Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Multicultural Counseling Competencies = Ethical Practice

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

Multicultural Counseling Competencies = Ethical Practice

Article excerpt

The adoption of the Competencies is indicative of ethical and culturally responsive practices. Historical marginalization based on ethnic, racial, cultural, and socioeconomic differences and scientific racism have adversely affected the mental health professions and clients deserving of services. A rationale for the adoption of the Competencies is articulated based on existing research and examples of application of the Competencies. Rebuttals are made to criticisms about the Competencies by Weinrach and Thomas (2002). Viewing the Competencies as a living document indicates their future evolution as a set of culturally universal and culturally relative guidelines for the mental health professions.


Unfortunately, it is often easier to ignore, dismiss, reject, and even hurt one another rather than engage in constructive confrontation" (hooks, 2000, p viii). The sentiments of bell hooks, a feminist writer and multicultural advocate, are relevant to our invited response to Weinrach and Thomas (2002). We thank them for the opportunity to engage in respectful and candid discourse, and to write in support of the Competencies developed by the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD). For the record, there are 31 Competency statements and 119 Explanatory Statements articulated in the published document Operationalization of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies (Arredondo et al., 1996). The latter is an expansion of the first AMCD Competencies document (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992), although the 31 statements remain the same. The focus in both documents is on interpersonal interactions, primarily through clinical practice, and less so on specifics of training, research, assessment, and organizational development.

In the spirit of informed dialogue, this commentary in support of the Competencies proposes to correct inaccuracies and dispel misrepresentations of the Competencies found specifically in the article by Weinrach and Thomas (2002) as well as to acknowledge points of agreement. This goal will be accomplished by reviewing the historical context for the Competencies and the need to address race explicitly; clarifying the intent and inclusiveness of the Dimensions of Personal Identity Model (DPI); addressing concerns about mandating the Competencies in addition to the ethical codes; and articulating future directions for the Competencies.


The Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), established in 1972, is based on principles of inclusion. Its founders recognized the breadth of humanity and specified in the mission statement that the organization would be multicultural, inclusive of persons of different ethnic, racial, and national heritage. They also appreciated the necessity of promoting the initial gains of the Civil Rights movement through professional associations including their umbrella organization, the American Counseling Association. Because of practices of exclusion of ethnic/racial minorities in professional activities, the Association of Non-White Concerns (ANWC), now AMCD, came into existence (Arredondo, 2003).

Through the early 1980s, counseling texts, research studies, and clinical training rendered ethnic-racial minorities invisible or conceptualized them from a genetically or culturally deficient approach (Jensen, 1969; Riessman, 1962). Scholars engaged in scientific racism contended the inferiority of Black persons in particular. More recently, in The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life, Hernstein and Murray (1994) argued that intelligence is inherited and that there is a correlation between race and intellect. Thus, it became imperative for AMCD to assume a leadership role to assist the mental health professions in recognizing the assets of culture, ethnicity, race, and other social identities as indelible dimensions of every human being, and to address concerns about ethical practice. …

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