Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Infusing Multicultural and Social Justice Competencies within Counseling Practice: A Guide for Trainers

Academic journal article Adultspan Journal

Infusing Multicultural and Social Justice Competencies within Counseling Practice: A Guide for Trainers

Article excerpt

In light of rapidly changing demographics within the United States, counselors are challenged to provide culturally responsive services to facilitate optimal client functioning. This article highlights recommended training strategies within a developmental framework to promote multicultural and social justice competencies for trainers of mental health professionals.


In light of the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, it is imperative for counselor educators and trainers of mental health professionals to infuse instructional strategies that promote multicultural and social justice (MSJ) competencies for trainees. According to Arredondo et al. (1996), the framework to engage actively in multicultural competencies involves knowledge, awareness, and skills related to one's personal viewpoint, to the client's experience, and to culturally responsive interventions.

The American Counseling Association's (2005) ACA Code of Ethics and the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs's (CACREP) 2009 Standards highlight the critical need for practitioners to enhance cultural sensitivity and responsiveness when working with diverse client populations. Specific ethical guidelines for counselors include the need for cultural sensitivity and awareness in the areas of antidiscrimination, language, confidentiality, disclosure, and assessment (ACA, 2005; Standards A.2.c., B.1.a., C.5., E.6.c., and E.8.). The accrediting body for counseling programs at the master's and doctoral level, CACREP, complements the ACA Code of Ethics by featuring curriculum standards for counseling trainees within the areas of knowledge, skills, and clinical practice when working with culturally different clients.

The purpose of this article is to translate MSJ-based teaching strategies within counselor education into community-based, mental health services training for practitioners. These strategies are discussed within the framework of adult development and learning. Eriksen and McAuliffe (2006) indicated the critical role of adult development on counseling competency. Specifically, cornerstone attitudes and skills that reflect multicultural sensitivity and responsiveness (e.g., empathy, open-mindedness, ability to deal with ambiguity) have been associated with the relativistic position of Perry's intellectual and ethical development and Kohlberg's higher levels of moral development (Eriksen & McAuliffe, 2006). Although the strategies are effective across the lifespan of development, specific adaptations to the proposed strategies are considered based on the age and developmental focus of the trainees.


In training mental health professionals on multicultural issues, an instructor needs to begin with a discussion of knowledge and awareness of multicultural issues. This training enables trainees to better understand their own cultural background and learn about other cultures. More important, this emphasis enables trainees to understand cultural identity development and their own cultural biases and misconceptions (Arredondo, Tovar-Blank, & Parham, 2008; Garcia, Wright, & Corey, 1991).

Knowledge and awareness of multicultural issues needs to be presented at the beginning of any training and then followed by the applied counseling skills-building strategies. For this reason, in conducting multicultural training or diversity training for mental health practitioners, it is advisable to schedule two or, if possible, three trainings over a period of time. This approach to training will allow participants time to process and reflect on the ideas and information being presented and then be prepared to practice skills building in multicultural counseling.

To promote ethical practices of effective services to diverse populations, it is imperative for counselors to become knowledgeable of the changing racial and ethnic composition of the U. …

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