Client Adherence to Asian Cultural Values, Common Factors in Counseling, and Session Outcome with Asian American Clients at a University Counseling Center

By Kim, Bryan S. K.; Ng, Gladys F. et al. | Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Client Adherence to Asian Cultural Values, Common Factors in Counseling, and Session Outcome with Asian American Clients at a University Counseling Center


Kim, Bryan S. K., Ng, Gladys F., Ahn, Annie J., Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD


During the past 3 decades, there has been a growing body of research literature focused on the counseling process with Asian Americans. One segment of this literature is based on studies that have used audiovisual analogue designs in which Asian American participants are exposed to written transcripts, audio recordings, or audiovisual recordings of mock counseling sessions and asked to rate the qualities of the counselor and the session. The results showed that Asian Americans favor a logical, rational, directive, and culturally attentive counseling style over a reflective, affective, nondirective, and less culturally attentive one (Atkinson, Maruyama, & Matsui, 1978; Gim, Atkinson, & Kim, 1991), especially if the counselor is described as an Asian American (Atkinson & Matsushita, 1991). The results also suggested that Asian Americans prefer counselors who use the consultant helping role when the presenting problem has an external etiology (e.g., racism) and the role of the facilitator of indigenous support systems when the problem has an internal etiology (e.g., depression; Atkinson, Kim, & Caldwell, 1998). Although these studies provide useful information, an important limitation is the possible lack of external validity of the results as related to the actual client population because the participants were not actual clients seeking services at a counseling agency. In other words, when using audiovisual analogue designs, the experimenter must rely on the ability of the participants to approximate the role of client based on their exposure to the written, audio, or visual stimuli. To the extent that the participants are not able to identify with the client, the client role, or both, generalizability of the findings is threatened (Pope-Davis, Liu, Toporek, & Brittan-Powell, 2001).

In more recent years, there has been an increase in the number of studies that have been based on actual counseling sessions with volunteer clients. To a large extent, this effort has been in response to authors, such as Pope-Davis et al. (2001), who reviewed the extant empirical literature on multicultural counseling and recommended the following:

   Research on clients' experiences in counseling should try to
   replicate real counseling. The need for realistic stimuli and
   relationship is necessary ... Previous research has relied
   heavily on the use of "potential clients" who may or may not
   have had therapy experiences. One can easily see that the actual
   experience versus the imagined experience may produce
   different results. (p. 132)

One such study was by Kim, Li, and Liang (2002), who found that Asian American volunteer clients who were working with European American female counselors perceived a stronger working alliance when the counselors provided immediate resolution to the problem than when the counselors attempted to explore the deep causes of the problem. Kim et al. (2003) found that when European American female counselors self-disclosed to clients about strategies that they had used in the past to resolve the kinds of problems reported by the clients, Asian American clients perceived this type of disclosure to be helpful, especially when the disclosures were moderately intimate. In support of the findings from the audiovisual analogue study by Atkinson et al. (1978) that was previously mentioned, Li and Kim (2004) found that Asian American clients rated counselors more favorably when they used a directive style than when they used a nondirective style. Furthermore, Kim, Ng, and Ahn (2005) showed that Asian American clients gave higher ratings to counselors who shared their worldview than to counselors who did not share their worldview.

Typically, the type of research design based on actual counseling sessions involves training graduate student counselors to implement different conditions, based on the variable of interest, and then examining the effects of these conditions with a sample of volunteer clients who are offered some incentive (e. …

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