Using Drawings to Facilitate Multicultural Competency Development

By Poyrazli, Senel; Hand, Danielle Bentsel | Journal of Instructional Psychology, June 2011 | Go to article overview

Using Drawings to Facilitate Multicultural Competency Development


Poyrazli, Senel, Hand, Danielle Bentsel, Journal of Instructional Psychology


A total of 190 drawings were analyzed to identify stereotypical beliefs presented by graduate students working towards licensure and to explore a pedagological intervention of utilizing drawings to enhance student awareness of stereotypes and biases. Results indicated that students assumed a caretaking role for mothers more often than fathers and also operated with the belief that Latino/a people are less affluent than White people. Stereotypical portrayals were also seen in the drawings related to an Arab person. Implications of these findings and recommendations for instructors of courses related to multicultural competency are presented.

Key words: Awareness, multicultural competency, awareness exercises, stereotypes.

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There are many issues involved in counselors understanding their clients' viewpoints, but an important and central part is understanding their clients' cultural backgrounds, especially if these differ from the counselor's own cultural background (e.g., Helms, 1990; Helms & Cook, 1999, Pedersen, 2000, Sue et. al., 1998). Understanding the many, varied cultures that co-exist in today's world and how they might impact on clients' lives is the idea behind multicultural education and competency. Multicultural education is important because of the increasing diversification of cultures in today's world and because it is associated with more positive outcomes in counseling (Griner & Smith, 2006). A high level of multicultural competency reduces the chance that counselors will act on their biases or prejudices and display discriminatory behavior toward their clients.

Three stages encompass education related to multicultural competency: awareness, knowledge, and skills (Pedersen, 2000). The first stage, awareness, acts as a foundation for the subsequent stages. However, there is limited research in the current literature pertaining to multicultural awareness. As a result, this study examines drawings by graduate students to identify stereotypes and to investigate the method of drawing pictures as a way to increase awareness.

Since the 1970's, there have been many calls for multicultural awareness and education in an attempt to help counselors and psychologists to be multiculturalists (Sue, Arredondo & McDavis, 1992). One of the earliest calls for multicultural awareness was by Vontress (1971) who stated that counselors should be aware of the "racial feelings and attitudes" that they hold because those feelings and attitudes can negatively impact counseling, especially in the establishment of rapport with the client (p. 9). Since then, several others, as well as professional associations in counseling and psychology encouraged, promoted, and facilitated multicultural competency training (Abreu, Chung, & Atkinson, 2000; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992).

Another reason for the need for multicultural awareness is that the demographic characteristics of the United States are becoming increasingly diverse (U.S. Census Bureau, 2005). The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that by the year 2050, people of color will constitute a majority of the population (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001). As diverse populations increase in number, a corresponding amount of multiculturally trained counselors will be needed to provide effective mental health services for them. However, since counselors often come from an ethnocentric, monocultural background, they will interact with clients from that perspective and devise guidance and solutions for clients based on those ethnocentric, monocultural beliefs. Therefore, the use of awareness methods to develop multicultural competencies is needed for counselors to overcome their ethnocentric biases and be ethical and culturally responsive in their counseling interactions (Arredondo & Toporek, 2004; Brown, 1999; Sue & Sue, 1999).

Multicultural competency education is a three-stage process involving the development of awareness, knowledge, and skills. …

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