Cross-Cultural Contact in Counseling Training
Diaz-Lazaro, Carlos M., Cohen, B. Beth, Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development
Contacto intercultural en el entrenamiento de la consejeria
Cross-cultural contact was found to be important in the development of multicultural counseling competencies (MCCs). The greater the prior cross-cultural life experience, the higher were students' MCCs measured at the beginning of a multicultural counseling course. MCCs measured at the end of the course were significantly higher than MCCs measured at the beginning of the course. Theme analysis of students' journals suggested that cross-cultural contact, a major component of the course, was important in MCCs's development.
Este estudio explora la relacion entre el contacto intercultural y el desarrollo de competencias de consejeria multicultural en un curso basado en este entrenamiento. El contacto intercultural resulto ser importante en el desarrollo de las Competencias de Consejeria Multicultural (CCMs). Estudiantes con altos niveles de experiencias interculturales en sus vidas previas al curso, tuvieron altos resultados en las CCMs medidas al fin del curso. Las CCMs medidas al fin del curso fueron significativamente mas altas que las CCMs medidas al principle del curso. Analisis de los temas en los diarios de los estudiantes sugiere que el contacto intercultural, un componente principal de este curso, fue importante en el desarrollo de las CCMs.
Multicultural counseling has been referred to as the "fourth force" in counseling (Essandoh, 1996; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992). The training of multiculturally competent counselors is strongly advocated by many scholars (e.g., LaFromboise, Coleman, & Hernandez, 1991; Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, & Alexander, 1995; Sue et al., 1992; Sue et al., 1982). Several surveys reveal that counseling and psychology graduate programs and internship sites are increasingly including multicultural issues in course work, research, and practica (e.g., Allison, Crawford, Echemendia, Robinson, & Knepp, 1994; Bernal & Padilla, 1982; Constantine, Ladany, Inman, & Ponterotto, 1996; Hills & Strozier, 1992; Murphy, Wright, & Bellamy, 1995; Phillips & Fisher, 1998; Ponterotto, Alexander, & Grieger, 1993; Wyatt & Parham, 1985). However, none of these surveys has directly assessed the role of cross-cultural contact, that is, person-to-person interactions between members of culturally different groups. Research on the development of multicultural counseling competencies has also neglected the relevance of cross-cultural contact. Studies in this area have focused mainly on validating the four instruments that have been developed for measuring the construct and correlating these instruments with demographic and educational variables (e.g., LaFromboise et al., 1991; Moss, 1997; Pope-Davis & Ottavi, 1994; Pope-Davis, Reynolds, Dings, & Nielson, 1995; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin, & Wise, 1994).
Few studies have assessed the impact of cross-cultural contact experiences in the training of counselors, and only two studies have done so directly. Merta, Stringham, and Ponterotto (1988) developed a two-unit training exercise for graduate students in a special topics seminar course. The first unit, primarily cognitive, consisted of writing, discussion, and lecture about culture shock along with a brief cultural assimilator group exercise. The second unit of Merta et al.'s exercise involved direct cross-cultural contact by having trainees and members of the Arab culture role-play a critical incident scenario. Two months after this two-unit exercise, it was assessed by students rating each unit on a single Likert-scale item (1 = low to 5 = high) that inquired how valuable the unit was for increasing students' understanding of cultural awareness, culture shock, and cultural differences. Students rated the cross-cultural contact as more valuable than the cognitive component (4.31 vs. 4.00). Merta et al. concluded that "it is significant that, two months after the program, all the students not only reported that they remembered the experience but that they rated it so favorably" (p. 244). However, the researchers did not indicate whether the results were statistically significant. Although not methodologically strong, the exploratory study is suggestive of the importance of cross-cultural contact in the training of culturally sensitive practitioners.
Another drawback of Merta et al.'s (1988) study was the brevity of the experiential exercise. Mio (1989) studied the effects of a longer cross-cultural contact component within a multicultural counseling course, pointing out that if prejudice is to be decreased by cross-cultural contact, one short-time experience is unlikely to have such an effect. Students were divided into two contact experiences: one involving a semester-long, one-to-one exchange with an international student and the other consisting of participant observations of one group (e.g., attending ethnic restaurants, visiting ethnic stores, and attending cultural events). Students were required to write a paper on the experience, the concluding paragraphs of which were rated by two independent judges. Participants in the one-to-one exchange were rated as having had a richer experience than had the students in the participant observation group. Mio (1989) concluded that the "actual one-to-one exchange of ideas with an individual can greatly enhance one's experience with members of another cultural group above and beyond factual knowledge about the group" (p. 43).
Two other studies have tangentially tapped into the relevance of cross-cultural contact in counseling training. Heppner and O'Brien (1994) and Neville et al. (1996) each collected qualitative data on helpful and hindering events and their impacts on students in a multicultural counseling course. Results of both studies suggest the importance of various cross-cultural contact activities in the training of future counselors. Of special interest, participants in both studies consistently reported that guest speakers from different cultural backgrounds was the most important course component in helping them achieve their desired changes, strongly suggesting the importance of this particular type of cross-cultural contact.
To explain the results of all four of these studies, it is helpful to examine the contact hypothesis, which is "among the most researched psychological principles for reducing interracial prejudice" (Wittig & Grant-Thompson, 1998, p. 798). According to the contact hypothesis, intergroup contact will facilitate the reduction of intergroup prejudice and conflict as long as several specific necessary conditions are present (Allport, 1954; Amir, 1969; Cook, 1985; Hewstone & Brown, 1986). Among the most prominent of these conditions are
equal status of all group members within the contact situation, cooperative interdependence among group members, normative support of positive relations and equal status within the contact situation, and interactions that disconfirm stereotypes and encourage the transmission of individuating information about group members (Marcus-Newhall & Heindl, 1998, p. 815)
as well as
individualized contact having the potential for friendships across groups. (Wittig & Grant-Thompson, 1998, p. 798)
Role playing of critical incident scenarios with members of a culturally different group (Merta et al., 1988) is a situation involving cooperative …
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Publication information: Article title: Cross-Cultural Contact in Counseling Training. Contributors: Diaz-Lazaro, Carlos M. - Author, Cohen, B. Beth - Author. Journal title: Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development. Volume: 29. Issue: 1 Publication date: January 2001. Page number: 41. © 2008 American Counseling Association. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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