Testing a Transcultural Model of Ethical Decision Making with Rehabilitation Counselors

By Garcia, Jorge; McGuire-Kuletz, Maureen et al. | The Journal of Rehabilitation, July-September 2008 | Go to article overview

Testing a Transcultural Model of Ethical Decision Making with Rehabilitation Counselors


Garcia, Jorge, McGuire-Kuletz, Maureen, Froehlich, Robert, Dave, Pooja, The Journal of Rehabilitation


As it has been widely reported, minority populations are growing quickly and are expected to exceed the populations of current majorities in the next 50 years (Welfel, 2006). In part as a response to this trend, in 2005 the Governing Council of the American Counseling Association (ACA) published several changes to the ACA Code of Ethics. Among these changes were significant alterations in the code regarding multicultural issues. The ACA is requiring counselors to be better trained and more aware of multicultural issues in counseling (Kocet, 2005). The position of the ACA is that there is an "ethical mandate" for counselors to be culturally competent and take into account diversity standards included under almost every section of the new ethics code (Kocet).

The need to be inclusive of cultural variables extends to the development of ethical decision-making models, which, to date, have not incorporated such factors systematically. To reflect this need, a team led by the main author of this study developed a model called the transcultural integrative model (TIM) for ethical decision-making (Garcia, Cartwright, Winston & Borzuchowska, 2003). The argument is that counselors will be better prepared to address ethical dilemmas, particularly those involving stakeholders from different cultural backgrounds, if they follow resolution models that integrate cultural factors methodically.

The transcultural model draws primarily from the integrated model of ethical decision-making developed by Tarvydas (1998), but added significant aspects that reflect multicultural theory. Following the integrated model, the transcultural model incorporates both principle and virtue ethics. Consistent with principle ethics, the integrated and transcultural models define an ethical dilemma in part as a conflict involving ethical principles that are in opposition to each other, such as when client autonomy conflicts with client nonmaleficence (i.e., clients choosing vocational goals that may lead to serious harm). Virtue ethics theory emphasizes that certain counselor characteristics (or virtues) account for the way counselors resolve ethical dilemmas. Virtues such as balance, reflection, attention to context, a collaboration attitude, and tolerance are necessary for counselors to make more sensible and fair ethical decisions (Tarvydas, 1998). In addition, the transcultural model draws from the social constructivist (Cottone, 2001) and collaborative (Davis, 1997) models. The main components of these models are reflected in the incorporation of arbitrating, negotiating, consensus seeking and relational strategies as essential aspects of the transcultural integrative model presented in this article.

Most importantly, the transcultural approach adds analytical components that reflect basic concepts of multicultural counseling under each of the stages that comprise this model. Some key concepts include minority and diversity constructs, cultural worldviews, cultural self-awareness, cultural values, cultural identity, acculturation, gender role socialization, and cultural barriers such as biased assumptions, racism, discrimination, stereotypes and prejudices. These concepts are found in the multicultural counseling literature that emerged in the early 60s and has grown exponentially in the decades that followed until today. Prominent authors discussing such concepts include Ivey, D'Andrea, Ivey, and Simek-Morgan (2002), Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki, and Alexander (1995), and Sue and Sue (2003), among many others. In a study looking at multicultural articles in the Journal of Counseling and Development between 1990 and 2001, Arredondo, Rosen, Rice, Perez, and Tovar-Gamero (2005) found that there is a significant focus on multiculturalism. They reported a wealth of theoretical and empirical research focusing on multicultural topics similar to the ones mentioned above. The main areas of research mentioned in this review were worldview, interventions, psychosocial adjustment/development, cultural influences, identity development and profession issues, training/curriculum/education, acculturation, multicultural competency, and contextual issues. …

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