Overcoming Unintentional Racism, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

The psychology research field and practice has continually worked to gain a better understanding on the area of race and has suggested that this area of research is important for psychology training and counseling. Research has shown that counselors should focus on the characteristics associated with race and ethnicity in order to take into account the differences associated with these backgrounds in regard to the approaches needed in counseling. .  In order to possess this cultural background for counselors, it is important that the counselors get the proper education, training and consultation experience in order to work with different cultural populations.A multicultural counseling competence (MCC) model was developed by Dr. Sue in 1982 and since then it has provided the framework for counseling training.   Studies focused on this model found that in order to get a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures, MCC training, conducting research projects, and participating in various workshops would enhance the understanding of trainees for future counseling. In addition, the color-blindness factor has also suggested the shift of training from multicultural knowledge to multicultural awareness.

Introduction  

Changes in civil rights during the 1950s and 1960s also resulted in changes to practice in applied psychology.  Specifically, changes in psychology occurred during the Black, Brown, and women movements during the 1960s and 1970s decades.  These changes brought the development of different organizations such as, the Association of Black Psychologists and the Society for Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues, and prompted the American Psychology Association to address racisms in the psychology world and profession.  In addition, the American Psychology Association developed primary journal research investigating different experiences of racism, which further led to the field of counseling psychology to begin research into racism and how to deal with racisms in training and practice.  Furthermore, the articles that were published dealt with influence of racial identities on the counseling processes, racial issues within counseling interactions, and racism and psychological health.  The psychology research field and practice has continually worked to gain a better understanding on the area of race and has suggested that this area of research is important for psychology training and counseling.  Moreover, it has been continually stressed that researchers and psychology counselors should focus on the characteristics associated with race and ethnicity in order to take into account the differences associated with these backgrounds in regard to the approaches needed in counseling.  (Neville and Carter, 2005)  The current paper reviews psychology literature and the methods that have been used and researched in overcoming racism in counseling.

Racism and Ethnicity in Counseling

Race and ethnicity have been considered variables for studies used in psychology counseling research.  In a study conducted by Delgado-Romero et al. (2005), the researchers found that it was critical to report the race and ethnicity of individuals in the research sample, as well as reporting other information, such as generation status or class background for all racial groups studied.  The researchers investigated 800 studies that were published in counseling journals throughout the 1990s and found that more than half of the journal articles reported information about the race and ethnicity of the sampled participants. The results of their investigations found that the white participants were overrepresented in the studies, while the Hispanics, Blacks, and Native Americans were underrepresented.  In addition, one quarter of the articles focused on one racial group in the study, with two thirds of those studies including white participants.

The effect of the overrepresentation of white participants has had an effect on counseling training.  For instance, for individuals receiving their degrees in psychology, they examine, read and interpret studies that have been developed.  The overrepresentation of white participants can therefore, lead to a poor understanding of other races and ethnicities in the psychology counseling field.  In order to examine the effect of race and racial issues specific to training and counseling, a researcher developed a study to investigate white counselors who were in the training process.  The study results indicated that white counselors were uncomfortable with racial issues.  (Utsey et al., 2005)  Therefore, recent research has focused on methods that help counselor trainee’s deal with issues of racism for themselves, as well as in counseling.  In addition, information published by the Journal of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) and in the Journal of Counseling and Development encouraged professionals to adopt certain criteria in their accreditation.  The criteria emphasized the necessity and rationale for obtaining a multicultural perspective in psychological counseling.  (American Counseling Association, 2013)

Multicultural Objectives

In 1991, the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development approved a procedure for counselors that set a standard for criteria for counselor awareness of their own cultural values and biases.  It was found that all counselors were becoming culturally aware and sensitive to their own heritages and background, as well as respecting any differences.  Also, the purpose was to bring awareness to counselors about how their own values, biases, and attitudes could influence their counselling process and bring the ability for the counselor to recognize the limits of their expertise, as well as realize the differences that can exist between themselves and their patients in regard to ethnicity, race, beliefs and cultures.    In addition, it was found that it is important for counselors to have the knowledge of their own race and cultural background and knowledge of how it could affect their view of normal or abnormal in their counseling process.  The importance of this occurs when the knowledge is needed for understanding differences in oppression, discrimination, stereotyping and racism and how it could affect an individual in their personal and work life.  It has been directly noted that this standard applies to all counselors from every heritage background, however, it specifically points out White counselors.  It is indicated that White counselors need to understand how they may directly or indirectly benefit from racism.  For instance, a culturally skilled counselor would understand the social impact and the communication style differences between minority patients.  In order to possess this cultural background for counselors, it is important that the counselors get the proper education, training and consultation experience in order to work with different cultural populations. This is important for counselors as they may have a negative emotional reaction toward other racial groups and it may affect their counseling methods.  Therefore, it is important for a counselor to contrast their own attitude in a nonjudgmental approach. In addition, it is therefore important for counselors to be aware of a different racial groups life experiences, historical background and cultural heritage, as this can affect a person’s choice, manifestation of disorders, and behavioral problems in the client.  (American Counseling Association, 2013)

Literature Review

Qualitative Research 

Bowers et al. (2007) indicates that counselor biases are usually uncovered during counseling practice, or when a counselor is engaged in research practice.  In addition, the researchers suggested that it is more challenging when dealing with culturally predetermined areas such as sexuality, gender, and race.  Therefore, it is recommended that counselors undergo the process of reflexivity.  Reflexivity is a process of self and social analysis that examines prejudices, values and beliefs in order to understand issues that might come about in the counseling practices.  In a research study conducted by (Bowers et al., 2005a), it was found that the clients’ expectations for the counselor to have adequate training and education ranged from have basic skills to specialized awareness.  However, all of the participants in the study wanted a standard of care provided by their therapist.  The standard of care indicated by the participants was the therapist skills, attitudes and ability to meet their needs.  For instance, the participants wanted their therapist to have the ability to communicate and provide a positive empathy and respect in support of their life and culture.  From this research, it was found that counselors need to make more effort to work effectively with patients from different races and cultures.  Bowers et al. (2007) suggests that counselors can gain this knowledge during research processes.  The researchers indicate that it is the researcher’s experience during research in which the bias and prejudices are uncovered and in which the counselor can gain insight into these domains.  Bowers et al. highly indicates that it is qualitative research, in particular, that provides the issues of values and beliefs that are necessary for counselor development.

In order to obtain a better understanding of different races, backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures, psychologist need to evaluate the qualitative data that is obtained.  For instance, counselors need to evaluate the information obtained while reflecting on their own experiences and their own values and beliefs. In addition, the counselors need to determine how these variables would impact their clients.  A good example of this is was found when participants in a study were asked about their counselor interactions.  The participants indicated that they had to explain too much about their lives because the counselor who little to no experience with minority experiences or culture.  (Bowers et al., 2007)  A great sum of this research was written by Bowers et al. (2007):  “Counselors need to do any course that makes them look at their own values and their own knowledge… for every person you come in contact with, you will always gain something from each other… it’s always a two-way passage… both learn from each other… if counselors are open to learning about things and if they hear a word or they hear an expression that they don’t know, ask about it”.

Quantitative Research

The use of race and ethnicity in research is complicated when it comes to quantitative research.  The reason is that the design of quantitative research requires statistics, which in turn requires a large sample size.  Therefore, it can be difficult to investigate within-group differences due to the expenses and time need to use a large racial and ethnic minority sample size.  In order to compensate for this issue, research has used broader categories, which may have resulted in bias outcomes within the groups of people or individual people.  Due to the lack of sufficient quantitative data, counseling researchers have been addressing the issue of reporting race and ethnicity in some type of form by psychologists in their practices. (Delgado-Romero et al., 2005)  For instance, Ponterotto and Casas (1991) suggested that researchers accurately report and describe their participants more than just simply reporting their ethnicity and age, but their education status, country education, socioeconomic status, gender, preferred language, racial identity development, geographic region, level of acculturation and other relevant information.  It was indicated that this type of additional information could be tied to results of the study.

During the 1990’s, the same types of concerns were voiced in the psychology literature in regard to the lack of adequate definition of terms for race, ethnicity, and culture and the tendency that psychologists have in ignoring those definitions with their patients.Other researchers have reported that psychologists in the United States generalize their findings and on a limited number of samples, thereby failing to understand the role of culture in racial categories.  (Fish, 2000)

Other researchers have found that there is a lack of published data that directly focuses on racial and ethnic people in regard to counseling psychology.  For instance, Graham (2000) found that most research compares the different races to Whites, as the default population, thereby stating that Whites are the “normal” population.  In addition, research is limited in the use of models or theories regarding racial demographics.  For instance, Munley et al. (2002) implemented a Personal Dimensions of Identity model to research the characteristics of the participants in an empirical study.  The model was us to classify characteristics into different dimensions, such as age, ethnicity, culture, gender, language, race, sexual orientation, and social class, education, marital status, income, religion, work experience, military background, hobbies, as well as historical, political and economic events that have occurred during the participant’s life.     It was found that this type of research is important for counseling trainees because it illustrates personal characteristics to identity, which can be a reflection of a race or culture and important for the counselor to understand.  (Munley et al. 2002)

Other research conducted suggested that counseling psychology research should focus on race and ethnicity in order to add to the knowledge of race and ethnicity rather than accept categories in a study, and limit the use of studies that fail to add knowledge.  In order to address these issues, Delgado-Romero et al. (2007) conducted a research study incorporating multicultural issues and investigating an entire research population in counseling psychology over time.  Therefore, the researchers used data and hypothesized that in previous literature reported, race and ethnicity would be indicated at a broad level with little to no contextual information.  The researchers used research from counseling and counseling psychology journal and found that ethnicity and race were often not reported, especially in the early 1990s.  It was clearly stated that many of the studies did not report the demographic information.

Incorporating Racial Issues into Counseling

A multicultural counseling competence (MCC) model was developed by Dr. Sue in 1982 and since then it has provided the framework for counseling training.  The purpose of this model was to create a standard for trainees to study and gain the appropriate knowledge and skills needed to understand different client cultures and backgrounds.  In fact, it is required that trainees take part in this type of training.  In addition, the MCC is referred to as the cornerstone of ethical practice.  The model consists of three different areas: 1) attitudes, beliefs and the awareness of one’s own attitudes and beliefs, 2) knowledge and understand of the diverse cultures worldwide, and 3) skills that are needed for developing intervention strategies and techniques for multicultural.  The researcher who developed the model also stressed that it critical for a trainee to understand their racial and ethnic background and values in order to improve with the MCC training.  Furthermore, it was indicated that a competent psychology trainee is one that has acquired this training in order to be an effective counselor with diverse groups.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Research directed towards the evaluation of trainees that have undergone the MCC from different backgrounds themselves, have found varying results.  For instance, Constantine (2001) found that Black and Hispanic graduate students showed a better understanding of MCC than their fellow White students.  In addition, Neville et al. (2006) also found that minority trainees had higher scores in the MCC class than the White students in regard to multicultural knowledge.  However, other studies have shown no significant difference between minority and White trainees in this area.  (Smith et al., 2006)  It is expected that minorities would do better in this class as they are more likely to have a greater personal experience with different cultures and racial issues than White students.  Therefore, research focused on how to gain an average understanding between all student trainees.

Chao et al. (2011) suggested that in order for White students to compare in the multicultural area of minority students, more training would be needed.   In their study, it was found that at lower levels of training, the minority groups illustrated a significantly higher multicultural awareness than the White group; however, at higher levels of training, the minorities illustrated lower multicultural awareness than the White group.  In addition, an important outcome from this research found that White trainees benefited significantly from this type of training; whereas, the minority trainee’s awareness stayed at similar levels from before the training.  Therefore, the research has found that the White trainees benefit from this training and are gaining a better understanding of different cultures that can be implemented into their future counseling.  Furthermore, the study found that in order to get a better understanding and appreciation of different cultures that in addition to the training provided with MCC, more courses, conducting research projects, and participating in various workshops would enhance the understanding.  Also, it was indicated that multicultural awareness can also be adopted from other coursework and actual interaction with people from different cultures, along with a deep self-reflection.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Color-blindness is another topic within counseling that can affect the appropriate counseling of a client with a different background.  In regard to color-blindness, anyone regardless of their racial or ethnic background could have color-blindness.  Colorblindness, in the psychology field, refers to the denial of any social significance in regard to race.  Individuals who are “colorblind” consciously or unconsciously use this to justify racial statuses or inequalities.  Therefore, research has reported that this can negatively affect counselor’s knowledge and awareness of their patient’s background, which can result in the incorrect diagnosis of some patients.  In Chao et al. (2011) study, it was found that color-blindness was correlated with multicultural knowledge.  From this finding it was suggested that individuals presumed to be “color-blind” were part of three interpretations: 1) the belief that race should not and doesn’t matter, and all racial and ethnic groups should be treated equally. 2) higher levels of training is stronger than that of lower levels of training, and 3) trainees with lower color-blindness may benefit more from training than those with higher color-blindness.  From these results, Chao et al. (2011) suggested that the current training needs to shift its focus from improving the multicultural knowledge to a greater multicultural awareness.  In addition, it was suggested that this training might help those who are color-blind realize their ignorance of the subject, as well as understand the race-related oppression issues that arise in their minority clients.  Overall, it was indicated that color-blindness as a whole is in itself a race or racism related issue or just plain racial unconsciousness.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Conclusion

Issues of race and ethnicity have been a controversial topic in counseling psychology.  Researchers have continually examined different aspects of race and ethnicity, such as research projects incorporating demographics of race, as well as other inclusions.  In addition, research into ethical practices in regard to race and cultures have been the cornerstone to counseling.  The field of counseling psychology has continued to develop research and gain a better understanding of the area of race and its effects on counseling.  Moreover, it has been continually stressed that researchers and psychology counselors should focus on the characteristics associated with race and ethnicity in order to gain a better understanding of racial issues.

Research conducted in this area has emphasized the necessity and rationale for obtaining a multicultural perspective in psychological counseling. It was found that all counselors who were culturally aware and sensitive to their own heritages and background, as well as respecting any differences, were more prepared for clients from different racial backgrounds.  In addition, these counselors who were aware of their own values, biases, and attitudes helped influence their counselling processes.  In order to bring awareness to the counseling field of psychology, the training of Multicultural models for trainees is recommended.  MCC training has proved to provide a better understanding, particularly to White trainees, as well as trainees who were perceived as “color-blind”.

Overall, it was found that more research is needed in regard to larger sample sizes and quantitative research studies using participants from different backgrounds.  In addition, it is highly recommended that counseling trainees undergo MCC training course, conduct research projects and participate in various multicultural workshops in order to get a better understanding of racial issues and how to relate those issues to their counseling sessions.

References

American Counseling Association. (2013).  Cross-Cultural Competencies and Objectives. Retrieved from: http://www.counseling.org/Resources/Competencies/Cross-Cultural_Competencies_and_Objectives.pdf.

Bowers, R., Minichiello, V., Plummer, D. (2007).  Qualitative Research in Counseling: A Reflection for Novice Counselor Researchers.  The Qualitative Report. 12(1):131-145.  Retrieved at:  http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR12-1/bowers.pdf

Bowers, R., Plummer, D., & Minichiello, V. (2005). Homophobia in counselling practice. The  International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 27(3), 471-489.

Chao, R.C., Wei, M., Good, G.E., and Flores, L.Y.  (2011). Race/Ethnicity, Color-Blind Racial

Attitudes, and Multicultural Counseling Competence: The Moderating Effects of Multicultural Counseling Training. Journal of Counseling Psychology. Vol. 58, No. 1, 72–82.

Constantine, M. G., & Ladany, N. (2001). Measurement of multiculturalconstructs: Integration and research directions. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M.Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multiculturalcounseling (2nd ed., pp. 482–493). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Delgado-Romero, E. A., Galván, N., Maschino, P., and Rowland, M. (2005). Race and ethnicity Inempirical counseling and counseling psychology research: A 10-year review. The Counseling Psychologist, 33, 419-448.

Graham, S. (1992). “Most of the subjects were White and middle class”: Trends in published research on African Americans in selected APA journals, 1970-1989. American Psychologist,47, 629-639.

Fish, J. M. (2000). What anthropology can do for psychology: Facing physic envy, ethnocentrism, and a belief in “race.” American Anthropologist, 102, 552-563.

Munley, P. H., Anderson, M. Z., Baines, T. C., Borgman, A. L., Briggs, D., Dolan, J. P., Jr., et al.(2002). Personal dimensions of identity and empirical research in APA journals. CulturalDiversity & Ethnic Minority Psychology, 8, 358-366.

Neville, H.A. and Carter, R.T.  (2005). Race and Racism in Counseling Psychology Research, Training, and Practice: A Critical Review, Current Trends, and Future Directions. The Counseling Psychologist. 33(4):413-418. http://www.sagepub.com/dimensionsofmulticulturalcounselingstudy/articles/section1/Article21.pdf

Neville, H., Spanierman, L., & Doan, T.-B. (2006). Exploring the associationbetween color-blind racial ideology and multicultural counselingcompetencies. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 12,275–290.

Smith, T. B., Constantine, M. G., Dunn, T. W., Dinehart, J. M., &Montoya, J. A. (2006). Multicultural education in the mental healthprofessions: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Counseling Psychology,53, 132–145. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.53.1.132

Utsey, S. O., Gernat, C. A., & Hammar, L. (2005). Examining White counselor trainees’ reactions to racial issues in counseling and supervision dyads. The Counseling Psychologist, 33:449-478.

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