Examining Multicultural Counseling Competence and Race-Related Attitudes among White Marital and Family Therapists

By Constantine, Madonna G.; Juby, Heather L. et al. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Examining Multicultural Counseling Competence and Race-Related Attitudes among White Marital and Family Therapists


Constantine, Madonna G., Juby, Heather L., Liang, Juily J. -C, Journal of Marital and Family Therapy


This study investigates the relative contributions of social desirability attitudes, previous number of multicultural counseling courses taken, and racism and White racial identity attitudes together in predicting marital and family therapists' self-reported multicultural counseling competence. Results revealed that, when controlling for social desirability attitudes and the number of multicultural courses taken, racism and White racial identity attitudes in consort accounted for a significant amount of the variance in self-perceived multicultural counseling competence. Implications for marital and family therapy training, practice, and research are discussed.

In recent decades, marital and family therapy (MFr) training programs have increasingly recognized the importance of preparing practitioners to become multiculturally competent (e.g., Falicov, 1983, 1988, 1995; Halevy, 1998; McGoldrick, Giordano, & Pearce, 1996). Multicultural counseling competence refers to counselors' attitudes/beliefs, knowledge, and skills in working with clients from diverse cultural (e.g., racial, ethnic, gender, social class, sexual orientation) groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue et al., 1998). The Commission on Accreditation for Marriage and Family Therapy Education's (COAMFTE, 1997) standards for MFr programs include attention to issues of race, ethnicity, and gender as they relate to MFT. Hardy and Keller (1991) reported that increased emphasis on cultural diversity issues and the recruitment of students of color were among the top emerging trends in MFF training programs.

In their survey of academic programs accredited by COAMFTE, however, Wilson and Stith (1993) reported that <1% of master's degrees and only 1.8% of doctoral degrees were granted to African Americans during the preceding 10 years. Moreover, a 1995 study of 12,000 MFTs in California revealed that, although 94% of them were White, 66% of their clients were from other racial and ethnic groups (Green, 1998). With the increasing racial and ethnic diversification of the United States over the next 50 years, the clinical caseloads of White MFrs will increasingly be made up of families of color (Green, 1998). Some researchers (e.g., Goodwin, 1997; Preli & Bernard, 1993) believe that the goal of recognizing the importance of cultural issues, particularly racial and ethnic issues, has yet to be seriously undertaken in many MFT training settings. The MFT field has also neglected the roles of other multicultural variables (e.g., sex, social class, religious affiliation, physical disability, and sexual orientation issues) in the lives of clients (Fontes & Thomas, 1996; Goodwin, 1997). Presently, it is unclear the extent to which this general lack of attention to multicultural issues in MFT programs may affect these therapists' competence in working with culturally diverse populations.

Little empirical information exists about the self-reported multicultural counseling competence of MFrs. There is a need for research that examines their perceived levels of multicultural competence, particularly with regard to various race-related attitudes. Hence, this study explored racism attitudes, White racial identity attitudes, and self-reported multicultural counseling competence in MFTs. Information about the potential associations among these variables may help to clarify their role in predicting MFrs self-perceived multicultural competence.

The general counseling literature has empirically examined the aforementioned variables in several different combinations. In particular, White racial identity attitudes have been explored in relation to a host of other cultural variables. According to Helms (1984, 1990), healthy White racial identity development occurs when Whites abandon racist attitudes and move toward a nonracist identity. In her White racial identity model, Helms asserts that Whites in the U. S. have been socialized in an environment wherein members of their group are privileged relative to other racial groups, and Whites then learn to protect this privileged status by adopting racist attitudes and behaviors (Helms & Cook, 1999). …

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