Social and Cultural Diversity Paper
We all have personal bias and use stereotypes, all the time, unconsciously. Every person has a biased global view because people are limited to a single camera viewpoint. It implies people are only able to see what comes before them (Reeves, 2013). No one has the correct version of reality. People’s social locations help inform their worldview—their class, gender, sex, culture, sexual orientation, race, etc. Human worldview affects how they view, react, and respond to every experience. Cultural bias refers to a firm stance that all decisions must be based on one’s own values and beliefs (Pannucci, 2011). Personal biases are subconscious obstacles that can emasculate unprejudiced decision-making. They usually introduce unwarranted opinions as well as feelings into the scrutiny of an issue, making it nearly impossible to make a neutral and objective decision (Pannucci, 2011). Common biases consist of the halo effect, confirmation bias, groupthink, and overconfidence bias. As a therapist, I have some personal biases that in one way or the other can influence my work.
Nobody is immune from prejudice, not even therapist. Everyone become bias at given time. Therapist bias can take many forms, particularly with clients’ erotic orientations, gender, social status, and sexuality among others. Prejudice ranges from distorted thoughts and views about clients to befuddling polyamory with unfaithfulness to other elusive attitudes, beliefs, and perceptions (Reeves, 2013). Bias is part of every person, and we need strategies to learn from it, work with it, and transform ourselves (U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, 2012).
I was brought up in an environment where everyone was strong Christians. Our home was just a stone throw away from a local Catholic parish. Also, my aunt was a nun and my cousin was a priest. Both my parents and grandparents were very staunch Catholics with deep-rooted Catholic values. This environment greatly shaped my perceptions, thoughts, how I relate to others. I always believe that everyone is equal before God and must be treated with empathy and love. God wants us to live a specific life and expect from us certain acts. If we go against His will, we will face His wrath. However, these Christian’s values and principles have made me perceive people who normally acts against the God’s teachings as evils, and I feel uncomfortable serving them.
As devoted Christian, I am uncomfortable with women wearing very short skirts. I also personally dislike gay and lesbian’s clients. Besides, I always assume that the best place to work in is in counseling, and I do not have any alternative. I also have a bias towards eye contact and the type of food. This has mainly been shaped by my culture, the environment I grew up in and my parents. My parents were staunch Christians with strong family values. They were strict and ensured we dress, and behave in specified norm. The neighboring community was also against gay and lesbian individuals. By acknowledging that I hold certain biases, I can begin to discover as well as work with unexamined or unknown beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions to enhance my ability to understand the diverse experiences that come with clients. I believe this can be best achieved through deepening awareness and experience toward others and myself.
Cultural diversity is the existence of many different types of ethnic or cultural groups with society (Bainbridge, McCalman&Tsey, 2015). Appreciating the culture of people will enable a therapist perform his work effectively and will improve his relationship with the client substantially. Collaborative relationships are always hard to form in the presence of personal, cultural biases (National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. 2011). Therefore, these personal biases, for example, assuming that gay people are sinners and need repentance may force me to provide a partial therapy, which is mainly towards getting salvation and encouraging them to abandon their act and come back to God.
Homophobic attitude may affect my work as a psychologist. At times, I do express homophobic attitudes while working with gay clients. I always feel uncomfortable with gay people. Domenici and Harris (2016) states that homophobic attitude in psychoanalysts may influence their decision-making with gay clients, especially around moral issues. Friedman and Downey (2015) found a notable relationship between homophobia and the probability of breaking confidentiality in circumstances where a client was thought as chancy to others. My personal biases may cause me to misdiagnose depression in gay clients as well as those I perceive to wearing inappropriate dresses. These biases can undermine my progression of knowledge as well as alter therapeutic recommendations for psychological health conditions. Such biases might alter the recommendations I make to clients or can influence my understanding to a client’s problems.
I was brought up in a society in which the majority were whites. There were few Mexicans, Alaska Natives, and Asians within this community. Fortunately enough, my father was a top ranked official within the government, and that is why we had the opportunity to live in this luxurious estate. Most people living here were wealthy. My father also had enough to make us live a comfy life. My parents were African Americans while our immediate neighbors were Latinos family. The church we attended consisted of mixed races: the whites, African Americans, Asians, Latinos, and Asians. Our pastor emphasized the importance of loving one another irrespective of color and races. My life in lower elementary school was not an easy one. The school comprised mainly of whites and I were the only African American in this school. I found it hard to survive in an environment where some white children could make fun of me and even refuse to play with me. I had only a few white friends. However, since it was my father’s dream to take his child to the best school; complaining about the kind of treatment I was facing in school could not influence his mind to look for me an alternative school. My high school life was the same. We were very few blacks in the school, and in most cases, we could experience open discrimination even from some of our teachers. I was the best student in our class. I remember one day, a white student making fun of my race. He said, “A baboon will remain a baboon, even if he is intelligent.” I got infuriated and reported the matter to our class teacher who was also a white. Unfortunately, he chose to ignore the issue.
Thanks to my father’s advice and encouragement. He urged me to be a strong man and ignore such people. He told me to fight to change the perception of such people. I, therefore, decided to start a campaign against racism in our school. My efforts were fruitful, and a considerable number of students joined me in the fight. Our mission was to ensure that every student appreciates the cultural diversity in the school and see everyone irrespective of their races, color, status, and gender as God’s creatures. Most whites by then perceived African Americans as slaves and inferior race (Nunnally, 2012). Racial discrimination was real and alive by then. Being a black meant that, I was inferior before the eyes of the white culture. During this period, African-American were openly oppressed and discriminated in most parts of the United States (Storrs, 2016). They were not allowed to attend the same school as their white colleagues (Hall, 2012). However, my cases were unique since my father was a very powerful and influential. Even with our status, some of the white children felt that I was inferior just like any other blacks.
Fortunately enough I was admitted to one of the most prestigious and recognized University not only in the United States but also in the world. The University had both students and staffs from various parts of the world. There were many international students from Asia, Africa, Europe, Australia, and South America. The college consisted of culturally diverse people. Throughout my four years at the university, I realized my true self. My thoughts and views about other cultures changed and I learned to appreciate other people’s culture. Before, I perceived white people as provocative and unfriendly, especially to blacks. This point of view was influenced mainly by my earlier experience in both elementary and high school.
Students who attend colleges or schools with a diverse population often develop an understanding of the outlooks of children from various cultural backgrounds and learn to function in a multiethnic, multicultural set up (U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. 2012). At college, I joined various clubs, and in most of these clubs, I was elected as an official. I was also a captain of the University football team. The team consisted of people from different cultures. Our number one goalkeeper was of Chinese descent. Our top striker was an international student from West Africa. The team was diverse with all races represented. Being a captain, I had to learn to deal with everyone and foster unity among the players. My main duty was to ensure that everyone felt respected and valued. In a diverse cultural environment, it is important to make every individual to feel that they are important and included in the decision-making process as well towards building a strong team. Whether the person is a Jew, Alaskan Native, an African, Arab-American, an Asian, a gay, is poor, a first Muslim, speaks with an accent, or wealthy they should feel welcomed, respected, and that their culture is important and unique.
Most of my football team members were affectionate and understanding. My roommate in the college was a Chinese from Beijing. He taught me a lot about their culture, and I learned to appreciate them. He was a cool, and funny person with full of Chinese based stories. I loved to enjoy every bit of it. He influenced my perception about Chinese and gradually I began to like Chinese foods. In the University, I also interacted with Africans, Mexicans, and Indians. We made friends and through friendships, I came to learn and appreciated their cultures. I also had an opportunity to work with a Mexican, Chinese, Arab and white in a team project of an organization. The group cooperation was excellent, and we managed to over-achieve the set objectives within the set period. I noticed that working with culturally diverse group allow one to become a liberal person who respects people’s opinion without prejudice.
My life experience has taught me myriads of lessons, and I can now comfortably interact with everyone one irrespective of his or her cultural background. I fell in love with a Kenyan Lady. She was caring and a strong, intelligent woman. She taught me that in Kenyan culture, a woman must always cook for her husband, Iron her clothes, and never allow even a house cleaner to cook for her husband food when she is around. In the beginning, I felt it was a funny culture aimed at oppressing women. However, I came to learn, that most African women irrespective of their economic and education status, feel satisfied when they serve their husbands or spouses through basic home chores. Therefore, I respected her social views and learned to accommodate them.
Lago and Smith ( 2013) defines racism as the antagonism, discrimination, or prejudice directed against an individual of a given race-based of the credence that the race of the other person is superior or belief that an individual is less superior because of customs, language, skin color, birthplace or any other element that purportedly discloses the basic nature of that individual. Discrimination is the prejudicial or unjust treatment of different groups of people or things, based on sex, class, age, or race. My life experienced has taught me never to discriminate anyone (Lago& Smith, 2013). I vividly understand how it feels to be discriminated. I often interact with clients who are racists and who feel uncomfortable to share their problems with me. Others even openly refuse to accept my services just because they feel I am not qualified to solve their issues.
My life experience has greatly shaped my behavior, views, and thoughts. Even though every individual is unique, some have been oppressed or mistreated because they are a member of a given group. If we overlook these historical or present-day differences, we may fail absolutely to understand the needs of those people (Faculty, 2014). Often, individuals are scared that recognizing differences will cause a rift among people. However, people can be brought together when we learn their cultural differences since it will disclose important parts of their lives. It can reveal to us the common things we share as human beings (Pretzer, 2013).
I have come to learn that client-therapist relationship is important for effective treatment. When working with diverse clients, it is important that one understands the various ways culture influence counseling relationship (Meyers, 2014). My experiences have enabled me to appreciate the fact that being insensitive to the unique background as well as experiences of the client can lead to a client refusing to actively take part in counselling process, miscommunication, and eventually unproductivepsychotherapy relationship. These consequences can result in a therapist being accused of negligence, resulting in a disciplinary action being taken against you from a lawsuit, professional organization, or state licensing board. Cultural competence is an important quality that a therapist must possess. The American Counseling Association (ACA) has set forth detailed guidelines for providing counseling services culturally and ethnically diverse groups. This is found in their ACA Code of Ethics. (American Counseling Association, 2014).
My experiences have taught me to know the challenges that affect therapists. Language barrier is the biggest challenge. A communication issue left unexplored can result in allegations of abuse or mistreatment (NWS Government. n.d.). I can avoid this by constantly documenting the therapy session while noting down the steps I have taken to understand as well as adjust to the culture of the client. I have also come to note that the main goal of psychoanalysis is to understand the client as a whole and not just his ethnic orientation. I have also learned that it is wrong to make assumptions about clients. For instance, some cultures always avoid eye contact to show respect (American Psychological Association, 2011). However, I should understand whether my client is avoiding eye contact because of other reasons such as feeling ashamed, being dishonest or she is uncomfortable. Assuming that the behavior of a client stems from a culture without having to pose questions about how he is feeling may cause me to misdiagnose, thus landing me on a serious trouble (Bainbridge, McCalman&Tsey, 2015).
My experience has also enabled me to recognize the fact that honesty and openness are essential. I can only become a culturally competent counselor if invite honest and open dialogue about ethnicity and race in my healing sessions as well as employ professional activities and resources to develop my therapy skills with culturally diverse clients. As a therapist, I recognize that my clients come with special needs. Developing a therapy approach that takes into account the cultural orientation of the client and his own characteristics will prove effective and successful (Meyers, 2014).
American Counseling Association. (2014). ACA Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/resources/aca-code-of-ethics.pdf
Bainbridge, R., McCalman, J., &Tsey, K. (2015). Cultural competency in the delivery of health services for indigenous people. Closing the gap, 13, 1-44. Retrieved from http://www.aihw.gov.au/uploadedFiles/ClosingTheGap/Content/Our_publications/2015/ctgc-ip13.pdf
Hall, R. E. (2012). An historical analysis of skin color discrimination in America: Victimism among victim group populations. (Springer eBooks.) New York: Springer.
Meyers, L. (2014). connecting with clients. Counseling Today. Retrieved from http://ct.counseling.org/2014/08/connecting-with-clients/
National Association for Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Counselors. (2011). ethical standards of alcoholism and drug abuse counselors. NAADAC Ethical Standards Specific Principles, 1-2. Retrieved from http://www.naadac.org/assets/1959/naadac_code_of_ethics_brochure.pdf
NWS Government. (n.d.). NWS health policy& Implementation plan for culturally diverse communities 2012-2016. Retrieved from http://www0.health.nsw.gov.au/policies/pd/2012/pdf/PD2012_020.pdf
Pannucci, C. J. (2011). Identifying and avoiding bias in research. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.1097%2FPRS.0b013e3181de24bc
U.S Department of Veterans Affairs. (2012). Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan. Building a diverse workforce and inclusive workforce to deliver outstanding public service in the 21st century, 1-28. Retrieved from http://www.diversity.va.gov/products/files/StrategicPlan.pdf
Lago, C., & Smith, B. (2013). Anti-discriminatory practice in counselling & psychotherapy. London: SAGE.
Domenici, T., Lesser, R., & Harris, A. (2016). Disorienting sexuality:Psychoanalytic Reappraisals of Sexual Identities. New York: Rutledge.
Friedman, R. C., & Downey, J. I. (2015). Sexual orientation and psychodynamic psychotherapy: Sexual science and clinical practice. New York: Columbia University Press.
Nunnally, S. C. (2012). Trust in Black America: Race, discrimination, and politics. New York: New York University Press.
Reeves, A. (2013). An introduction to counselling and psychotherapy: From theory to practice.
American Psychological Association. (2011, September 1). Perception of facial expressions. Retrieved from http://medicalxpress.com/news/2011-09-perception-facial-differs-cultures.html
Pretzer, J. (2013, July 10). Cultural Differences and Cognitive Therapy. Retrieved from http://behavior.net/2013/07/cultural-differences-and-cognitive-therapy/
Faculty. (2014, July 29). Five important aspects of multicultural counseling competencies [Delaware Valley University]. Retrieved from http://www.delval.edu/blog/five-important-aspects-of-multicultural-counseling-competencies
Storrs, C. (2016, June 1). Therapists often discriminate against black and poor patients, study finds. CNN. Retrieved from http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/01/health/mental-health-therapists-race-class-bias/