Human Services: Multicultural Counseling

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Human Services: Multicultural Counseling

Human Services: Multicultural Counseling


Upon hearing multicultural counseling, culturally diverse counseling, or counseling of diverse populations most people may think of groups that differ from the dominant culture in our society, such as, race, culture, ethnicity, etc. Many people do not think beyond these categories to consider a second tier of diversity, for instance, age, disability, sexual orientation, etc. What is the dominant culture? In most references the comparison is associated with the White Euro-American norms. The basic assumption that heterosexuality is the only normal path of all human beings creates a need for counseling trainees to consider the hidden minority group of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender issues (GLBT).

Multicultural Counseling

In general, many counselor trainees might be unfamiliar with the distinction of these above-mentioned titles. An affection and/or orientation to a person of the same sex is referred to as homosexuality (Sue and Sue, 2003). Commonly, males are known as gay, females are known as lesbians. Individuals who self-identify themselves as homosexual or as heterosexual and move back and forth between the groups are self labeled as bisexuals (Matthews, 2001). Transgender individuals consist of transsexuals, individuals undergoing hormone treatment, and others who elect surgery (Sue and Sue, 2003). In most of my readings and research on counseling diverse populations, I find that bisexual and transgender issues have been omitted or lightly touched upon.

Mainstream culture refers to the predominant or majority culture within a country or society. However, there are also many subcultures within the mainstream British culture, the outstanding ones being English, Northern Irish, Scots and Welsh. A neutral definition of an ethnic minority is that it is a group differentiated from the main population of a country by racial origin and/or cultural background. A more telling definition of a minority, be it ethnic or otherwise is that it is 'a group of people who, because of physical or cultural characteristics, are singled out from others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment, and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination' (Wirth, 2008, p. 347).

The central value of multiculturalism is that of cultural pluralism and acknowledging that nations like Britain, Australia and America are cultural mosaics rather than cultural melting pots (Sue et al., 2008). Multiculturalism can be contrasted with monoculturalism where high value is attached only to the patterns of behaviour of the dominant or mainstream culture.

Cultural cohesion or social cohesiveness refers to the extent to which the norms of a culture or nation help it to stick together. In Britain, Australia and the USA many of the problems of cultural minorities are those of equality of access to opportunities within the mainstream culture rather than the fact that a mainstream culture exists. In such culturally diverse countries, a balance needs to be struck between multiculturalism and cultural cohesion. If taken to extremes, in a highly culturally diverse country like Australia, multiculturalism could lead to each ethnic group following its own agenda and so coming into conflict with ...
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