bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

Murray Bowen’s Passion

I recently wrote about Murray Bowen’s Family Systems Theory, and while reflecting on his professional achievements I began to marvel at the underlying story his work told.  I find that Bowen’s motivations for his personal and professional goals intertwined and, as a result, propelled him toward success.  I assert that his professional interest in helping families came from his personal observations of his own family of origin.

To me, Bowen epitomizes his own theory.  One of Bowen’s foundational thoughts was that individuals must acknowledge generational patterns and make necessary changes accordingly, in an effort to extinguish the transmission of foul patterns to present and future generations.  In true form, Bowen’s motivation was derived from his own family of origin issues, which provided him the determination to examine and rectify those issues.  In doing so he provided other families, outside of his own, the tools to do the same (in part due to his ability to construct and record the relevant information).  Though some have offered the opinion that portions of Bowen’s work are convoluted, his research and theory paved the way for academicians since their derivation.

I think of Bowen as a person whose passion for his work is reflected in his success.  To me his work speaks for itself, but it is in the light of his recipe for success that I believe he is a beacon for therapists.  Those associated with the helping professions (therapists and academicians alike) should be individuals who have a passion for their work.

In my opinion, passion associated with a therapist consists of several attributes, to include enthusiasm and excitement.  However, therapists with too much passion (better stated as an inappropriate level of passion) for their work may be pushed to make unethical decisions such as diagnosing for the purpose of treatment (concerning health insurance), creating unhealthy client/clinician relationships, or pressing for progression with clients while disregarding the nuances of the process of their particular approach.  Likewise, an academician or researcher may be able to use the extremes of passion to their advantage if the energy is properly harnessed.  But there is often a fine line between working hard at discovery and proving one’s own worth…between fertilizing a mind and molding it.  The progression of the field through theory and research often requires a person to cut against the grain or take a seemingly blind leap.  For these professionals, a heightened sense of passion can prove essential.

While this article is directed towards helping professionals, the points extend to any individual who may be on the journey of self-discovery.  We all from time to time ask ourselves, “Who am I?”   We all wonder about our own level of success and seek to discover purpose.

 

bowen family systems therapy fieldsofknowledgeblog

So I ask you to examine whether you have taken something personal and made it a profession, or simply allowed your profession to overshadow your person?  Are you determined, motivated, enthusiastic and excited about what you do?  Whether you are a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, despite the vast age difference, you are likely looking for significance.  You should look inside and outside.  You should look at the past and the future.  You may start by asking yourself what you have to offer and compare that with what the world around you needs.  Align your passion with your purpose and find the fulfillment you are searching for.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

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Bowen’s Family Systems Theory

Bowen Family Systems Theory

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory is centrally focused on families as an emotional unit within the context of nature.  Bowen systems theory serves as a guide for family therapy, and is moreover the cornerstone of family systems therapy.  Bowen’s theory is robust; however, there are several key concepts and assumptions that construct its framework.

One such concept is triangulation–the basic arrangement of all existing relationships—which specifies that the initial relationship is between two individuals, then, after an undetermined period of time, a third person is inevitably included.  The relationships between these three individuals will constantly shift, and one will consistently become the “outsider” of the triad and continue to push for change.  De-triangulation occurs when a member of the system is successful at differentiating herself from the emotional system and gains personal control over emotionality and reactivity.  This feat results in a sense of responsibility “to” the system as opposed to a responsibility “for” the system.

The primary focus of Bowen systems theory is the establishment of a differentiated self.  Bowen declares that for one to operate at their highest level of functioning in any relationship system, it is necessary that differentiation from the system be reached and maintained.  To function at a high level of differentiation, one must have well-resolved emotional attachments from previous family systems, not be dependent on reactivity from others in their relationships, and have the ability to remain objective regarding themselves as well as their current system involvement.  This concept is introduced to clients at the beginning of therapy in order for their treatment to be optimally received.

When reviewing such concepts as triangulation and differentiation, it is necessary to understand the fundamentals of relationship systems.  The nuclear family emotional system is the most basic of the relationship systems, and involves the parents and children only.  This is when triangulation and shifts in relationships have the potential to change most frequently, and have the most significant impact on the individuals involved.  The causes for the shifts in this system would most likely be from a persistent escalation of tension and anxiety within the system (i.e. between the parents, between a parent and child, or among the children), or the reactivity to significant events by the members of the system.

Concerning relationship systems, a key concept includes family projection which occurs within the nuclear family emotional system.  Bowen proposes that a parent—most often the mother—projects her emotions onto a child as a result of the tension and anxiety she is currently experiencing and absorbing from her other relationships.  The adaptive parent commonly becomes over-emotionally involved with one of the children, potentially leading to the child having differentiation issues and unresolved emotional attachments to this system as well as being prone to emotional cutoff from family.  This is typically the result of the parent attempting to anticipate any insecurities or issues they may have, wrongly diagnosing these issues, and then “fixing” the dilemma, which ultimately leads to the child developing a strong, unnecessary dependence on the parent for the resolution to the issue.

Furthermore, the ability to function at a high level of differentiation is pivotal when studying the multigenerational transmission process.  The multigenerational relationship patterns (positive and negative) exist when an individual enters new relationships with others who are functioning at a similar level of differentiation.  This behavior perpetuates the cycle of parents attempting to shape the child, the child responding to the parents’ anxiety level, and the establishment of a significant dependency on the emotional reactivity of others in their system.  Understanding the transmission of multigenerational patterns is a concept that Bowen placed at the forefront of his therapeutic approach.  He would have clients construct a genogram depicting not only their nuclear family, but also their extended family system in an attempt for them to objectively see the behavioral patterns among all of the individuals involved, as opposed to simply possessing an emotional response to their family issues.  When the children affected by the tensions of their nuclear family system become adults, and possible anxiety regarding their family of origin begin to surface, it is common to experience a negative emotional reaction and elect to completely separate themselves from the system.  These individuals are functioning at low levels of differentiation so they are unable to de-triangle from the system, and feel they are only left with the option of emotional cutoff.  By cutting themselves off they are leaving all of their emotional attachments unresolved, leaving them more likely to become overly dependent in other relationships; thus increasing the likelihood of significant levels of fusion—considerably lowering their functioning potential in the relationship.

A major factor in determining how each child in a nuclear family system absorbs tension and reacts to their parents’ anxiety is their birth order.  Sibling position is a determinant for certain characteristics that individuals gain during adolescence, and maintain throughout adulthood.  Bowen presented the concept that a first-born child may have a purposeful niche in the family.  It is likely that this child will absorb the most anxiety produced by the parents’ relationship (i.e. the child provides a new focus for the mother’s emotions; the child provides an excuse for the father to spend additional time at work, etc.).  The emotional responsibility of this child is so much more significant than that of his subsequent siblings, that although having been raised in the same household by the same parents, they will develop different personalities and characteristics.  For example, a first-born child will be more likely to develop a stronger leadership role, have more unresolved emotional attachments, and function at a lower level of differentiation; whereas, the middle and youngest children will have been exposed to less anxiety, may function at higher levels of differentiation, and experience less dependency in adult relationships.

In addition to the emotional system that individuals experience with their nuclear and extended family, Bowen suggested that there also exists the presence of a societal emotional process that individuals are involved in as well.  He emphasized that the current and future condition of society can have an effect on emotional systems.  For example, if society’s current state is regression, then additional anxiety is likely to arise in family systems, creating more tensions that may not be present in the system if society was in a more consistent state.

Aside from the major concepts of Bowen’s theory, there are several background concepts and assumptions that must be taken into consideration when studying the theory or applying it to the clinical environment.  The first of which is chronic anxiety.  According to Bowen, one of the primary ways to create a balanced and fulfilling relationship in an emotional system is to regulate chronic anxiety.  Chronic anxiety is a result of one’s emotional reaction to an imagined threat that has become sustained in the relationship, and has to potential to be detrimental to a relationship as one member will begin to disproportionally absorb the anxiety produced by the relationship.  They become the “adaptive” member of the system, which prevents an individual from functioning at a high level of differentiation due to their overfunctioning in the relationship—spending so much of their energy anticipating negative reactivity from the other members of the system that they are incapable of free-thinking or taking a desired objective position on the relationship.  As a result of being adaptive, social, mental, and physical symptoms may surface.  These symptoms can surface in the form of depression, avoidant behavior, and medical ailments ranging from the common cold to cancer, just to name a few.

In addition to chronic anxiety Bowen presents the idea that humans are innately driven by two basic forces in life:  individuality and togetherness.  He suggests that individuals naturally seek to feel a sense of belonging, whether in a general social or working environment, or in a relationship system.  This is his basis for introducing the concept of reactivity dependence, and that one who does not feel the desired belonging that they are searching for will develop an increasing dependency on the affirmation of their partner, and will continuously become more fused to that relationship.  Also, if an individual does not have a clearly defined self, they will consistently be in search of their individuality.  They will also seek relationships that cater to this aspect of themselves that they are lacking; most likely prematurely fleeing from their family of origin to do so.

Additionally, systems theory operates under the assumption that emotional systems are uncontrolled, and typically unconscious, reactions to events and situations experienced by humans.  Bowen makes a distinction between emotions and feelings, insisting that feelings are the conscious reactions that surface when beneath lies a significant emotional issue.  He also specifies that both feelings and emotions should be secondary to an individual’s objective perspective when observing their own relationship systems.  In conjunction, Bowen addresses the concept that one’s family is an emotional unit, inferring that any changes within any of the systems can result in an unconscious emotional reaction affecting the entire multigenerational unit.  This approach also assumes that any symptoms that develop in one individual can be a product of the anxiety absorbed from another part of the system, not just that individual’s nuclear family.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Adler the Conqueror

Alfred Adler Adlerian Theory

When investigating the theory of Alfred Adler, it is essential to consider the impact his childhood experiences had on his cognitive development, and consequently his work.  Adler’s life in Austria was plagued with traumatic events.  These conflicts, along with the multi-cultural surroundings, influenced his conceptual development of social interest.  Adler first went into practice as an ophthalmologist, later to become a psychiatrist.  For all the Thundercats (1985-89) fans out there, I suppose he graduated to “sight, beyond sight.”  At any course, he would eventually link up with Sigmund Freud as a member of a psychoanalytic circle.  He began to write psychoanalytical articles for journals; his views emphasized the subjectivity of perception and the importance of social factors more so than biological considerations.  He later broke away from Freud’s group, cementing the differences he and Freud held.  World War I impacted Adler as well, due to his service obligation, he had a first-hand view that confirmed his socialist perspectives.  Adler’s life experiences not only shaped his views of the world but were the crucible for his development of personality and psychotherapeutic theories and practices.

Kurt and Alexandra Adler continued their father’s (Alfred’s) work upon his death in 1937.  Though his children continued to make advancements and modifications to the work of their father, many of the influential contributors came prior to their generation.  One such influence was Immanuel Kant.  Adler developed, from Kant, a desire to aid individuals in acquiring practical knowledge of themselves and others.  Hans Vaihinger, another contributor to Adler’s developments, influenced Adler by way of the concept of “factionalism”.  Though Freud and Adler separated never to reconcile, Freud had a large impact on Adler’s developments as well.  Freud provided Adler with a basic framework that allowed Adler to develop his own ideas.  Adler was noted to have given credit to Freud for his emphasis on dreams and the unconscious.  However, due to Freud’s popularity in Europe and the United States, Adler was less productive at drawing attention in those places.  The American psychiatrist, Rudolf Dreikurs, was a heavy proponent for Adlerian theory.  Dreikurs was responsible for many innovations in the application of the theory, with additions such as the concept of multiple therapy and systematic analysis.  The influences and contributors to Adlerian therapy have been many.  Adlerians today continue to strive to guide the theory in new directions.

As imagined, with so many influences the Adlerian theory is multi-faceted and complex in nature but retains several key concepts.  Alder pulled from Vaihinger’s “factionalism” to develop the concept of “fictional goals.”  In this concept, fictions are considered to be ideas that are useful tools for individuals to deal with life’s realities.  The practice of using attitudes and values as truths aids humans’ interactions with each other on a day-to-day basis.  Adler as well as Friedrich Nietzsche (German philosopher) used the concept of “will to power.”  Adler took the concept in a different direction than Nietzsche in that Adler described “will to power” as humans attempt to gain competence.  Adler entangled the concept with his views on equality, as he opposed socialism by violence.

Adler did extensive study in personality though his views in this area are very broad and open.  He focused on the individual as a whole as well as individuals interactions with society.  His theory uses the individual’s style of life to evaluate the coping mechanisms they use when faced with adversity.  He also breaks social interest into three stages: aptitude, ability and secondary dynamic characteristics.  Tied to Adler’s theory of personality are the concepts of inferiority/superiority and birth order.  The concepts of therapy and counseling, as pertains to Adlerians, directly affect the impact of goals on treatment.  The therapeutic relationship is valued by Adlerians; they believe the goals of the patient and therapist must be synonymous.  Adlerians begin assessments at the commencement of the client relationship and continue those evaluations as the relationship builds.  During assessment the therapist chooses key timing to integrate interpretations and insight leading the client to a phase of reorientation.  Adlerians’ pragmatic approach to psychotherapy can be seen through their interactions with individuals suffering from psychological disorders.  Vivid examples of the approach are seen through Adlerians work with depression, eating disorders and borderline disorders. Within these processes, Adlerians assess the disorder and seek to ameliorate the affects the disorder has on the individual.  Almost as an ode to Adler, Adlerians believe disorders stem from personality conflicts that occurred early in life.  These key concepts of the Adlerian theory have been refined over time and continue to be developed today.  The strong framework set by Adler has given current Adlerians a firm foundation that is sure to have an impact on psychotherapy for generations to come.

I credit much of Adler’s success to his trials in childhood.  He displayed a strong will and work ethic, which should be revered by all.  It is my belief that individuals will be rewarded for their efforts to aid society, despite and in many cases as a result of, the challenges and adversities they may face along the way.  Adler had thoughts of his own regarding this subject as he believed individuals have a responsibility to function in society.  He surmised all individuals will face challenges, and it is essential that they learn to cope with these challenges and continue to seek success for individual accomplishment as well as societal enrichment.  Adler embraced choice and responsibility, which are directly inline with my beliefs.  Though certain factors in the early stages of life influence the development of each individual, they retain the responsibility to make ethical decisions.  Adler showed respect for human responsibility, individuality and capacity to change.  These concepts have essentially been the theme for American society for the past decade, and while we are often so busy trying to get ahead by moving forward, the best explanations may very well be history.

For more about Adler and his work, I suggest Understanding Life: An Introduction to the Psychology of Alfred Adler, one of the modern translations of Adler’s work by (Adlerian) Colin Brett.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Alcoholism: Disease or Behavior

Criterion A.2. of Alcohol Use Disorder, as presented in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), is the foundation for my conceptualization of alcoholism as either a disease or a behavior.  Obviously a person who meets the criteria for a mental disorder warrants a diagnosis of a mental disorder, right?  Isn’t the DSM gospel?  Okay, so cynicism aside, the criterion of which I am referring is as follows: “There is a persistent desire or unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.”  In short, if a person is behaving in a manner that they do not wish to behave, and they have put forth significant honest efforts to stop that behavior (or emotion, etc.) then they need help.  If help is most effective by way of mental health intervention, then I believe that the mechanisms should be in place for that assistance to be received (thus a diagnosis be present within the DSM).

It is in the assessment of the criterion of reference where the distinction is made between people who are engaging in an irresponsible manner versus a person who is “ill”.  I would almost go as far as to say that the criterion should be listed separately from the others and be required in addition to “at least two of the others.”  The reality is that due to its subjectability, the criterion is not a foolproof method for determining “disease.”  What a person says they have done to stop, cut down or control alcohol is unfortunately not always factual in nature.  This in itself creates a conflict with therapeutic approaches that the clinician accepts the client’s reality (regardless of truth), similar to the process of dealing with victims of violence or abuse.

Gaining an understanding of the hopelessness a client feels is often a prerequisite for intervention (which sometimes proves therapeutic in itself); however, validation of the hopelessness should not be required of a clinician.  With this thought process in mind, which is often best, clinicians commit due diligence to understanding the problem as the client sees it, and make some efforts to validate the claims the client makes with regard to their unsuccessful efforts to control their alcohol use.

During this validation process it is useful to understand the means by which the client has presented themselves to therapy.  Was it court-ordered, were they pressured or did they come on their own accord?  The reason for a client sitting in your office is oftentimes a predictor of the level of expected success, though asking the client directly may be illuminating as well.

With the work of Michele Weiner-Davis in mind, a therapist should also search for evidence of pretreatment change.  These are all factors that are associated with determining the “classification” of alcoholism and more importantly the need for intervention.  Regardless of how it’s classified, as a clinician, with a client sitting in front of you, you have an obligation.

Consideration of the factors mentioned above may also serve as a guide to a therapist evaluating which approach to intervention may best suit a particular client.  Due to my affinity for Marriage and Family Therapy, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an assessment of the effects of the alcohol use, regarding the family (if present), should also be a factor in determining the goals of therapy.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

The Racial Identification Development Model (R/CID)

The purpose of the Racial/Cultural Identification Development model is for therapists to provide the foundation for an individual of a specific culture to positively progress toward their own cultural identity.  The desired end state being that they foster an appreciation for their own cultural lineage while developing their own personal set of beliefs and values.  Clinicians use the R/CID model to distinguish a client’s current stage of cultural identity, and then provide objectives and guidance that the client can use throughout their journey to understanding and accepting their own culture and evolving their personal identity within their culture.

The stages of the model are comprised of the conformity, dissonance, resistance and immersion, introspection, and integrative awareness stages.  The series of stages represent every possible mindset of an individual from the extreme negative to the final acceptance and appreciation of one’s culture.  In the case of African Americans, extremes of their cultural views would include either a complete disregard or shunning of their minority culture, or the opposite, in which they would display a total unacceptance of the majority (White) culture, displaying a significant level of racism toward the majority culture members.  The stages are definitive, and the ideal is for an individual to progress through them; however, it is not required that an individual be in the first stage before they can begin their advancement toward the desired end state.

Although the first stage of the R/CID is the conformity stage, it is not necessary for an individual to be present in this stage to seek and proceed with therapy.  This stage is identifiable in a person by their overt rejection of their own culture.  This occurs by the individual attempting to adopt and uplift the values of White culture, while simultaneously demeaning the value system of their cultural group.  African Americans would depict their presence in the conformity stage by their attitudes regarding themselves.

In my personal life, I have witnessed quite a few instances of this; most notably was a twenty-four year old African American friend of mine who harbored a hatred of all people and things attributed to be African American related.  He was also excessive in his acceptance of all things related to White culture.  He would only wear clothing brands typically associated with Whites, only date White or Asian females, and refused to have any African American friends; and this type of behavior is common in African Americans who are present in this stage.

As an individual, an African American would adopt White cultural aspects such as mannerisms, speech pattern, dress, and goals in an attempt to not only mimic these attributes, but also to make themselves more attractive to the members of the dominant culture.  If their individual “acceptance” is gained, then they can prove to the other members of their minority group that they are “better” than they are.  In this stage, an individual’s perceptions involving the other members of their minority group would include their overall shunning of these persons as they operate on the views of the majority culture.

African Americans, in this instance, would view themselves as the exceptions of their racial group.  To them, they supersede any African American typecasts because they hold differing views than the other group members.  For example, a college-educated, employed black male would hold himself in a higher regard than other members of his group because he is not “lazy, ignorant, unemployed and criminal.”  They would view the members of other minority groups a similar way—as if he were in the majority culture.  In the conformity stage, a minority individual would either rank other minority groups on oppression level, or view them all as equally “below” him.  For instance, an African American’s thought process may be that he is in competition with an Asian American individual to gain majority approval because, “White’s already know an Asian is smart.”  Finally, persons functioning in the conformity stage view the majority group as the ideal culture.  They hold the majority culture in a superior light, and view full acculturation to the majority group as his or her ultimate achievement.

The stage of dissonance is defined by just that, a period of time in which a previously conforming individual is now faced with a disagreement between his or her self-concept and the attitudes of his culture.  It is typical for an event to delegate one’s shift from the conforming stage to the dissonance stage, and this event usually appears in the form of overt racism or discrimination.  An African American male in a professional environment could be participating in a work-related event among White individuals he perceives to be his equal colleagues, and while at the event could be faced with a discriminatory comment (aimed at him) that could immediately begin to alter his views regarding his place in his minority culture group.

In this stage, one’s views regarding themselves would entail a great deal of questioning in reference to why they even desired to be acculturated into White culture since there are clearly aspects of it that are not as positive as they once thought.  Their attitudes towards members of their minority group will begin to take the form of acceptance, and the realization that their views are not as negative as they previously perceived.  It is likely that this individual would experience shame and regret at the thought of their repelling all of their minority group’s values, simply to adopt all White culture ideals.  Their views regarding other minority groups would shift as well, although not as significantly as it would among their own minority group; however, this individual would gain a new sense of acceptance among other minority groups.

Another significant change would be the one between the individual and how they now view the majority culture.  This adjustment would surface in the form of the depreciating value of the majority culture’s ideals.  The dissonant individual now realizes that they were never completely accepted as a member of the majority culture, and that race remains to be a contributor of discrimination, no matter how educated or accomplished the minority culture individual may be.

Resistance and Immersion is the next stage in the sequence.  While in this stage, it is noted that individuals experience a strong gravitation toward their minority culture and begin to dissolve any connection to their previously upheld views of, in this case, White culture.   The individual also dissipates any validity of the majority culture.  The person’s guilt and shame surface as they understand their role of oppressive enabler of the majority culture.  Their reflective attitude regarding their personal role encourages them to begin to seek knowledge regarding their own culture with ferocity.  And by obtaining this new knowledge base, these individuals increasingly experience a sense of pride for their own cultural group.  Their opinions regarding their same minority group shifts in the sense that they now focus on unraveling previous doubts and identifying a sense of connectedness among its members.  This begins the process of upholding their own cultural group’s values as opposed to the majority group.  Among other minority groups, individuals in the resistance and immersion stage begin to seek similarities within the other groups, typically in the form of joining together in a united front with opposition of the racism and oppression exhibited by the majority culture.  For example, African Americans may seek out likenesses between themselves and Hispanics, attempting to forge relationships based on the commonality that they have both experienced a great deal of discrimination from White America.  Their views toward the majority group change significantly in that distrust, anger, and disdain emerge as the individual reasons that the source of discrimination lies in White culture.  Henceforth, the individual vows to function in total opposition to majority culture.

The therapist attempts to guide persons in the Resistance and Immersion stage toward understanding their own functionality, emotionality, and level of differentiation.  This is achieved, in part, by the therapist aiding the individual with creating their own objectives and ideals.  Once this framework is established, one can transition into the Introspection stage.  It is during this stage that a minority individual acknowledges that the energies they have been delegating towards being angry and distrustful of the majority group are futile.  They begin to understand that these emotions are a hindrance to the efforts that could be allocated toward gaining knowledge regarding their own cultural group.  It is during this stage that individuals aspire to create their own autonomy, and are discouraged from defining themselves based specifically on a cultural group.  Their attitude toward their own cultural group changes in that they begin to understand that total immersion or resistance to a certain group may not be the appropriated route.

While gaining a more neutral position, the individual’s allegiance to his own group will begin being questioned by its members.  The introspective person will understand the importance of gaining knowledge regarding other minority groups.  It is in this stage that their focus will not be on oppressive likenesses, but instead will be on the differences.  The individual will be interested to learn more about other minority groups’ discriminatory experiences.  For the African American, the attitude toward White culture would still remain greatly underdeveloped.  In the introspective stage, the individuals are continually seeking more information to validate their acceptance of any White values.  Their disdain for White culture dissipates to form a more curious, knowledge-seeking, and general questioning of the reason for many of the ideals that White culture upholds.

In the final stage of the R/CID model the minority group individual has progressed significantly toward establishing his or her own autonomy within their cultural group, as well as in relation to the majority culture.  In this Integrative Awareness stage the individual possess the ability to identify the benefits as well as disadvantages of the ideals of the majority culture, without concentrating on solely the oppression aspect of, in this instance, White society.  They harbor no discourse with their own minority culture, nor do they hold any disconcerting feelings toward the overall values of the majority culture.  From this point forward, the individual possesses an increasingly strong feeling of empathy toward the cultural group in which they belong, as they have absorbed it’s belonging values and delineated which values they choose not to abide by, without the feeling of discouragement that they are not all-absorbed in the entirety of the culture.  Individuals in the Integrative Awareness stage tend to welcome forging relationships among other minority cultures.  Adhering to the mindset of multicultural awareness, they continue the aspiration to obtain more knowledge regarding other minority cultures as well as the oppression experienced by each group.  They have also evolved into an appreciation of the positive aspects of the majority culture, and have created an inviting attitude toward understanding and identifying with individuals in that culture.  This stage involves finding the likenesses and benefits of multiple aspects of the majority culture.

The potential implications for clinicians involved in using the Racial/Cultural Identity Development model includes the unpredictability regarding when a client is actively transitioning from one stage to the next.  In this light, it is difficult to understand or estimate when a client is emotionally and psychologically prepared to advance from one stage to the next.  This is when the importance of cultural competence and the therapist-client relationship peaks.  When the therapist is functioning at a high level of cultural competence, there is an increased likelihood that the client’s transition between stages becomes seamless.  As the therapist increases his or her own awareness they can identify the client’s culturally objective status, and then proceed to guide them throughout their next transition fluidly.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

 

Counselor, Therapist, Coach, or Lifeline

Discover the Niche Life Coaching for Leaders

People need help.  A better tool, more time, less stress, more money, the right word in the closing paragraph of a thesis…humans from time to time get in a pinch.  We ask our spouse, our friends, our parents, our co-workers and the tall person walking down the grocery aisle for help.  Sometimes help is readily available, other times it’s scarce, if accessible at all.  So how is it that people go about getting help?

We evaluate the situation.  What exactly do I need and how much time do I have?

We evaluate our resources.  Who’s available, knowledgeable, and trustworthy?

We evaluate the costs.  What am I giving up, or going to owe, by reaching out?

Some of us don’t ever evaluate costs in a monetary sense as they relate to acquiring help with “life”.  This may be due to a lack of finances, but can also be attributed to a perceived sufficiency of available and free resources.  On the other hand, we often don’t mind paying for other services, even services we can accomplish ourselves (e.g. a car wash).  We use money to pay waiters to bring us food from the kitchen to the table…something we could do ourselves but “it’s just not the way it works.”  We accept these things, most of the time without question.  Why is it then, that so many of us question our own need for counseling, therapy and coaching?  How is taking care of our emotions, feelings, and mental health different?  Let’s look at the aforementioned evaluation process again.

We evaluate the situation.  It’s not that serious.  It’s nothing I can’t handle.  “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”

We evaluate our resources.  I don’t know any therapists, counselors or coaches.  Since I don’t know any, how can I possibly assess their knowledge or trustworthiness?

We evaluate the costs.  It’s not remotely feasible for me to pay for this kind of help.  It has to be expensive.

True enough, if we don’t already have a relationship with a helping professional, it proves difficult to just pick up a phone to get help with a situation, especially immediate help.  We already anticipate a long, drawn-out process with a great deal of paperwork and the scheduling of an appointment (which we already believe will occur well past the amelioration of our current conundrum).  These understandings generally leave us fending for ourselves and, more times than not, we get by.  But many of these times we actually are “worse for the wear.”

If you want to avoid learning hard lessons, missing opportunities and wasting time and resources, it may be prudent to take a closer look at some viable resources you’ve been skipping out on.  In reality, counselors, therapists and coaches should be staple, not stigma.  The services offered by these types of professionals are similar to any other services you don’t think twice about paying for…they provide something you want or need and some are better than others.  The key to finding the right kind of help is to look for it when you don’t need it.  Similar to grocery shopping when you’re hungry, what often happens is individuals get into such a bad place before they reach out for these types of services.  At that point, there has not been a solid evaluation of potential service providers, which may mean the individual you reach out to is not the best fit.  Not to mention, whoever that provider is, they are working an uphill battle, late in the game, with no history of you.  These factors lead to a meager success rate and you lacking confidence not only in that person, but oftentimes in the industry as a whole.

So if you’ve ever found yourself in a pinch with “life” and have felt like you haven’t had a person to turn to, take some time to visit a few local helping professionals.  Find out what they do.  Peruse the internet, evaluate the costs, research the accessibility and answer ALL of the questions you have regarding these professionals.  If you do this, you’re most likely going to find that someone for you.  That someone who is relevant, available, knowledgeable, trustworthy, affordable…that lifeline.

Ready to get started researching your options?  Need help distinguishing the differences between the types of helping professionals?  My latest eBook, Discover the Niche: Life Coaching for Leaders, may help.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Sharing as a Leader

sharing leader leadership

If You’re Not Sharing these 5 Things, You Could be a More Effective Leader…

Your insecurities.  The competent leader understands dominance is not the same as authority.  Attempting to be perceived as dominant by hiding your insecurities only ensures you won’t receive any aid with them.  When you are overly concerned about your own job security, it is difficult to not make every attempt to avoid being viewed as weak or vulnerable.  Sharing your vulnerabilities allows you to connect with those you lead, and also results in being provided for in ways (and by individuals) you otherwise would not.  The alternative (hiding your insecurities through dominance) actually promotes insecurities in other individuals throughout the organization, which creates an extremely unhealthy environment.

Responsibility.  Often individuals in leadership roles find themselves demanding actions of those structurally subordinate.  Simply articulating these demands in a manner which suggest they are a shared responsibility changes the dynamic of the request (e.g. delegating responsibility).  Your pride may be standing in the way of you allowing yourself to be perceived as sharing your workload.  Here again, those consumed with protecting their job find it difficult to share.  Remember, as a leader your litmus for success is the success of those you lead.

Rewards.  If you are getting them, it’s likely that your team is deserving of them as well.  Even when you are not receiving rewards it is possible that the members of your team are worthy of them.  Be innovative when rewarding productive associates.  If it’s feasible, distribute your own bonuses among your team, or simply use a portion of your income to buy a new Keurig for the office.  Positive reinforcement is a powerful tool useful in promoting achievement and fortifying relationships.

Updates, changes, and notifications.  The flow of information within an organization can be illustrated through the principles of hydraulics.  The confined space at the top of the organization often allows information to flow much more rapidly than the typically more voluminous lower tiers of the same organization.  Considering today’s technology, there is little excuse for the flow of information to become canalized.  Changes affect individuals differently and, as a leader, providing timely information is a great way to foster inclusiveness and afford individuals the necessary time to react.  If knowledge is power, then, as a leader, empower with knowledge.

Your time.  As a leader, you are likely busy undertaking managerial duties and keeping yourself organized, maybe even building processes and analyzing statistics.  You also, as an experienced leader understand the value of those you lead, especially in terms of productivity.  If you do make time for those structurally subordinate, it’s easy to find yourself spending that time protecting and encouraging those who are most productive.  Avoid the projection of favoritism by encouraging comradery.  Do this through spending meaningful time with all of those you lead.

Jordache Williams

 

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

 

 

5 Things to Avoid as a Leader

Losing the confidence of those you lead.  If you, as a leader, have ever been shocked by comments your supervisor reveals were made by your subordinates, you’ve likely made this mistake.  This may mean you have not made yourself available or you have not been accommodating.  In either course, those you lead have lost faith in your ability as a leader and have reached above you for aid.

Referring to those you lead as “people who work for you.”  Those you lead are constituents, associates, coworkers and, above all, individuals with just as much value as you.  Undervaluing those structurally subordinate isn’t a way to validate your authority, and by doing so, you adversely undermine your ability to motivate them.

Tasking those you lead versus sharing responsibility.  This is likely a result of your focus on your own success rather than the success of the team.  A productive environment thrives on inclusiveness, honesty and synergy.  “Making” someone do something creates dissonance, on the other hand, sharing responsibility perpetuates effectiveness and efficiency.

Losing sight of the human element.  Individuals you lead are comprised of more than a job description.  In order to be an effective leader you must possess the 3 Cs: care, concern, compassion.  Don’t believe a hard outer shell establishes your dominance.  There is little that pushes others away more assuredly than neglect.

Not listening.  As a leader, insights come from a variety of sources, none more important than those coming from the individuals you lead.  Feeling pressed for time, being arrogant and, again, undervaluing those you lead are all causes of dismissing recommendations from those structurally subordinate.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Looking for Racial Identity: An Interview with Mary White

Utilizing the Helms White Racial Identity Model created by Janet Helms, the following description of Mary White (pseudonym) is based on the observation of verbal and nonverbal cues from an interview with Mary conducted in the fall of 2011.  Mary White is a 32-year-old, Caucasian American, divorcee with no children.  Keeping in mind the six statuses as proposed by Janet Helms, the interview with Mary set-out to discern her racial identity and attitudes to include her biases, prejudices, conflicts, tolerance, etc.

Mary was an extremely willing participant of the racial identity interview.  Her interest in the interview was shown through her expression as Mary immediately displayed a certain confidence of which I initially could not discern the reasoning.  This confidence, however, was the first of several cues that eventually led to my description of Mary’s identity.  Quickly identifying herself as a White American she explained an abbreviated version of her life history—growing up in South Carolina to a White mother and father and having a “pretty normal, average life.”  She was taught that all people were “equal” and, despite ever feeling that she experienced racism, did acknowledge that it exists.  Through her teen years her contact with races other than her own was limited to casual encounters in public places and exposure through media.  Mary claimed that there were a total of 3 Black people and “maybe ten or so” Hispanics that attended her school (K-12).  She recalls that one of the Black persons who attended her school was an athletic female who came to the school in tenth grade and happened to be in Mary’s class until graduation.  Mary remembered this individual as friendly and when asked about her relationship with the individual stated, “I would consider us to have been friends.  We never really hung out exclusively, but I’d say we were friends.  We held small talk… about to the degree that I had with most of my classmates vice my real good friends.”  She admitted to never having a “real” interest in dating a non-White person, but only considered her lack of interest to be a result of a lack of commonality and physical attraction.  “It’s not that I wouldn’t or won’t date a Black man, it’s just that I don’t typically find them to be attractive.  I have yet to really meet a person of another race that has similar interests as me.  Additionally, I don’t even think I was introduced to a non-White male my age until after I was married.”  I concluded this topic of conversation by asking Mary her opinion concerning interracial dating/marriages.  Shrugging her shoulders, she retorted that the idea doesn’t bother her at all, stating, “it’s really up to the people involved, it’s really none of my business… whatever makes a person happy.”  At this point I had already identified Mary’s Contact Status as well as noticed certain mild characteristics of disintegration.

As the interview progressed, I moved towards probing into Mary’s marriage.  Mary claimed to be “a little shy in school when it came to interacting with boys.”  She remained “single” until she started dating John during her senior year of high school (John was a junior at that time).  John was white and shared similar interests as Mary.  In fact, Mary and John had known each other since John came to Mary’s school a year earlier, as they were members of the girls’ and boys’ tennis teams respectively.  Mary explained that she and John rarely discussed race, but she had always assumed their view of the subject was similar.  She did always notice that, in casual conversation, when John described an individual of another race he always included the person’s race in the description of the person.  Mary said that this cognitive inclusion stood out to her because she felt she rarely ever did that herself.  Mary claimed that her own exclusion of race as a descriptive measure was not purposeful; “it’s just the way I’ve always been” she exclaimed.  It appeared that even at 32-years-old, and despite claiming to acknowledge racism, Mary had not moved into the statuses of Pseudo-Independence, Immersion/Emersion nor Autonomy as described by Helms.

Mary’s relationship and five-year marriage ended with John eight years ago when she was 24-years-old.  She feels that the marriage “fell apart because they had tried hard to have a child with no luck and he (John) had gotten really involved with his job.”  She explained that John claimed they “had grown apart over the years,” whereas her mother claimed that she and John “married too young.”  Since that time, Mary has dated “a few men.”  Not to my surprise, none of these dates were with a person of a non-White race.  Despite her persistence with dating men of her own race, her interaction with members of various races had increased over the last ten or so years.  This increase in interaction began when she attended college, where she saw “several people of a variety of races around campus.”  However, having been married at the time, she commuted to college and only attended classes.  “In general, I only interacted with classmates and that interaction was typically mandated by group projects,” explained Mary.  Mary has worked at her local community bank since college.  She works with mostly white females; however, there is one White male and two Black females who currently work with her in the bank.  Mary claims that “most of our customers are White, but there are people of every race that come to the bank nearly every day.”  It was at this point that I was concerned that, despite Mary’s excitement with participating in the interview, it seemed her state of oblivion limited a complex dissertation regarding her Racial Identity.  Despite my concern, however, it was also during this stage of the interview that the quality of Mary’s racial socialization became evident.

Considering Mary’s limited interaction with non-White races, I began more deliberate questioning regarding her understanding and knowledge of races and, in particular, racism.  Her basic stand on racism was that “slavery was a long time ago but it’s evident that not everyone feels that all races are equal.”  As she continued to claim her own acceptance of all races, she attempted to vet her declaration by stating that she studied about racism in both high school and college.  She experienced classroom debates that often created a great deal of emotion in various classmates.  During these debates she felt a bit removed from emotionality, and Mary was often standoffish in such class discussions.  When asked to explain her opinion of reparations, Mary said, “I know it causes a lot of debate.  Even at my job I’ve heard that the management has to have minorities on the staff.  I don’t really care who I work with as long as they are proficient.”  When I asked her if she had ever heard of anyone being hired simply because they were a member of a minority race despite interviewing against White’s who were more qualified, she said she doesn’t really think that happens.  Mary maintained a naïve attitude regarding the reality of the current level of prejudice and racism present in society.  Despite her potential for Autonomy, being generally knowledgeable of the historical context of racial issues, Mary maintained a very selective perception.  For example, she acknowledged no reason for herself or society to “help non-White races any more than Whites”, showed little vigilance for Immersion/Emersion and was overall inflexible, denying herself the attainment of Autonomy.  In general terms, I concluded that Mary was suspended in the Contact Status.  Despite being knowledgeable of racism, she remained oblivious to and unaware of racism in today’s society.  She explained how she felt as if she was “a fair and impartial person” in regard to race, and claimed that to her “race is not important.”

In conclusion, through the interview with Mary White I was reminded of the various degrees to which persons in society are truly unaware of the issues of racism that exists today.  It is my assertion that with Mary, her life experiences (or lack of) have weighed much heavier in the determination of her Racial Identity than any influence of media, education or publication.  For some people, even direct experiences with racism may remain unacknowledged despite a general knowledge of the subject.  In summation, Mary seemed to be a person who had inadvertently been successful at abandoning racism; however, she lacked any significant development of a nonracist White identity.  In layman’s terms, Mary’s interview suggested she was “obliviously non-racist.”  Due to Mary’s obliviousness to racial dynamics, it proved difficult to assess her methods for coping with such dynamics (thus challenging to assess any status other than Contact), yet Mary in turn was the quintessential reference for the Contact Status.

References

Helms, J.E. (1997). Implications of Behrens for the validity of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 44, 13-16.

Helms, J.E. (1999). Another meta-analysis of the White Racial Identity Attitude Scale.  Measurement and Evaluations in Counseling and Guidance, 32, 122-137.

Helms, J.E. & Carter, R.T. (1991). Relationships of White and Black racial identity attitudes and demographic similarity to counselor preferences. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 38, 446-457.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache Williams

Jordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.

Counseling with Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is, without a doubt, required of clinicians who provide therapy to culturally diverse clients.  The acquisition of both knowledge and skills, but moreover, the ability to deal with powerful emotional reactivity and unconscious biases associated with race are incumbent (Sue, 2010).  When counseling clients who are culturally different, the competent therapist must be aware of the possibility of being uncertain regarding therapeutic discussions of sensitive topics.  In order for a clinician to be culturally competent and provide effective therapeutic assistance, one must be knowledgeable of cultural needs, to include language, religion, food, racial identity, and customs (Allain, 2007).

Throughout your professional career a continual effort should be placed on seeking total cultural competence, especially concerning the cultures that will primarily comprise your clientele.  As I have not exactly nor assuredly settled into my foreseen client-base, for comparative purposes I will refer to Fairfield County, South Carolina in this composition, as this is the location of many of my relatives.  The demographics of this area (as interpreted from the United States Census Bureau) possess a different skew than the United States, as well as the state of South Carolina, in that African Americans at 59% of the population are the majority race, followed by Whites at 39%.  American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian and multiracial individuals comprise less than 2% collectively, while an estimated 1.5% of these individuals are of Hispanic origin.

In addition, the percentage of poverty in Fairfield County is 24%, whereas the United States average is near 15%.  While Fairfield County is diverse, it is so in its own right.  The dynamics of this population create cultural norms that are not necessarily reflected by the perception of American culture at large.  A therapist working in this area must understand the intricacies of the cultures, to include cultural beliefs and values based on race, poverty and the availability of resources.

Taking a look at Fairfield County’s majority.  When any helping professional provides counseling to an individual of African American culture, there are several factors one must keep in the forefront in order to reach successful therapeutic treatment.  The primary factor is that of cultural competence, as it would be when counseling a member of any culture.  However, the therapist’s cultural competence is vital to the treatment of African Americans as it is quite common for an individual from this cultural background to be misdiagnosed, and subsequently incorrectly counseled.  This is often the result of the impact their culture’s history, racism, and oppression have had on their individual personality, as well as to their entire group as a national minority.  Although the clinician, no matter their race, will be unable to dispel any opinions the African American individual may harbor regarding discrimination, it remains their responsibility to aid the individual in attaining cultural acceptance—within their cultural group, as well as all others—and ultimately establishing their autonomy.

Therapists should abide by an obligation to aid the client in constructing the framework leading to development of the client’s autonomy.  This is especially the case when counseling individuals in the African American culture, where it is vital for them to become self-aware and fully autonomous as this quality will allow them the capability of personally conquering the effects of discriminatory encounters and the spectrum of microagressions they are guaranteed to continue facing.  In order for a clinician to aid in the process of developing racial identity in persons of color, the therapist must guide them in establishing a passive acceptance of the self as inferior, and then facilitate the client to overcome internal racism and develop a self-affirming identity (Constantine, 2005).

When the minority is the majority, such as the case of African Americans in Fairfield County, the therapeutic approach and methodology to counsel these individuals cannot be based solely on their role as a United States minority group, but also their role as a regional majority.  The primary adjustment to therapeutic intervention regarding this cultural group involves understanding the effects of, and relationship between, the national and regional cultures through the eyes of the individual.

The national majority.  For a clinician to successfully treat members of the Caucasian American culture, they must again utilize their cultural competence when formulating the framework to develop the well-being of these individuals.  In regard to the general population of the United States, Caucasians are the majority culture group.  And in this light, the therapist’s objective would be to guide them in becoming more culturally aware, as well as to increase their own self-awareness.  This would allow them to gain understanding in their typecast role as “oppressor,” acknowledging their unearned assets that constitute White privilege, and adjust their viewpoint with the goal of eliminating any harbored microagressions.

The therapist should assist them in understanding that the source of their conscious or unconscious racism is a result of their culture’s attempt to earn societal prestige through the control and dominance of cultures dissimilar to theirs.  And, according to the Psychoanalytic approach, racism surfaces to serve as a defense mechanism of the ego and superego out of one’s fear of loneliness (Utsey, 2002).  For Whites, as well as other groups, the attribution of cultural differences to minorities is a hidden expression of racial prejudice (Vala, 2009).

The majority as a minority.  Often referred to as the majority, the Caucasian cultural group in many smaller communities represents the minority.  In these instances, therapeutic approaches need to adjust due to the fact that many of these individuals have difficulty dealing with the sense that they are seeking racial acceptance from the majority culture, while they are experiencing discrimination.  In many instances, one’s racial attitude is an attempt to manage an underlying anxiety associated with one’s intolerance of the dissimilar (Utsey, 2002).  A therapist in this situation may find members of the White culture to be anxiety-ridden due to their inability to control the majority culture—which will in fact be a national minority group.  Many of the areas where these inverted racial demographics exist are more likely to be impoverished.  With a poverty level higher than the United States national average, some of the predominant issues for Whites in these areas are the difficulties stemming from their socioeconomic status.  In these situations, it is likely that a great deal of Caucasian individuals are dealing with the denial of their Whiteness because of their shared socioeconomic status with African Americans and other national minority groups.

White privilege in these regions relies predominantly on one’s financial success; and because many Whites have not attained any substantial financial successes, it is more difficult to identify White privilege (Sue, 2010).  Also, when Whites are the minority group, they are likely to be self-conscious of appearing racist; for example, it is highly unlikely that one would exhibit overtly racist behaviors if they are one of only seven White children in a class of forty-five students.

The Hispanic population.  When functioning at a high level of cultural competence, a therapist treating an individual with a Hispanic cultural background understands the importance of being perceived as a knowledgeable and authoritative therapeutic professional.  Likewise, these individuals should be aware that Hispanics are a heterogeneous culture, in that it comprises Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, and several more ethnic groups, each with their own cultural values.  Therapists must be knowledgeable of these various cultures, and that their primary similarity is that of sharing the same language; this makes effective intervention and treatment contingent upon understanding the dimensions of the specific client (Altarriba, 1994).  The culturally competent clinician is also cognizant of the importance of addressing familial issues with the father of the family system, as Latinos are a highly patriarchal culture.  In addition, the clinician should understand the significance of the structure of the entire extended family, as it is common for Hispanic households to include other family members, not solely the nuclear individuals.  This family environment also plays a large role in the socialization of the children (Altarriba, 1998).

The role of the therapist also includes being open to alternative approaches to therapy, such as prayer and incorporating priests, as often the role of religion has a significant impact on the Latino family.  It is also necessary for the culturally aware clinician to formulate the aspect of immigration into his or her therapeutic approach.  Even in cases where the family or individual currently seeking counseling may not have immigrated into the U.S., there is the possibility that they have family members residing in their native country which impacts their current emotions and viewpoints.  Furthermore, those who have immigrated have suffered through geographically separating themselves from many social or familial support systems which were previously established (Smart, 2001).

The therapist’s role, when working with Latinos, is also to aid with their assimilation with other cultures of the region, this includes the therapist and client being linguistically compatible.  In many instances, Hispanic immigrants deal with their own language barrier within their household, as the parents tend to prefer speaking Spanish in the home, and the children (especially if born in the U.S.) may primarily speak English.  The problem this presents to bilingual therapists is that the clinician tends to serve as merely the interpreter for both parties.  Another risk associated with the bilingual therapist is in the aspect of dialect—if the therapist’s predominant language is English and they had to learn the Spanish as a second language, they must be fluent in a manner that displays the same authority and competency while speaking in the client’s language (Sciarra, 1991).

Although Hispanics represent the largest minority group in the United States, there are communities where the Hispanic population is less representative such as in Fairfield County, SC where they comprise less than 1.7% of the population.  One objective for the therapist, when counseling a member of Hispanic culture, is to foster the client’s cultural awareness of their own cultural group as well increase their awareness of other minority and majority cultures.  In essence, the therapeutic approach should include efforts to establish their acculturation.  Hispanic individuals may need assistance from helping professionals simply because there is not a large preexisting population of Latinos where they reside, or in the surrounding areas.  The primary discriminatory encounters they experience will originate from their skin color, illegal immigration, and reliance on physical labor due to the persistent language barriers (Smart, 2001).  In areas where they are the overwhelming minority, the root of their cultural issues often resides in their constant search for acceptance and sense of belonging within the community, and among the other cultural groups.

Multiracial groups.  Aside from the African American, Caucasian, and Hispanic cultures, one must also consider multiracial groups, as they hold 1.7% of the United States population.  Individuals in this group tend to have their own issues, to include having several identities and not being one-dimensional (Allain, 2007).  When requiring therapeutic assistance, they tend to bring a complex set of issues.  The concept of culture will remain critical to therapists, as cultural roots are often maintained through parental socialization (Leong, 2010).  When working with multicultural groups, therapists can generally model their approach by assessing the client’s racial and cultural identity development and forming a therapeutic alliance by gauging the client’s sensitivity to verbal and nonverbal cues.  The therapist also formulates his methodology by assessing how the client identifies themselves collectively, individually, as well as how one’s family values affects the client (Delgado-Romero, 2001).

Often, in order for a therapist to develop a financially successful professional practice, it is essential to provide adequate therapy to both majority and minority cultures as well as cultures which differ from their own.  To progress in doing this, it is necessary to conduct research to develop knowledge in a systematic way (Arzubiaga, 2008).  In therapists’ attempts to obtain cultural competence, many run the risk of being superficial and counterproductive if they remain underdeveloped in the area of cultural sensitivity.  The implementation of cultural competence and sensitivity offer a more rigorous and reflective methodology and therapists must keep that in mind.  It is not necessary to become an expert on any particular culture, but rather to concentrate on being aware of one’s own perspective.  As therapists, the utilization of critical thinking is vital to understanding how one’s own perspective can affect their ability to acknowledge and understand differing perspectives (Allain, 2007).  Finally, be aware that culture is not simply race, and it is my belief that economic status in many instances holds an equal, if not greater, effect on ones manifestations which define their cultural identity.

References

Allain, L.  (2007).  An investigation of how a group of social workers respond to the cultural needs of black, minority ethnic looked after children.   Practice, 19(2), 127-141.

Altarriba, J., Santiago-Rivera, A. L.  (1994).  Current perspectives on using linguistic and cultural factors in counseling the Hispanic client.  Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 25(4), 388-397.

Altarriba, J., Bauer, L. M.  (1998). Counseling the Hispanic client: Cuban Americans, Mexican Americans, and Puerto Ricans.  Journal of Counseling & Development, 76(4), 389-396.

Arzubiaga, A. E., Artiles, A. J., King, K. A., Harris-Murri, N.  (2008). Beyond research on cultural minorities: Challenges and implications of research as situated cultural practice.  Exceptional Children, 74(3), 309-327.

Constantine, M. G., Warren, A. K., Miville, M. L.  (2005). White Racial Identity Dyadic Interactions in Supervision: Implications for Supervisees’ Multicultural Counseling Competence.   Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(4), 490-496.

Delgado-Romero, E. A.  (2001). Counseling a Hispanic/Latino client—Mr. X.  Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 23(3), 207-221.

Leong, F. T. L., Leung, K., Cheung, F. M.  (2010). Integrating cross-cultural psychology research methods into ethnic minority psychology.  Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 16(4), 590-597.

Sciarra, D. T., Ponterotto, J. G.  (1991). Counseling the Hispanic bilingual family: Challenges to the therapeutic process.  Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training, 28(3), 473-479.

Smart, J. F., Smart, D. W.  (1995). Acculturative stress of Hispanics: Loss and challenge.  Journal of Counseling & Development, 73(4), 390-396.

Sue, D. W., Rivera, D. P., Capodilupo, C. M., Lin, A. I., Torino, G. C.  (2010). Racial dialogues and White trainee fears: Implications for education and training.  Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 16(2), 206-214.

Utsey, S. O., McCarthy, E., Eubanks, R., Adrian, G.  (2002). White racism and suboptimal psychological functioning among White Americans: Implications for counseling and prejudice prevention.  Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 30(2), 81-95.

Vala, J., Pereira, C., Costa-Lopes, R. (2007).  Is the attribution of cultural differences to minorities an expression of racial prejudice?  International Journal of Psychology, 44(1), 20-28.

Atlas Concepts, LLC_Jordache WilliamsJordache Williams is currently based in Rock Hill, SC and is the Program Manager for Atlas Concepts, LLC. He is a Certified Life Coach and holds a Master’s Degree in Human Services.