compares and contrasts this approach with conventional and other humanistic multicultural teaching methods.

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Experts have suggested many approaches to teaching multicultural counseling, especially in the past 5 years (Abreu & Atkinson, 2000; Aoki, 2001; Arredondo & Arcinega, 2001; Constantine, 2001a; Diaz-Lazaro & Cohen, 2001; Evans & Foster, 2000; Manese, Wu, & Nepomuceno, 2001; McCreary & Walker, 2001; Ponterotto, 1998; Sevig & Etzkorn, 2001; Tomlinson-Clarke, 2000; Torres-Rivera, Phan, Maddux, Wilbur, & Garrett, 2001; Tyler & Guth, 1999). Perhaps the most influential contributions concern the presentation (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992), operationalization (Arredondo et al., 1996), and, to a lesser extent, the researching of multicultural competencies (Weinrach & Thomas, 2002). Despite the fact that the multicultural competencies have clearly moved issues of multicultural counseling therapy (MCT) to the forefront of mainstream counseling (Abreu & Atkinson, 2000), there have been convincing arguments for further investigation, enhancement, or rebuttal of the ideas in the competencies rather than their complete acceptance (Glausser & Bozarth, 2001; Hanna, Bemak, & Chung, 1999; Patterson, 1996; Torres-Rivera et al., 2001; Weinrach & Thomas, 2002). In addition, some experts are critical of the emphasis that mainstream multicultural teaching methods place on appropriateness over honesty, wisdom, awareness, empathy, and compassion (Glausser & Bozarth, 2001; Hanna et al., 1999; Tomlinson-Clarke, 2000; Torres-Rivera et al., 2001) and the focus of these methods on racial groups over other cultural differences (Cornelius-White, 2003; Weinrach & Thomas, 2002). Although appropriateness and racism clearly are major themes of multiculturalism, a broader focus that foremost acknowledges, understands, and accepts human differences may enhance multicultural training.

Conventional methods of teaching MCT have appeared to affect knowledge more than skills, and skills more than awareness (Hoffman, 2001; Tomlinson-Clarke, 2000; Torres-Rivera et al., 2001), despite the finding that changes in awareness may be the most predictive of multicultural and general competence (Ottavi, Pope-Davis, & Dings, 1994; Torres-Rivera et al., 2001; Vinson & Neimeyer, 2000). Similarly, one follow-up study after students had taken multicultural counseling course work showed that "specifically, students felt the need for additional training experiences within a supportive climate that developed professional and personal cultural self-awareness and self-knowledge" (Tomlinson-Clarke, 2000, p. 221). Suggestions to improve multicultural teaching have included "more emphasis on experiential (affective) training (McRae & Johnson, 1991; Merta, Stringham, & Ponteretto, 1998; Pope-Davis & Coleman, 1997; Ridley, Mendoza, & Kanitz, 1994; Sue & Sue, 1990)" (Tyler & Guth, 1999, p. 153), moral reasoning (Evans & Foster, 2000), discussion (Evans & Foster, 2000; Sevig & Etzkorn, 2001), use of media (Tyler & Guth, 1999), (cultural) empathy (Chung & Bemak, 2002; Constantine, 2001a, 2001b; Constantine & Gainor, 2001; Glausser & Bozarth, 2001; Hanna et al., 1999), methods to reduce student "resistance" (Abreu & Atkinson, 2000), cross-cultural exposure (Diaz-Lazaro & Cohen, 2001), and more "information detailing the training philosophy" used (Tomlinson-Clarke, 2000, p. 222).

Although the person-centered approach (PCA) is often misunderstood and criticized without emic appraisal (Bozarth, 1999, 2002; Merry & Brodley, 2002), particularly concerning MCT (Cornelius-White, 2002, 2003; Cornelius-White & Godfrey, 2004), it can provide fundamental contributions to multicultural training.

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