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Giselle recently established a private practice in a culturally diverse neighbourhood. One of her first clients was Donna, who came to Giselle feeling depressed. Donna communicated that she feels that her life doesn’t make much sense and that she feels trapped by the needs of her husband and young children. When Giselle asked about any recent events that may contribute to her depression, Donna said that she had discussed with her husband her desire to return to school and pursue a new career. Donna’s husband had threatened to divorce her if she followed through with her plans. She had then consulted with her pastor, who advised her of her responsibilities to her family. Giselle is aware of her own cultural biases, which include a strong attachment to family and the role of a man as the head of the family. Although she feels sympathy for Donna’s situation, Gisele persuades Donna to put her own aspirations aside until her children grow up. Donna agrees to this because she feels guilty about meeting her own needs and because she is afraid of being left alone. Giselle then works with Donna to find other ways to make sense of her life that wouldn’t dramatically impact her family.
Q1. List the potential gender and cultural issues in this case, and how might you have addressed each of them?
Gender and cultural issues can hinder the effectiveness of counseling. The counselor must have practical exposure, education, and rigorous training from efficient supervisors to ensure successful sessions with their clients. Sometimes it depends on how the environment has shaped their knowledge and skills, causing them to desire to learn new things. Training and experience are essential in making a counselor competent for cross-cultural practice. The potential gender and ethical issues in the case include but are not limited to the client’s cultural identity, the ethics codes associated with multicultural counseling, and cross-cultural contact.
Cross-cultural contact can result in conflict if Giselle believes her worldview is similar to those living in the diverse community, particularly Donna. Giselle acknowledges the existence of cultural bias, which include a strong attachment to her family. IN cross-cultural perspective, this might not be the case with Donna. As Schwartz et al. (2011) note, mental health counselors may hold gender-related cultural biases that could affect their view of clients’ suffering. To address this issue, the counselor must be aware of their cultural values and beliefs and identify if they differ or match the client’s culture. In other words, it is essential to learn about the client’s diverse needs.
Ethical codes in multicultural counseling and the client’s cultural identity are other potential causes of conflict. The counselor needs to understand Donna’s cultural identity, the discrimination, ill-treatment against the culture, and her experiences. It is vital to learn from practical knowledge to get detailed information from the client. Finally, it is crucial to understand ethical codes associated with multicultural counseling to become culturally sensitive and globally competent to support clients while respecting their cultures and belief systems.
Giselle should engage in field experiences and research to gain effectiveness in multicultural counseling and foster her competence in beliefs and knowledge. She must adapt to cultural pluralism, understanding the diversity in the neighborhood and the client’s values and personal assumptions. She needs continuous development and modification of her individual beliefs and attitudes.
Q2. Giselle did not explore the lack of meaning in Donna’s life until after she persuaded her to give up her aspirations. What ethical issue does this raise?
The ACA Code of ethics regulates counselors from imposing their cultural and personal beliefs and values on clients. Counselors must “Strive to integrate their values and beliefs into their ethical practice, yet, at the same time, they must avoid imposing those values and beliefs onto their clients” (Kocet & Herlihy, 2014, p. 182). It is crucial to bracket one’s experiences and assumptions when interacting with diverse clients to capture their voices. Therefore, the ethical issue is that Giselle does not plan the treatment strategy and make decisions based on the client’s cultural background. Instead, she proceeds to impose her beliefs by persuading Donna to put her aspirations aside until her children grow up. Giselle’s decision is biased towards her cultural beliefs favoring women’s strong attachment to family and the role of a man as the head of a family.
The field of mental health practice is dominated by culture-specific beliefs, values, and attitudes. Counselors must be aware of the client’s background to know where to begin and what to focus. All the clients might not necessarily belong to the same cultural group. For instance, in the diverse community in which Giselle established her private practice, there could be more than one culture. It is, therefore, wrong for Giselle to assume that Donna’s cultural beliefs and values align with her own culture.
The therapist is not supposed to lead a session based on their culture-specific values and beliefs. Instead, the session should always respect the client’s values and beliefs. The counselor’s treatment strategy and decisions should prioritize the client’s cultural background. To achieve this, Giselle should familiarize herself with the client’s cultural background to avoid imposing her values and beliefs during the session because they could become legally liable as this is ethical misconduct.
Giselle should have researched why Donna felt she lacked meaning in life before going on with the treatment plan. It was unethical to assume that Donna’s culture considered men the head of the family and that the strong attachment to the family should have been of concern to her in making life decisions. Whether Donna’s culture and beliefs consider women as strongly attached to their families, they could still decide to pursue their career and life goals beyond family life. Giselle should have been cognizant of her client’s cultural background to share her perspective on the topic.
Q3. If Donna had shared Giselle’s family values, would this approach have been appropriate? Explain.
Even if Donna had shared Giselle’s family values, the approach would still be somewhat inappropriate. A counselor needs to recognize the client’s autonomy. Family values are not meant to restrict one’s life to certain conditions. These values are meant to guide in making decisions, particularly in moments of uncertainty. Even if an individual has aspirations onsistent with cultural values and beliefs, the counselor must acknowledge them and guide the client in making the best decision.
Autonomy addresses respect for independence and self-determination. It seeks to allow people the freedom of choice and action, encouraging clients to make sound and rational decisions (Petrūska Clarkson, 2014). The client should be free to decide whether to adhere to the family values or not. Without autonomy, the counselor may impose her perspective and views on the client’s state, forgetting personal differences.
Giselle’s family values are not obligatory to her or anyone who shares them. For example, Donna could share the same belief with Giselle on men’s role in society, but still desire to accomplish her career aspirations and life goals. Undoubtedly, it is ethical for a counselor to give the client a chance to decide whether to pursue their aspirations or not. Giselle just assumed that Donna shares the same values and beliefs. She presumed that Donna would be willing to give up her aspirations for the same family values and cultural beliefs. The approach was inappropriate either way.
Kocet, M. M., & Herlihy, B. J. (2014). Addressing Value-Based Conflicts Within the Counseling Relationship: A Decision-Making Model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(2), 180–186. https://doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6676.2014.00146.x
Petrūska Clarkson. (2014). Gestalt counselling in action. Sage.
Schwartz, R., Lent, J., & Geihsler, J. (2011). Gender and Diagnosis of Mental Disorders: Implications for Mental Health Counseling. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 33(4), 347–358. https://doi.org/10.17744/mehc.33.4.914g2n123u771316
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