Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Cultural Variation in Resilience as a Response to Traumatic Experience

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Cultural Variation in Resilience as a Response to Traumatic Experience

Article excerpt

Traumatic events are an unfortunate reality of the human condition. Connor, Davidson and Lee (2003) list the following as examples of prevalent violent trauma: emotional and/or physical abuse by one's partner or family member; sexual assault of a child; purposeful, violent, nonsexual assailment by another person; rape; incest; loss of a family member to a violent act; critical harm or injury of a nonsexual nature to one's child by another person; and loss of personal assets and/or employment as a result of carelessness or brutality. The experience of trauma is highly personal and the impact of a traumatic event is specific to the individual. For rehabilitation counselors it is important to gain perspective on how trauma impacts an individual within a specific cultural context. Trauma is not an isolated concept familiar to only specific cultures or populations, it is a global phenomenon. Wilson (2007) observed that the shared human experience of trauma crosses cultural boundaries, yet made the distinction that there is cultural discrepancy in terms of how trauma is interpreted and how repercussions of traumatic events are mitigated. One way that individuals respond to stress and trauma is through resilience. Merriam- Webster's Online Dictionary (2010, "Definition of Resilient") defines resilient as: "(a) capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; (b) tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change." The discrepancies in how cultures interpret resilient response to trauma will be explored further.

Cultural Diversity

Dana (2007) observed the multicultural blend that exists in the United States, noting that Caucasians will become a minority by 2050 due to the influx of ethnic/racial groups. The author identified a current lack of consideration regarding the influence that culture has on human affliction, and the discounting of traditional healing resources and culturally inclusive jargon in the service systems. Dana contended that the service systems available are being propelled by Western attitudes toward health/illness, health policies, and a biomedical model of treatment. Due to the increasing multicultural blend in the United States, the differences in perceptions and attitudes pertaining to trauma and resilience within a cultural context is a relevant topic for rehabilitation counselors.

An increased multicultural competency among rehabilitation counselors is essential in order to more adequately serve the diverse ethnic and racial groups that are represented in the United States. Moreover, the cultural competence/diversity guidelines of the Commission of Rehabilitation Counselor Certification encourage rehabilitation counselors to "...develop and adapt interventions and services to incorporate consideration of cultural perspective of clients and recognition of barriers external to clients that may interfere with achieving effective rehabilitation outcomes" (2009, p. 12). Ultimately, it is the responsibility of rehabilitation counseling professionals to remain receptive and responsive to their clients' cultural orientations which is congruent with ethical guidelines.

Various ways in which individuals from other cultures understand trauma and define resiliency in the face of trauma will be explored in this paper. Second, information about culturally based differences in resilient factors will be presented. Finally, the implications of these concepts for the practice of rehabilitation counseling are examined in light of globalization and cultural diversity in the field.

Multicultural Perspectives on Trauma

Jobson and O'Kearney (2006) noted, "Because culture is critical to the nature and development of the self, it also needs to become a critical issue in research in adjustment to trauma" (p. 90). Cultural norms surrounding community obligations, religious and spiritual beliefs, and perceptions of the body and mind are a useful starting point in exploring trauma interpretation and response within varied cultural contexts. …

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