Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Orienting Counseling Students toward Multiculturalism: Exploring Privilege during a New Student Orientation

Academic journal article Journal of Humanistic Counseling

Orienting Counseling Students toward Multiculturalism: Exploring Privilege during a New Student Orientation

Article excerpt

New counseling students often have strong reactions to the concept of privilege and become anxious when expected to address issues of multiculturalism personally and professionally. In this article, the authors describe a new student orientation model that focuses on addressing privilege and offer steps toward embracing multiculturalism and social justice.

Keywords: counselor training, mnlticultural training, privilege


A hallmark of the 21st century in the United States is racial and ethnic pluralism and a growing awareness of diverse populations. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2008), the ethnic minority population in the United States in 2007 reached 102.5 million (34% of the total population). Furthermore, it is expected that by the year 2020, 39% of the U.S. population will be composed of people of color (Zhou, 2003). Moreover, the majority of clients in community mental health agencies are racially diverse, whereas the majority of clinicians and supervisors are White (Fong & Lease, 1997). Given the diverse face of counseling in the United States, it is incumbent upon counselor educators to take responsibility for training all future counselors to become responsive to an increasingly multicultural and diverse (e.g., ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion/spirituality, level of education, socioeconomic class) client population.

One of the challenges of training new counselors is to prepare them to address the changing needs of a multicultural client population. For the purposes of this article, multicultural refers to persons of different ethnic, racial, economic, and sexual orientation backgrounds. Echoing the call for multicultural competency among counselors (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992), the 2009 Standards of the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2009, Section II: Standard 2, Social and Cultural Diversity, and Standard 3, Human Growth and Development) require cultural competency objectives to be included in the curriculum. The ACA Code of Ethics (American Counseling Association, 2005) preamble states, "Association members recognize diversity and embrace a cross-cultural approach in support of worth, dignity, potential and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts" (p. 3). Most students in counselor education programs are White, identify with the dominant culture in the United States (Ancis & Szymanski, 2001), and therefore may be unfamiliar with the experiences of diverse clients and the ways in which they may be marginalized. As part of the process of becoming culturally competent, Ponterotto, Utsey, and Pedersen (2006) noted the importance of all counseling students' acknowledgment and confrontation of biases toward culturally diverse persons. White counseling students may struggle with their own anxiety in providing services to ethnic minority clients. Indeed, cross-racial interactions have been found to be stressful for majority and minority individuals. Specifically, in a study of cross-cultural interactions, Richeson and Shelton (2007) found that White participants were concerned about appearing prejudiced, and racial minority participants were stressed about being the targets of prejudice.

Richeson and Shelton's (2007) study on cross-cultural interactions between counselors and clients highlights the need for counselor education faculty to address multicultural training. D'Andrea and Daniels (1991) identified four different types of multicultural training programs: (a) culturally entrenched, (b) cross-cultural awakening, (c) cultural integration, and (d) infusion. Culturally entrenched training programs focus on White European American paradigms and do not include multicultural training. Training programs at the cross-cultural awakening level are aware that most counseling theories do not speak to mental health issues of persons from culturally diverse backgrounds, but the faculty do not have many interactions with culturally diverse persons. …

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