MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING COMPETENCE IN SCHOOL COUNSELING

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1 MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING COMPETENCE IN SCHOOL COUNSELING Cheryl Moore-Thomas P Preview The rapidly changing demographics of the nation's student population demand that professional school counselors work effectively with all students. Multicultural counseling competence, therefore, is imperative. This chapter explores key definitions and elements of multicultural counseling competence for the professional school counselor. General strategies and considerations regarding the role of the multiculturally competent professional school counselor are identified. The chapter concludes with sample counseling interventions appropriate for the elementary, middle, and high school levels. ublic and private school enrollments have increased 19% since 1989 (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2005). This record enrollment, totaling over 54 million in 2002, is expected to increase another 3% by In addition, closer examination of these demographics indicates substantial increases in the minority student population. In 2004, public school minority enrollment was approximately 42% of the total K-12 enrollment. This represented a gain of 20 percentage points in minority enrollment over the last 30 years (NCES; 2005). Projections indicate that by 2020, most school-age children attending public schools will come from minority (non-white) cultures (P. Campbell, 1994). These changing demographics demand that professional school counselors be able to work effectively with students from various cultures (Constantine, 2001; Lee, 2001). The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) position statement on multicultural counseling calls on professional school counselors to "take action to ensure students of culturally diverse backgrounds have access to services and opportunities that promote maximum academic, personal/social and career development" (ASCA; 2004, p. 1). Professional school counselors must understand diversity in order to be effective (Herring, 1997), and, therefore, multicultural counseling competence, is of great consequence. DEFINITIONS Multicultural counseling is "a helping process that places the emphases for counseling theory and practice equally on the cultural impressions of both the counselor and the client" (Lee & Richardson, 1991, p. 3). More simply, multicultural counseling is the facilitation of human development through the understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity (ASCA; 2004). Multicultural counseling demands that professional school counselors work with students within appropriate cultural contexts. To do this, 70

2 professional school counselors must fully consider the language, values, beliefs, social class, level of acculturation, race, and ethnicity of their students and only use counseling interventions and techniques that are consistent with those cultural values. Although the ramifications of multicultural counseling may initially appear overwhelming, it should not be reduced to an add-on, or a list of stereotyped preferences. Multicultural counseling is a process (Spindler & Spindler, 1994; Sue, Ivey, & Pedersen, 1996). For the professional school counselor, the multicultural counseling process involves a shift in paradigm, which leads to true acceptance of and respect for the student in relation to self, others, and the environment. Within discussions of multicultural counseling the terms culture, race, and ethnicity axe, often used interchangeably, but they have important distinctions. Culture is the set of "values, beliefs, expectations, worldviews, symbols, and appropriate behaviors of a group that provide its members with norms, plans, and rules for social living" (Gladding, 2001, p. 34). As the definition suggests, culture is complex, multidimensional, and integrated. Professional school counselors might recognize several cultures and subcultures within their student population, and, although this adds to the complexity of the construct, understanding and appreciating culture and its multidimensionality gives professional school counselors valuable insights to their students' sense of self, language, communication patterns, dress, values, beliefs, use of time and space, relationships with family and significant others, food, play, work, and use of knowledge (Whitefield, McGrath & Coleman, 1992). Race, often referenced in conjunction with culture, is a separate construct that has little if any relevance to the understanding of culture. Race is an anthropological concept based on the classification of physiological characteristics (Gladding, 2001). There exists, however, a strong argument that race is a political and socioeconomic construct, which is correlated with artificially categorical differences in physical appearance (Brace, 1995; Yee, Fairchild, Weizmann, & Wyatt, 1993). Understanding this concept enables the professional school counselor to more appropriately address students' concerns that, on the surface, appear to involve race but, on closer examination, also involve issues that are political, psychological, social, or economic. Furthermore, this consideration will enable professional school counselors to examine the effects of students' racial identity development (see Benedetto & Olisky, 2001; Bradley & Kiselica, 1998; Helms, 1995; Karl Kwan, 2001; Tatum, 1997), a race-related adjustment process rooted in sociopolitical and cultural constructs and on academic, career, and personalsocial development. Ethnicity refers to the "group classification in which members believe they share a common origin and a unique social and cultural heritage such as language or religious belief" (Gladding, 2001, p. 45). Ethnicity describes a shared social and cultural heritage that is often passed from generation to generation. Ethnic classifications may help to shape students' sense of identity, appropriate behavior, and opportunity (Blum, 1998). Ethnic classifications include African American, Asian American, European American, Hispanic American, and Native American. In an attempt to be inclusive, institutions such as educational systems have adopted the use of many categories of ethnicity. This growth in awareness and sensitivity is to be commended. In the midst of the growing and ever-changing terminology, the professional school counselor must remember that 71

3 72 sensitivity to students' needs is paramount. When it is necessary for the professional school counselor to identify ethnicity, it is essential for him or her to use the term most preferred by the student and the student's family. It is equally important not to rely on any single term to define students. For example, some students of Latin American descent may find the term Hispanic offensive, as it refers to a Spanish influence, which many found oppressive. Diversity simply means "differences." The professional school counselor appreciates and understands diversity in the areas of race, ethnicity, gender, age, exceptionality, language, sexual orientation, spiritual identity, and socioeconomic status. The professional school counselor works to ensure that students of diverse backgrounds have access to needed services and opportunities (ASCA; 2004). ROLE OF THE MULTICULTURALLY COMPETENT PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL COUNSELOR The professional school counselor uses the helping processes of counseling, consulting, and coordinating to assist students, parents, teachers, and administrators (C. Campbell & Dahir, 1997). These processes must become manifest in comprehensive developmental counseling programs that are appropriate for students of culturally diverse backgrounds. When designing such a counseling program, professional school counselors should consider using the following: Strategies that increase sensitivity and awareness of the school population to cultural diversity, culturally diverse persons and populations, and enhance the school and community climate Consultation skills that identify factors in attitudes and policies that hinder the learning process of culturally diverse students Approaches that ensure that all students' rights are respected and all students' needs are met Counseling interventions that maximize students' potential (ASCA; 2004) Additionally, the professional school counselor must continually work toward multicultural counseling competence by engaging in the following: Increasing awareness of one's own culture and the culture of others through articles, books, conversations, activities, reflection, and experiences Becoming aware of and working to eliminate personal and school-wide barriers to effective multicultural counseling Refraining from using a "cookbook" a stereotypical approach to counseling students from specific racial or cultural groups Demonstrating mastery of a variety of individual and group counseling approaches and techniques that, when evaluated based on the students' needs, prove appropriate for individual culturally and ethnically diverse students Understanding reluctance and resistance to counseling that may be attributed to cultural factors (Baruth & Manning, 2000)

4 73 Increasing abilities to eliminate hostilities and satisfactorily resolve conflicts involving diversity, race, ethnicity, beliefs, or worldview (Baruth & Manning, 2000; Stone, 2003) Respecting the indigenous support and healing systems of all students Understanding possible stressors for students of diverse cultures (e.g., issues of acculturation, identity development, self-esteem, worldview, values, marginalization, social isolation, prejudice, oppression, racism, opportunity, discrimination; see Arredondo, 1999) Understanding the specific ways race, ethnicity, and culture might affect students' counseling decisions and academic, career, personal-social development Assuming multiple helping roles, based on the needs of students (e.g., advisor, advocate, facilitator of indigenous support systems, facilitator of indigenous healing systems, consultant, change agent; Atkinson, Thompson, & Grant, 1993) Providing student resources that are reflective of a diverse population Promoting school-wide programs and staff development opportunities that are inclusive of the school community and reflective of a diverse population Tools such as the Multicultural Counseling Checklist (Holcomb-McCoy, 2004) and the Multicultural Counseling Guidelines for Working With Children and Adolescents (Liu & Clay, 2002) can be used to further guide professional school counselors' multicultural counseling development and training. MULTICULTURAL COUNSELING COMPETENCE IN PRACTICE The sample lessons in Tables 7.1, 7.2, and 7.3 illustrate the use of many of the multicultural counseling strategies listed in the previous section. The samples integrate strategies in multiculturally competent school counseling interventions that are appropriate for the elementary, middle, and high school levels. These samples, aligned with the ASCA National Model: A Framework for School Counseling Programs, Personal-Social Domain, Standard A (ASCA; 2005), demonstrate just a few of the many effective ways professional school counselors may work with students from diverse cultural and racial backgrounds. TABLE 7.1 ELEMENTARY-LEVEL LESSONS Domain: Personal-Social Standard A: Students will acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect self and others. Competency: Acquire self-knowledge. Indicator: Identify and recognize changing family roles. Objective: After participating in the developmental guidance lesson on families in the community, 80% of the students will be able to identify two ways that families differ. Materials: One "Families Worksheet" for each student (See Figure 7.1).

5 74 TABLE 7.2 MIDDLE-SCHOOL-LEVEL LESSONS Domain: Personal-Social Standard A: Students will acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect self and others. Competency: Acquire self-knowledge. Indicator: Develop positive attitudes toward self as a unique and worthy person. Objective: After participating in the counseling group on self-esteem, 90% of the participants will complete the "Self-Esteem Questionnaire" (see Figure 7.2), reporting positive characteristics and statements about themselves. Materials: One "Self-Esteem Questionnaire" for each student (See Figure 7.2); popular magazines and books that are designed for young female audiences TABLE 7.3 HIGH-SCHOOL-LEVEL LESSONS Domain: Personal-Social Standard A: Students will acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect self and others. Competency: Acquire self-knowledge. Indicator: Identify and discuss changing personal and social roles. Objective: After completing the junior counseling session, 80% of the students will be able to identify two implications of their impending role change from high school student to high school graduate. Activity: Primary Grade-Level Developmental Guidance Lesson Conducted in Classroom Settings The professional school counselor collaborates with teachers to introduce various family structures and family roles to primary students. The professional school counselor ensures that ethnically and racially diverse families are represented through visual and audiovisual materials. Students discuss characteristics of families (members, customs, practices, etc.). The professional school counselor ensures that students understand that families are different in membership, member roles, and practices and introduces the term diverse. Students complete the "Families Worksheet" (see Figure 7.1) and are given an opportunity to share their worksheets. In closing, the professional school counselor emphasizes the value of all families not being the same. Evaluation: The professional school counselor collects and evaluates the students' worksheets. If 80% of the students completed the worksheet identifying at least two ways families are different (specific, appropriate responses to worksheet questions 3 and 4), the goal was met.

6 75 FIGURE 7.1. Example of a families worksheet. Activity: Girls Counseling Group on Self-Esteem Session 1. The professional school counselor discusses the purpose of the group. The group then works to establish ground rules. The members interview and introduce each other to the entire group. The group concludes with a discussion of member similarities to create universality, while noting differences to promote acceptance and tolerance. Session 2. Participants review the ground rules and what occurred in the first session. Students use a go-around technique to respond to the following: "I feel good about myself when...." The professional school counselor links commonalities and similarities to create universality, while noting differences to promote acceptance and tolerance. Session 3. Students summarize the previous session. The professional school counselor facilitates the group's processing of factors that get in the way of positive selfesteem. Media images are considered, and, specifically, the messages given to girls of diverse racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds are explored. Multiethnic magazines, video clips, and books should be provided as resources. Responses and feelings in reference to those images are processed. Session 4. The group members summarize content and feelings explored in the third session. The professional school counselor works with the students to process strategies that can be used to combat factors and emotions that hinder positive selfesteem development. Group members should be encouraged to share, but not to advise. The professional school counselor models acceptance and appreciation of each mem-

7 76 ber's participation. Attention is given to the diverse ways and the context within which the group's participants foster self-esteem development. Issues of self in relation to self, others, and the environment are explored. Session 5. Students use a go-around technique to respond to the following: "Share one thing you learned about yourself and others in the group. Share one thing you value about yourself and others in the group." The professional school counselor summarizes the group's sharing and learning. Appreciation of diversity and other emergent diversity themes are emphasized. Session 6. Members conclude the group experience by responding to the following prompt: "I feel good about myself when...." The professional school counselor links commonalities and similarities to create universality while noting differences to promote acceptance and tolerance. Group members are encouraged to share and celebrate positive changes in each other's responses. Growth in depth and quality of the responses is noted. Group members complete the "Self-Esteem Questionnaire" (see Figure 7.2) to culminate the group experience. The professional school counselor collects the questionnaires for review and evaluation. The questionnaires are returned to group members in individual follow-up and feedback sessions. Activity: Individual counseling sessions with high school juniors. The professional school counselor conducts an individual counseling session with each junior. In addition to discussing senior-year course selections and graduation requirements, the counselor engages the student in a consideration of changing roles, expectations, and feelings. The professional school counselor's knowledge of cultural and racial identity development and other issues of diversity allows conceptualization of the student's needs and responses that is appropriate, culturally sensitive, and facilitates the beginning of the successful transition from the role of high school student to graduate. The professional school counselor uses multiculturally competent counsel- FIGURE 7.2. Example of a self-esteem questionnaire.

8 77 ing skills (e.g., individual counseling approaches that incorporate racial and cultural identity development factors as well as consideration of possible student stressors like social isolation, marginalization, and discrimination) to help the student identify effective strategies for effectively addressing any noted expectations, feelings, and implications within the appropriate cultural context. Specifically, the professional school counselor asks each student to identify at least two implications of the role change from high school student to graduate. An action plan is discussed and implemented as appropriate. Evaluation: If 80% of the students were able to identify two implications of their impending role change from high school student to prospective graduate, the objective was met. SUMMARY/CONCLUSION Student populations are undoubtedly becoming more diverse. As the professional school counselor looks toward the future, professional integrity and competence must include the ability to effectively meet the needs of all students. The rapid growth of diversity in public and private school populations may make the task of meeting all students' needs appear, at times, quite awesome. However awesome they may be, the professional school counselor must certainly meet the challenge: The professional school counselor's commitment to students' uniqueness and maximum development of potential demands no less. (Note: See the CD-ROM for a list of references.)

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