Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

A Conceptual Framework for Culturally Competent Career Counseling Practice

Academic journal article Career Planning and Adult Development Journal

A Conceptual Framework for Culturally Competent Career Counseling Practice

Article excerpt


Among the contemporary issues facing career counseling professional addressing the career development and choice issues of the growing number of clients from culturally diverse backgrounds is, perhaps, the most challenging. Contemporary career counseling theory and practice has been greatly impacted by changing demographics and social dynamics that characterize the 21^sup st^ century. For example, projections of the United States population indicate that by the year 2050, the non-Hispanic White population will decrease to 46 per cent of the total population, while 30 per cent of the population will be Hispanic; 13 per cent Black; 1 per cent American Indian, Eskimo, and Aleut; and eight per cent Asian and Pacific Islander (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2008).

Cultural diversity, therefore, has become widely recognized as a major factor deserving increased understanding on the part of career counseling professionals. Within this context, career counselors must provide services that help people to make career decisions in the midst of sweeping demographic and sociological change. The past two decades have seen a growing realization that career counseling services often do not have broad applicability across the range of cultural backgrounds represented by clients (Bowman, 1993; Fouad & Bingham, 1995; Fouad & Byars-Winston, 2005; Leong, 1995; Pope, 2003; Walsh, Bingham, Brown & Ward, 2001). With this awareness has come frustration that in attempting to promote career development, the values inherent in career counseling and those of culturally diverse clients often come into conflict in the career exploration and choice process (Fouad & Bingham, Leong). In order to resolve this conflict and the frustration which often accompanies it, cultural differences must be effectively addressed in the provision of career counseling services. It is evident that career counselors need a conceptual framework from which to operate if they are going to insure that clients from culturally diverse backgrounds have access to competent career services.

This article provides such a conceptual framework. It explores the acquisition of multicultural career counseling competence from a developmental perspective. The conceptual framework examines the foundational aspects as well as the aspects of culture that must form the basis of multicultural career counseling competency. It is based on the knowledge and skills considered essential in relating to diverse populations that impact the career counseling and development process that are outlined in the National Career Development Association's Career Counseling Competencies (1997).

The Conceptual Framework

The conceptual framework focuses on the development of culturally competent career counselors who apply their practice in a diverse society. The framework is comprised of eight themes organized into three areas: foundational dimensions, multicultural dimensions, and multicultural competency.

Foundational Dimension. The foundational dimension consists of four themes. While these themes are the foundation of multicultural career counseling competency they can also be considered the essence of competent counseling in general.


The basis for culturally competent career counseling practice is counselor self-awareness. It is important that counselors fully experience themselves as cultural beings. An individual who expects to work cross-culturally must first be anchored in his or her own cultural realities. This process should start with explorations of how one's own cultural background has influenced his or her career development. It is of critical importance that a person considers the role that cultural heritage and customs play in shaping his or her personality characteristics. It is also crucial that a person assess his or her own process of cultural identity development .The significant questions that one must ask in this regard are "How do I experience myself as a member of Cultural Group X? …

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