Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Factors Affecting Vocational Goal Acquisition of Female Immigrant Clients: Rehabilitation Counselor Perspectives

Academic journal article The Journal of Rehabilitation

Factors Affecting Vocational Goal Acquisition of Female Immigrant Clients: Rehabilitation Counselor Perspectives

Article excerpt

This research examines factors affecting the service outcomes of immigrant women with disabilities who received vocational rehabilitation services, from the perspectives of their rehabilitation counselors. The participants were eight rehabilitation counselors. Counselor perspectives were obtained through the narrative inquiry method. Eight prevailing themes arose across the stories, regarding contributing factors: immigrant status, amount of time spent providing services, level of client self-confidence, motivation, collaborative team member relationships and a strong client/counselor working alliance, counselor cultural sensitivity, the establishment of rapport, and counselor altruism. The theme of client immigrant status contained a number of related subthemes. Implications are discussed.

It is estimated that 40 million people living in the United States are foreign-born, which equates to about 12.9% of the U.S. population (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). This trend has steadily risen over the last 40 years, and represents the highest number of immigrants in the U.S. at any point in its over 200-year history (Stebleton & Eggerth, 2012). Schim. Doorenbos, and Borse (2005) labeled the circumstance of this phenomenon as the creation of a "global village" (p. 354), in which the types and quantities of cultural and ethnic groups in America have steadily increased, primarily as a result of immigration (Congress, 2005).

One important consideration for rehabilitation counselors regarding individuals who immigrate into the United States is their overall disability and health statuses. Particular attention should be paid when immigration occurs from developing countries (Dastjerdi, 2012). Individuals with disabilities comprise the largest minority group in the world (United Nations Enable, 2013). One billion people around the world have a disability and 80% of them are in developing nations (Disability Rights Fund, 2013).

Of this percentage, the majority are women who face a double stigma, due to the intersection of their disabilities and gender (Shaw, Chan, & McMahon, 2012). For instance, females with disabilities are more likely to experience abuse than females without disabilities. This includes physical, emotional, sexual, and financial abuse (Banks & Banks, 2008). Globally, women with disabilities are often denied access to maternal or gynecological health care, sexually transmitted diseases and breast and cervical cancers can go undetected for longer periods of time, and they experience higher rates of morbidity and mortality (Broussard, 2008; Iezzoni, 2011). Cultural traditions, expectations, and socioeconomic circumstances may force women to remain in abusive and violent relationships and living situations (Banks & Banks, 2008; Dastjerdi, 2012).

For counselors working with special populations of immigrants, such as refugees, an even more particular set of concerns are present. For this reason, it could be argued that the refugee experience should be studied separately. The issues that immigrant women with disabilities may face, like limited employability, abuse, and the inaccessibility of resources are compounded for refugees by the effects of transience and trauma as a result of war, political unrest, violence, displacement, and encampment (Mosselson, 2006; Zannettino, 2012). Since the Refugee Act of 1980, an average of 60,000 refugees have settled in the U.S. each year (Mirza et al., 2013). Refugees typically arrive in the U.S. less healthy than immigrants, but they are entitled to brief supportive services, including health insurance, as a result of the humanitarian resettlement program.

In summary, immigrant women with disabilities in the U.S. face a number of challenges as a result of issues related to health, cultural differences, social and family dynamics, lack of education, abuse, and stigma. The International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health (ICF) supports the biopsychosocial model of disability which acknowledges that health, personal, and environmental factors can pose challenges for life activities such as vocational rehabilitation and employment (Rouquette, Badley, Falissard, Dub, Leplege, and Coste, 2015). …

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