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The Ethics And Challenges Of Multicultural Counselling Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 4080 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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There are many aspects of today's British society which make it multicultural, such as different ethnic backgrounds', Social class, Religious beliefs, Sexual orientation, and Gender, all of which are categorized under 'personal culture'. What I am interested in are the challenges this can have on a client - practitioner's relationship and what personal ethics can be placed under pressure due to the diversity of culture, also what ethics are in place to prevent such challenges. I shall be focusing on a small number of issues listed above, such different ethnic backgrounds, different religious beliefs and Sexual orientation.

There are disadvantages of being an ethnic minority within Great Briton. Looking through history ethnic minorities have endured racism which is either subtle or obvious, victims of stereotyping, pre-judgements as well as cruelty, which in turn affects an individual's self-worth as well as how they perceive themselves and their own culture.

Aisha Dupont-Joshura sighted in Counselling: The BAC counselling reader discusses and shares her ideas of inter-cultural therapy, she emphasises that practitioner's must have knowledge of the variety in different cultures. 'In today's multicultural society, the need for counsellors and therapists to develop an awareness and understanding of cultural diversity becomes increasingly important.' (80:1996)

She also discusses that the word counselling maybe changed to suit individuals from different cultural backgrounds for example replacing the word counselling with the word discussion as this may be better accepted in different cultures her reasoning for this is 'better communication' and no embarrassment that someone is in 'counselling' this is because without this shame the client will be more inclined to attended the session.

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Carol Mohamed who also discusses trans-cultural therapy sighted in the sage hand book of counselling and psychotherapy this argues that the importance of a trans-cultural approach is not of the awareness of cultural diversity itself, but the awareness of the therapists' own race-related attitudes and prejudices and the impact it could have on their behaviour towards a client from a different culture. 'a therapist who is unaware of their own prejudices and stereotypes will form an opinion of a culturally or racially different client based on their own perception rather than who the client actually is' (567:2006)

There are mixed reviews of what is needed from a white/majority practitioner to support those from different cultural backgrounds,

awareness that ethnicity exists is clear, however Judy Ryde has discussed that although awareness of personal race related issues and awareness that we live in a culturally diverse society are important, Judy Ryde believes it is also important to know what being white in this line of work means. She feels that by acknowledging the behaviour of whites within society this would lead to a better understanding of the impacts upon ethnic minorities which in turn will build a better level of empathy; this of course involves a level of acceptance from white people of their behaviour. 'when questions of race are raised in a professional context, people tend to turn to a black person, if one is present, as if they must be experts on this subject' J. Ryde (35:2009) Jude Ryde also tries to highlight what it would mean for white people to consider themselves as an ethnic race, when people discuss ethnicity the image that appears in peoples minds is not of a white person.

With the three different views of what is needed to understand ethnicity, what other factors relate to multicultural counselling which need to be taken into consideration?

Religion plays a part in multicultural backgrounds. Depending on where in the world an individual is from could influence their religious beliefs which could be different from a British practitioner, traditionally British practitioners religion (if religious) would be of Judaic-Christian principles.

Richard Nelson-Jones discusses the problem of this and questions if client practitioner pairing should be based of religion.

'an issue for many religious helpers is the extent to which the values and teachings of their church influence how they work. For instance, Roman Catholic helpers may face value conflicts with clients in areas such as divorce, contraception, abortion and pre-marital or lesbian and gay sex' Richard Nelson-Jones (28:2003)       

John Mcleod supports Richard Nelson-Jones

McLeod discusses that if a practitioner holds different religious belief to a client then it can be problematic meaning the client will not be able to receive the skills needed for therapeutic growth, which could be damaging for a client, placing limitations on their own personal development and their progression through the seven stages of process. 'acceptance can be difficult for a counsellor if they espouse religious beliefs that condemn certain forms of behaviour, such as sex outside marriage, homosexuality or suicide. If a counsellor who holds such beliefs works with a person who is, for example, gay or lesbian. It may be very hard to offer a counselling space that is sufficiently safe and free from blame' J. Mcleod (98:2007)

Both have suggested it is very clear that a difference in religion is problematic and counsellors with their own religious beliefs will be unable to provide a 'safe' relationship for their clients.

Mary Thomas burke, Jane C Chauvin and Judith G Miranti conclude that there is uncertainty in regards to how to address religious issues because practitioner's feel that they do not have the relevant capabilities to deal with such issues, there is a fear of imposing their own personal values as well as violating ethical codes as a consequence counsellors feel they are not suited for the client.

'practitioners who think they lack formal training or expertise to help client resolve religious and/or spiritual issues will often refer such clients to their priest, rabbi or minister' M.T burke, C. Jane, Chauvin and Judith G Miranti (xvii:2005)

Alternatively Nigel Copsey sighted in Handbook of Counselling and Psychotherapy

argues that as a practitioner, it is the practitioners responsibility to ensure that the work has been put in to place to guarantee a healthy therapeutic relationship, the reasoning for this is because the increase of a 'muli-faith society' in which we live will place a demand on practitioners to be able to respond, meaning that referral or bad practice is not going to help develop therapy as a service. 'we need to be able to suspend our own belief's while at the same time showing a deep genuine interest in the world of the  client, thus allowing us to understand their experiences of the world through their own unique spiritual lens … this willingness to enter into a shared experience will strengthen the therapeutic relationship. It is my task to remain in relationship with my client while I celebrate the differences between us, if we can achieve this level of relationship, then I am certain that as counsellors we will be able to validate the healthy coping strategies' N. Copsey(48:2006)

There seems to be a lot of debates to what is the best practice towards different religions and different ethnicity, With different views of religion will also come different views of sexual attraction which has been discussed above however sexual attraction can still be a problem regardless of religion that history has presented homosexuality to be something that is 'unacceptable' in society.

It has been stated more than once that homosexuality was labelled as a mental health issue this idea did not just come from people in general i.e. neighbours, colleges, friends or family members but infact that view was also believed by mental health associations.

'a 1977 survey of 2500 psychiatrists found that a majority felt that homosexuality is pathological and that lesbians and gay men are less capable then heterosexuals of mature, loving relationships... studies of other mental health professionals founds that many, sometimes the majority, have has negative attitudes about homosexuality and lesbian and gay people and continue to harbour them' (8:2000) GAP

Further research has been carried out which supports the lack of understanding towards homosexuality.

Research which has been carried out by Garnets C Hancock, J.A Cochran, S D Goodchilds and C A Peplau, all of whom are psychologists, the results can be found in two places their own book 'issues in psychotherapy with lesbians and gay men' (1998) or 'counselling the culturally diverse theory and practice' (2008)

Their work was a survey of therapist who had heard or knew of negative or positive responses from other therapist or clients in counselling,

their research and surveys conclude the following.

'some therapist continue to believe that homosexuality represents a personality disorder or other mental health disturbance and is not just a different lifestyle... focusing on sexual orientation when it is not relevant. Problems maybe completely unrelated to sexual orientation, but some therapist continue to focus on it as the major contributor to all presented problems... attempting to have clients renounce or change their sexual orientation. For example, a lesbian was asked by the therapist to date men... presuming that clients with a different sexual orientation cannot be good parents and automatically assuming that their children's problems are a result of the orientation' D.W Sue & D. Sue(446-447:2008)

Although in the 21st century there is now a better acceptance of homosexuality 'mental health organisations have acknowledged that homosexuality is not a mental health disorder' D.W Sue & D. Sue (447:2008)

However there is still a lot of work which needs to be done, There are still other individuals and other cultures who believe different, for example homosexual relationships are punishable by death in Nigeria, in some Muslim communities homosexuality is seen as dishonour and results in disownment or imprisonment.

Over all there have been enlightening factors covered under the subject multicultural counselling under ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation all of which create an individual's culture; this defines who we are as a person. There have been many issues raised within multicultural counselling and many ways to find solutions to these issues all of which are debatable. This subject matter holds a high level of complexity;

there are demands for counsellors to be in touch with their own assumptions, thoughts and opinions in regards to those who are culturally different. It has become clear that issues will arise within counsellors when working one to one with clients who exist in a different lifestyle.


Moreover the demand for counsellors to be aware of their own culture and limitations I feel is very challenging, as covered multicultural awareness has caused practitioners to question their own capabilities, feeling unable to offer the level of support needed to different cultural clients they are instead referred. This poses a problem for me regardless of the fact that my heritage is not White British. There is such a broad level of culture I must learn about, that it seems easier to ignore these implications rather than face them. However this is not an option as I and other counsellors who choose to ignore aspects of culture will find themselves stuck with one opinion causing the lack of ability to accept diversity and different ways of life.

'reality is defined according to one set of cultural assumptions and stereotypes which become more important then the real world ... people become insensitive to cultural variations among individuals and assume that their view if the only read legitimate one' (21:1994) P. Pedersen

This is known as 'cultural encapsulation'

'describes the narrow world view that psychotherapists may have when they allow culturally biased perceptions of reality to dominate. A cultural encapsulated therapist, unable to see other through a different cultural lens, may regard as pathological what is normal for the minority cultural group.' (6:1998) C. J Falicov

I do not feel I am a cultural encapsulated therapist, I am open minded to other cultures that are not my own Mixed White Black Caribbean, I hold a high regard for different cultures, but I have yet to find any cultural practice I feel I am inadequate to respond to effectively. The only advantage I hold is that I share personal experiences and understanding of what it is to be a minority in today's society but of course this can also be a disadvantage depending on my clients own cultural differences.

'for white clients the appearance of a black counsellor may unconsciously evoke certain prejudices and stereotypes which could lead to the rejection of the counsellor but be interpreted by the client as not having the right to choose'(296:1998) Moodley. R and Dhingre S cross-cultural/racial matching in counselling and therapy: white clients and black counsellors'

It is also known that counselling is perceived as a white middle class profession, and within counselling profession racism does take place 'black clients involved in the research described critical incidents where they experienced subtle rather than blatant racism from clients and colleagues and where unable to challenge or name these events as such' (196:2006) C. Lago

The above transcripts make me feel uneasy as being a black trainee I know I will be faced with such issues as I have done before and what will be challenging is how I respond to such behaviour. The same applies to those who are religious if faced with discrimination both client or counsellor it could be challenging and damaging to an individual's self worth.

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What if the client is religious but the counsellor is not? What problems could this bring? I personally am not religious and consider myself Agnostic I am not sure about religion, I hold an open mind and there are something's which I find believable and something's that I find unbelievable, moreover I also consider myself to be a rationalist there has to be a reason and there has to be an answer in understanding the world, therefore I find religion unreasonable as there are many things about religion that are unknown or many questions I feel cannot be answered. So with this frame of mind what challenges could I be faced with if working with a client who is strongly religious?

'clients with strong religious beliefs inquire about the therapists religious preference in the initial phases of therapy, an evasive answer my heighten the clients anxiety and lead to premature termination... usually, the client's initial concern is that the therapist will undermine his or her faith. This fear is particularly salient if the therapist s nonreligious... their fears of being misunderstood are entangled with their excessive need for certainty and intolerance of differentness' (66:1995) V. Genia

I personally do not feel being non-religious will be a problem for me, I feel if I were to follow a religion that this maybe more problematic as my own beliefs may cloud my vision of others who hold a different set of beliefs and values.

I feel that as I hold no religious views, such as sex before marriage, abortion or divorce, this decreases the chances of me holding any pre-conceived judgements. I would therefore hopefully understand others beliefs, values and morals even if not my own, as if the client were to be religious it would be their way of being and living life. I know I must understand and respect the importance of faith and what it means to others, also the influence it may have.

However I think there would be more challenges if the practitioner was religious and the client was not religious, because of the participation in activities deem unacceptable within the practitioners religion, or if both follow two different religions. An unethical counsellor could allow their religion in to the therapy room and may force their beliefs onto the client or place judgements.

Religion and sexuality: within many religions it is a sin to be gay, lesbian or transgender. There are counsellors who call themselves 'religious counselling' who believe that they can put right those who are a sin.

'religious counsellors and others who claim success in converting people from homosexuality. These people are dangerous in that they deny that the onslaught against homosexuality has any impact on the way homosexuals experience themselves' (55:2003) C. Lago, B. Smith

my initial thoughts are "this is outrageous and a very outdated way of thinking and behaving". As discussed before this opinion is held all over the world, it is said that homosexuality is an illness and it can be cured.

Although I am heterosexual I have no personal challenges within homosexual community. I have had friends and best friends from a young age who are gay males and females, and through my up bringing my friends and I have discussed the stigma attached to this community. Abuse I have witnessed along with bulling and confidence knocking during the 'coming out process' can be devastating. I feel I have worked though my own sexual orientation, because if not I think I would be confused, defensive and overwhelmed by other sexualities and this frame of mind is not steady to council an individual who may be questioning their sexuality and therefore feels confused and vulnerable.

Although homosexuality is being accepted more and more through the decades much has changed.

'the social context within different generations of lesbians and gay men have grown up as changed enormously over the last few decades. Just thirty years ago male homosexual acts carried the possibility of a prison sentence' (314:2000) S. Plamer

Over the last thirty years in Great Britain we have gay and lesbian bars and clubs, literature, programs, radio stations this shows the level of acceptance. However there are individuals and counsellors who are homophobic for whatever reasons these are the views and opinions of others, it is important to know that being homophobic is not wrong it is someone's opinion but there are limitations within the therapy relationship. My interest lays in where these limitations come from? i.e. learned behaviour, this is something I would like to explore with my clients who are homophobic, racist or discriminatory as it may help build on the clients process.

What regulations are in place to help others including counsellors to become aware of their own limitations and address them in order for them to work safely with clients?

BACP - British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy

The BACP is the largest association within the sector of Counselling and Psychotherapy, their duty is to regulate the safety of the public and inform its members of best practice, they work with other organisations in the same/similar field.

'the earlier RACE division of the association (which had been dedicated to the exploration and dissemination of good therapeutic practice in a multiracial/multicultural society) has more recently evolved into the 'Equality and Diversity forum' (15:2006) C. Lago

The Equality and Diversity objectives are to highlight equality and to reduce discrimination on, disability, gender, gender identity, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and to raise awareness of conflict or resolution between competing strands of equality and diversity.

There are also legislations in place to improve their lives of individuals of different sexual orientation.

'The Civil Partnership Act 2004 -It allows a legal partnership between two people regardless of gender... including survivor pensions, immigration, equal tax treatment, protection against domestic violence and next of kin rights.

Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulation 2007 - prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination ... sexuality should now be included in all diversity training' (111:2010) C. Butler & A. O'Donovan and E. Shaw

There are other projects in place to offer support to today's multicultural society these projects are all over the country and offer support to local or national residents examples follows

'Muslim Youth Helpline (MYH) is an integrated support service currently offering two forms of telephone & e-mail counselling, supported by a community outreach programme... MYH specialises in reaching out to marginalised ethnic minority communities by responding innovatively to the cultural conflicts & religious sensitivities of Muslim youth.' (2008) F. Shareefa & J. Raza

the problems with telephone based projects offering support is that it is unstable, there are many factors which are missed over the phone such as body language a way to spot congruence and dissociation. There is so much that can be benefited from one to one counselling in person.

Roshni Nottingham Asian Women's Aid

'Provides refuge for South Asian women (and their children) aged 16 upwards who are fleeing domestic violence and abuse or are living with an abusive partner/family' Nottingham Women's Centre

This centre is a brilliant idea in Nottingham, is located in an area Hyson Green, I'm not sure about the location because this centre is aimed towards Asian women, the area in which it is located is a majority Asian community therefore confidentiality could be an issue if seen by locals going into this centre. Having a centre aimed to support Asians could be seen as discrimination in itself ruling out other members of the community because they are white or black.

Gay Nottingham is a site that highlights the number of different projects taking place in Nottingham which offer support counselling and advice for GLBT(gay lesbian and transgender) individuals, one project which caught my attention was Adoramus

'Adoramus is a high church but inclusive Christian ministry in Nottingham. They're not specifically a gay church, but gay people are very welcome at all services, and the ministers bless gay relationships.' Gay Nottingham

The good intention I see in this is that this shows acceptance within the Christian religion, GLBT individuals are also religious and can participate in services and celebrate their faith. The reference suggests that 'ministers bless gay relationships' what exactly does this mean? The reference can only speak for the ministers so what about other members of the church are they happy with different sexual orientation? Especially when Christianity considers homosexuality to be a sin, Adoramus seems to lack the understanding of what support GLBT individuals need, and have they considered themselves ethically to be able to offer support which is safe?

Overall that has been a vast development in terms of understanding today's multicultural society. Over the decade's acceptance, appreciation and respect has grown towards individuals who are a minority. Although I feel there is more which can be done I wonder if discrimination will always be an issue for counsellors and clients as well as society in decades to come.

Exploring the different approaches to tackle multicultural counselling has enlightened me I have read numerous books to learn that there will be no right or wrong answer. All the topics discussed have advantages as well as disadvantages.

All I can do as a counsellor is to stick to the ethical guide lines given and be aware of what my own limitations are and to work through them, this could be a long process, therefore until I am ready, if I am faced with a client whom I feel I cannot offer safe support to I will accept this be congruent and if I must I will refer my client but whilst doing so, I shall not hold any shame around my limitations as I know I am only human and I will not be able to counsel every client I may face in the future.


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