Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Multicultural Training Experiences as Predictors of Multicultural Competencies: Students' Perspectives

Academic journal article Counselor Education and Supervision

Multicultural Training Experiences as Predictors of Multicultural Competencies: Students' Perspectives

Article excerpt

The authors surveyed a national sample of master's-level counseling students regarding their multicultural training experiences and their multicultural counseling competencies. A series of hierarchical regression models tested the prediction of inventoried competencies from measures of selected training experiences: (a) program cultural ambience or learning environment, (b) multicultural instructional strategies, and (c) multicultural clinical experiences. Perceptions of program cultural ambience or learning environment predicted all multicultural competencies: knowledge, skills, awareness, and relationship. Additional findings support the importance of clinical training experiences in the context of effective multicultural training.

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Promoting the development of multicultural competence has become a critical issue in counselor education (Burnett, Hamel, & Long, 2004; Manese, Wu, & Nepomuceno, 2001; Vasquez & Vasquez, 2003). Various definitions of multicultural competence have been proposed with the purpose of training culturally sensitive and effective counselors (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue & Sue, 2003; Taylor, Gambourg, Rivera, & Laureano, 2006). Standards and competencies have been written for the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) in which competence has been defined in the areas of knowledge, awareness, and skills (Sue et al., 1992). According to these standards, competent counselors have knowledge of the values and norms of different cultural groups, must be aware of their own culturally based assumptions and biases, and must be able to demonstrate skills that are acceptable to clients from diverse populations (Sue et al., 1992).

Recent discussions in the literature regarding the meaning of multicultural competence warn that current conceptualizations of multicultural competencies (i.e., knowledge, awareness, and skills) may oversimplify the complexities involved in multicultural interactions and may limit effective implementation of culturally sensitive communication (Knapik & Miloti, 2006; Toporek, 2001). From a postmodern perspective, Taylor et al. (2006) discussed the acquisition of knowledge, awareness, and skills as a starting point from which counseling students could construct multicultural competence through their ongoing relationships with clients. The understanding of the importance and complexities of multicultural competence continues to evolve, and counseling students rely on counselor education programs to provide training that will help them work effectively and sensitively in multicultural situations.

Counselor educators have pursued multicultural training objectives by designing pedagogical experiences that take many forms. Curricular changes range from adding a multicultural counseling course or area of concentration to infusing multicultural issues into all course work within the curriculum (Copeland, 1982; Reynolds, 1995). Providing a single course in multicultural counseling is less complicated than coordinating the efforts of all faculty members to integrate multicultural issues throughout the program curriculum. Some experts believe, however, that the integration of multicultural issues into all course work provides more comprehensive and integrated exposure to relevant issues in multicultural counseling than can be provided in a single course (Copeland, 1982; Ridley, Mendoza, & Kanitz, 1994).

Counselor educators design multicultural course work by selecting from a variety of instructional strategies: (a) traditional strategies, which include lectures and reading assignments that provide specific information to increase students' cognitive understanding of cultural norms and values (Reynolds, 1995); (b) exposure strategies, which provide an affective experience and include presentations by minority group members to increase students' sensitivity and empathy toward members of different cultural groups (Ridley et al. …

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