Cultural Self-Exploration Questionnaire

By Henriksen, Richard C., Jr.; Watts, Richard E. | TCA Journal, Fall 1999 | Go to article overview
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Cultural Self-Exploration Questionnaire


Henriksen, Richard C., Jr., Watts, Richard E., TCA Journal


This article presents the Cultural Self-Exploration Questionnaire, which was designed to assist counselors, counselors-in-training, counselor educators and supervisors develop self-awareness of their personal culturally-based prejudices, assumptions, and biases that may impede their work with culturally diverse clients.

According to multicultural counseling literature, counselor self-awareness of personal prejudices, biases, stereotyping, values and assumptions that may be used in working with culturally diverse clients have been emphasized insufficiently. Counselors often evaluate the behavior of others based on their own cultural perspectives. One's cultural paradigm can influence diagnosis and treatment issues in situations when an understanding of client behavior does not include the cultural context in which the behavior takes place. It is imperative, therefore, that counselors develop awareness of their own stereotypical beliefs in order to avoid harming culturally diverse clients (e.g., Atkinson, Morten, & Sue, 1993; Baruth & Manning, 1999; Corey, Corey, & Callanan, 1998; Petersen, 1997; Sue & Sue, 1999).

Sue and Sue (1999) suggest that only "enlightened, nondefensive, open, and skilled" counseling professionals can understand minority group experiences and the issues involved in working with culturally diverse populations. A systematic attempt to identify characteristics of the culturally skilled therapist has been slow in developing. Recently, however, a set of proposed multicultural competencies has been developed (see Sue & Sue, 1999) and subsequently endorsed by several divisions within the American Counseling Association (ACA).--

According to the proposed multicultural competencies, one foundational goal of culturally competent counselors involves the process of becoming aware of their own "assumptions about human behavior, values, biases, preconceived notions, personal limitations, and so forth" (Sue & Sue, 1999). Thus, the initial multicultural competency addresses "Counselor Awareness of [His or Her] Own Cultural Values and Biases" (Sue & Sue, 1999, p. 225). A significant portion of the proposed competency states that culturally competent counselors "are aware and sensitive to their own cultural heritage and to valuing and respecting difference... are aware of how their own cultural backgrounds and experiences and attitudes, values, and biases influence psychological processes...and have specific knowledge about their own racial and cultural heritage and how it personally and professionally affects their definitions of normal ity-abnormal ity and the process of couns (Sue & Sue, 1999, . 225).

Given that cultural understanding begins by looking at oneself, the use of guided self-assessments can help both counselors and counselors- in-training gain insight into how their personal experiences and societal interactions have influenced their worldview, beliefs, and values (Ancis, 1998). Developing the skills necessary to work with culturally different clients begins with a thorough understanding of self. Baruth and Manning (1999) have stated that:

Self-awareness is the consciousness a person has of specific events that influence her or his psychological, social, emotional, and cultural attributes. It includes identity (what one thinks of oneself), and one's sense of identity as influenced by the perception of self and others. Identity includes many factors such as race, ethnicity, and gender. (p. 33)

Ideally counselors should develop an awareness of their own cultural heritages and how these heritages influence what they believe and value, with special attention given to how these beliefs, attitudes, and values pertain to culturally different individuals. For a counselor, the process of developing cultural self-awareness should begin with exploration of one's culture and how it affects personal psychosocial development. Counselors should pay particular attention to factors that impacted the development of their ethnic identity in childhood and adolescence.

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