Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

A Trip around the World

Academic journal article Journal of Mental Health Counseling

A Trip around the World

Article excerpt

Counseling has a long history of serving the diverse needs of some of the people around the globe (Gerstein & Moeschberger, 2003: Leong & Blustein, 2000: Leong & Ponterotto, 2003: McWhirter, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c: Norsworthy & Gerstein, 2003: Pedersen & Leong, 1997: Rogers, 1987a, 1987b; Rogers & Sanford, 1987). For many years, a few counseling professionals have traveled outside of the United States to enrich themselves, to study different cultures, and, more importantly, to offer a host of educational (e.g., lectures, courses, workshops, research) and applied (e.g., counseling, consulting, conflict resolution) services. Perhaps the most visible evidence of this fact is reflected in the experiences of various counseling professionals who were awarded Fulbright scholarships to visit such places as the former Soviet Union, the former West Germany, Turkey, Estonia, Russia, England, Sweden, Iran, Norway, Australia, Italy, Iceland, Peru, Malaysia, and Zambia (see Hedlund, 1988: Heppner, 1988: Hood, 1993: McWhirter, 1988a, 1988b, 1988c: Nugent, 1988: O'Neil, 1993: Skovholt, 1988).

In part, the work of these scholars and others has shaped the provision of mental health services in many countries around the world. More importantly, the theories, strategies, research methods, and training paradigms of mental health professionals outside of the United States have been greatly influenced by the availability and abundance of counseling resources (e.g., books, journals, conference proceedings) found in the United States and the holdings of such resources in libraries worldwide. Numerous international students have studied in counseling programs in the United States. A fair number of these individuals have returned to their home country sharing their acquired knowledge and experiences with other professionals and institutions. In many instances, this sharing has led to the establishment or revision of a mental health delivery system based on U.S. culture and models of counseling. Taken together, it is not surprising that some of these factors have led a few authors to conclude that in many regions of the world, models of mental health delivery are strongly influenced by the U.S. version of counseling (e.g., Leung, 2003).

PROBLEMS WITH ADOPTING U.S. COUNSELING MODELS

Although we suspect that there have been benefits from such an influence, we also contend, like others (e.g., Leong & Ponterotto, 2003: Norsworthy & Gerstein, 2003: Pedersen, 2003), that there have been potential major problems and costs. For instance, a U.S. model of counseling might not appropriately and accurately reflect the cultural norms, values, and behaviors of another country, and it might even violate these constructs (Gerstein, Rountree, & Ordonez, 2004). One dangerous outcome of this type of situation is that individuals abroad, exposed to such models, might adopt nonindigenous behaviors, values, and attitudes leading potentially to the weakening or demise of their unique culture. To be more specific. U.S. models of counseling generally emphasize individualism and the promotion of the self rather than collectivism and the importance of the group or community. Further, counseling as traditionally practiced in the United States (e.g., one-on-one) might be an unnatural way of communicating and conveying matters of concern for persons in other countries. A U.S. model of counseling, therefore, may fail to capture the culture's philosophy of life, change, and beliefs about the human condition.

Moreover, what may be considered an ethical way of U.S. mental health counselors communicating with their clients might not be the indigenous way of relating (e.g., touch, personal distance, gift giving, bartering) in other countries. Relying on a U.S. model of counseling also could reduce help-seeking behaviors and may not even reflect how help is offered in a particular country or culture. Professionals abroad who employ U. …

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