Counsellors actively work to understand the diverse cultural background of the clients with whom they work, and do not condone or engage in discrimination based on age, colour, culture, ethnicity, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation, marital, or socio-economic status.
Latino families, for example, are socialised to have a strong sense of family or familism, so to discount the importance of the family in family therapy would be counterproductive to the counselling process.
It is therefore important to consider the family as a whole, not just the person with the issue. It is only relatively recently that there has been ethnic specific counselling in theory and practice. We are all cultural beings and being aware of our culture and our cultural development is important. As individuals we are all shaped by our family, social influences and so on, who reinforced our world view, norms and behaviours and limit our openness to people from different cultural backgrounds. How we are socialised therefore influences how we consider culture and cultural diversity within the counselling situation.
When carrying out multicultural family therapy, it is important that the counsellor is aware of the culture of the family that he/she is supporting, and to consider how comfortable they are in supporting someone who may have a very different world view to their own. Also, multicultural competence refers to our knowledge of others in the world, so we must give attention to the way that we categorise people as “others” For example, a white male therapist may consider anyone who is female or black or Asian as “other” to him. He may do this subconsciously, but this could affect the way he performs within the counselling situation. Therefore, going back to the example of Latino families, it is important to have a good understanding of their way of living to avoid stereotyped behaviour in counselling and treatment options.
Care must also be taken when considering interventions, to take account of language differences/preferences, the expectations of the family, services that they have access to, who will support them, actual counselling interventions and so on. For the treatment to be effective, a range of different options might be considered to find the one that is most suitable for the family and the family identity.
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