“Be yourself, because the people who mind don’t matter, and the people that matter, don’t mind”
I am no stranger to multiculturalism. I was born in one continent, raised in another, and my mother now lives in a third continent. In today’s society, it is common to work with, study with, or play with someone, or a group of people, who come from a different race and culture. Indeed, surrounding ourselves with diversity is healthy, intellectual, and something that should not be taken for granted. Our culture has a lot to offer, just as other cultures and societies have a lot to offer and teach us. Both professional and personal relationships are impacted, positively and negatively, depending on one’s knowledge and awareness of the other’s cultural values and belief systems. Ultimately, it comes down to forgoing prior biases and assumptions, and learning to embrace and love an individual and or culture’s uniqueness.
Multicultural counseling has become very prevalent in recent decades. It is important for counselors, new and experienced, to be mindful of and respectful towards the diverse clientele that they are serving. As a counselor-in-training, I have learned many important lessons about working with diverse clients throughout the duration of my internship. I would like to share a few of these lessons with you.
First and foremost, I have learned that working with individuals from different cultures requires time and patience on behalf of both the counselor and the client. There are several factors that can hinder progress. These factors include but are not limited to: language barriers, opposing beliefs, biases, level of development etc. However, with perseverance progress is attainable. It is important to remember that improvement may simply move at a slower pace than the counselor is accustomed to.
If an unfamiliar value, belief, custom, or tradition presents itself to you, then take the time to research it and the culture. It is okay to ask the client to share and explain things about their said culture. Moreover, it is my belief that the notion of asking “too many questions” does not exist, particularly if the knowledge you receive betters your ability to provide quality services to your diverse clients. In other words, the therapeutic relationship is further enhanced and strengthened when the counselor communicates acceptance and the desire to truly get to know the client and his or her world.
If we go through life without ever taking risks, then our lives can easily become stale and mundane. How easy is it to associate with one type of person or one culture that is similar to your own? Exploring and embracing differences can actually be beneficial and even rewarding. While getting to know diverse and unfamiliar clients, it is important to keep in mind that we should not assume things about the client and his or her values and beliefs. Enter each session with an open mind and maintain that flexibility throughout the duration of your time together.
Working with diverse clients can positively impact your worldviews, opinions about others, and your relationship with people and cultures around you. Put simply, diversity should be celebrated and welcomed. In celebrating and welcoming the many differences that surround us, we allow ourselves to become more open-minded towards and knowledgeable of other people and cultures. When counselors gain an increased awareness and understanding of these differences, they can better serve the needs of all their clients.