As we look around today, we see diverse cultures, ethnicity, skin colour and many other distinct features and uniqueness. The reason for this phenomenon is work opportunities transcending geographical boundaries. Another reason is to find refuge elsewhere due to oppression in the country of origin. For others, it’s for educational purposes. This list can expand more with various justifications. As such, societies have become more open to culturally and ethnically diverse people.
Within Australia, there is undoubtedly an increase in immigrants. These are from diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds in its population. According to the 2011 Australian census (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012), 24.6% of Australia’s resident population was born overseas. 43.1% of people have at least one overseas-born parent. Over 18% of Australian onshore tertiary students were international students. 82% of these were Asian-born.
Henceforth mental health professionals need to be culturally aware and sensitive. Furthermore, they should be effective in working with individuals from diverse backgrounds. These include students and those who have only recently arrived in the country. Generally, Counsellors need to improve their cultural competence when working with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) clients.
What is Multicultural Counselling?
To clarify culturally sensitive counselling, firstly we need to define Multicultural Counselling.
Multicultural counselling is counselling with “two or more (…) participants differ(ing) in cultural background, value and lifestyle”.
It also refers to the preparation and practices that integrate 3 main domains.
Domains of Multicultural Counselling
The three main domains are awareness, knowledge and skills in the counselling interactions.
Awareness: Understanding of personal beliefs and attitudes. Insight how counsellors are the product of their cultural conditioning.
Knowledge: Understanding of the worldviews of culturally different clients.
Skills: Process of developing abilities. Such as practising appropriate intervention strategies needed for working with culturally different clients.
How to gain counselling skills for culturally diverse clients
Finally, to help us develop an awareness of these competencies here are some questions for reflection by Corey (2001).
- An awareness of how our cultural background and biases play a part in the therapeutic alliance. What specific steps can you take to broaden your base of understanding, both of your own culture and other cultures?
- Identify your basic assumptions. Such as culture, ethnicity, race, gender, class, religion, and sexual orientation. How will these assumptions affect the outcome of therapy?
- Are your attitudes about diverse cultures your own, and have you examined them?
- What are some of how we all share universal concerns? Is there any common ground among people of diverse cultures and ethnicity?
If you are looking for a multicultural counsellor, at COPE we can help you. We offer both multilingual and multicultural services including services for indigenous people.
For further information on multicultural services, also have a look at our YouTube series on the topic.
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By Benny Mun
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