Multi-Cultural Counseling

Today’s therapy and counseling have the flexibility to focus on certain theories or compilation of many theories (cocktail) used interchangeably to address a client’s specific needs. Much of the origin of counseling came from Western European decent and its theory and application reflected the people it studied and served, respectively (Sue and Sue, 2008). This situation creates a problem and offers a solution, even thought the solution comes slow with some resistance. A developed theory and its practice best serves a population that is specifically studied (Hays, 2008). This illustrates the benefits of many theories helping Americans of European descent, while demonstrating the impracticality of using a Euro-American based approach as the only template to serve the complex nature of a multi-cultural nation.

While modern psychology forefathers deserved a great deal of gratitude for developing human services like counseling and therapy, the cessation of continued development has been shown to be humanely insensitive. Asking a client to work on self-actualization in a situation where the client is oppressed by a societal situation may be misguided and threaten the client therapist’s relationship. Alfred Alder believed, and thus made it part of his theoretical approach, that humans are not determined simply by their heredity and environment ( Corey, 2005). (As sited in Corey, 2005) Adler states “people are the creators and the creation of their own lives” p. 94. While this expressed belief is a good example of expansion of the Freudian theory and demonstrates a more multicultural application, the style is considered autonomous and can be viewed as short-sited secondary to oppression. A young Latino seeking occupational help may get confusing messages about self-autonomy when his culture centers on family and group importance while becoming frustrated or angry when professional oppression is not acknowledged or seen as a primary issue.

Reality Therapy (RT) is another form of therapy that can illustrate benefits and oppression. Reality Therapy focuses highly on how the client views them and how they relate to others. This style does emphasize relationships and does extend outside the self, which is very important in many cultures. However, part of RT’s philosophy is based on a belief of genetic coding that drive needs like power or achievement and freedom or independence (Corey, 2005). These drives may apply to some cultures; they are not a part of every culture and even frowned on by other cultures that put the group ahead of the individual. This turns into oppression by disqualify the cultural values in living for some clients while imposing particular models’ beliefs (Sue and Sue, 2008).

The old clichés of not throwing the baby out with the bath water applies to this report. While many of the theories are littered with holes of ignorance, bias, and cultural insensitivity, the responsibility of the counselor to see value in previous models, while developing an expanding appreciation and knowledge towards other cultures provides an opportunity to create hybrids of old approaches or development of new approaches.


Sue, D. W., and Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hobeken, NJ: John Wiley & Son, Inc.

Hays, P., A. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessments, diagnosis and therapy (2nd ed.). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.

Corey, G. (2005). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson/Brooks/Cole.

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