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Racism and Counseling, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Abstract

The psychology counseling educational field and practice has continually conducted research in order to gain a better understanding in regard to issues with racism.  In addition, it has been indicated that racism issues are an important aspect to counseling training. Research has illustrated those counselors in training need to understand their own race and ethnicity in order to understand differences in patients from other races and backgrounds and therefore, steps have been made by professional teams such as the Journal of Counseling and Development and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) to incorporate criteria in their accreditation for counselors.  It has been further illustrated that in order for counselors to obtain a better understanding of racism effects in counseling, the proper training courses are necessary. Multicultural awareness training, in particular, should be an integral part of counselor training and has been referred to as providing the framework needed for counselors.  Studies focusing on multicultural awareness have shown that counselors need these educational courses and need to participate in research projects. Overall, racism and counseling is an issue and counselors who undergo cultural awareness training have a better chance of treating patients from diverse races and ethnic backgrounds.

Introduction 

During the mid-20th century, the United States experienced many changes in civil rights, especially with the start of the Civil Rights movement.  The change in civil rights also resulted in changes to psychology practices in applied psychology.  Specifically, there were observational changes seen during the Black, Brown, and women movements that were occurring during the 1960s and 1970s.  These civil right movements brought about changes in the development of different psychological organizations such as, the Society for Psychological Study of Ethnic Issues and the Association of Black Psychologists.  In addition, the American Psychology Association began to address issues related to racism in psychology.  Furthermore, the American Psychology Association began to undergo research specifically related to individual experiences of racism.  This research led to the opening on the field of counseling psychology in regard to racisms in psychology practice, as well as how to deal with racisms in training and practice. For instance, research articles started to be published that illustrated the influence of racism and racial identities on the counseling process, racial problems with counselors, and the correlation between racism and psychological health. Research has continued to be developed in this field in order to understand the area of racism and psychology practice and counseling. In fact, currently it is suggested that counselors understand the different characteristics associated with race and ethnicity in order to understand the approach that is needed for people with different cultural backgrounds and of different races.  (Neville and Carter, 2005)  The current paper reviews literature and the methods associated with racism in counseling.

Racism and Ethnicity

Racism and ethnicity are related variables that have been used in different research psychology studies. In a study conducted by Delgado-Romero et al. (2005), it was found that the race and ethnicity of subjects is a crucial part of a research sample, as well as other demographic information, such as societal class or parental generation. In the above research, an overview of hundreds of studies was analyzed from counseling journals that were published in the 1990s.  It was found that only around a half of the journals collected information regarding race and ethnicity from subjects. However, the results did illustrate that the Caucasian subjects were overrepresented in the studies compared to the minority population.  In addition, it was found that ¼ of the studies used only one racial group in each of the studies, with the majority of those studies containing Caucasian race. (Delgado-Romero et al., 2005)

The inclusion of Caucasian subjects in the majority of the research on psychology counseling has resulting in effects to counseling training.  For example, students studying to become counselors are reading and learning skills and theories from the primary literature that has been published; therefore, an overrepresentation of Caucasian studies can result in a low understanding of other cultures, ethnicities and races in regard to counseling.  Some psychological researchers realized that these are issues that need to be addressed for counselors. In order to examine the effect race and racial issues to counseling and counseling training, a researcher developed a study specifically designed for Caucasian counselors in training.  The study showed that Caucasian counselors were not comfortable with racial issues or problems.  (Utsey et al., 2005)  More research therefore started focusing on different types of methods that could help counselors manage issues of racism in regard to counseling and personal issues. The Journal of Counseling and Development and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) also started to incorporate certain criteria in their accreditation for counselors. The criteria implemented a multicultural training for psychological counseling. (American Counseling Association, 2013)

The method/criteria for counselors were set forth in 1991 through the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development. The criteria included a set of methods that allowed for counselors to become aware of their personal cultural beliefs, values and biases.  The cultural criteria were found to be successful for counselors.  It was also found that these counselors were more aware of their own culture, as well as, were becoming more sensitive to different heritages and cultures and thereby gaining a different respect.  In addition, the criteria helped counselors become aware of how their own types of individual biases and attitudes towards other cultures could influence their counselling decisions.  Furthermore, the criteria helped counselors to understand their limits to their knowledge and expertise, as well as understand the many differences that exist between themselves and their patients, as far as racisms and culture are concerned.  (American Counseling Association, 2013)

The implemented criteria also benefits counselors in regard to obtaining a better understanding of their own racial and cultural background and how that could affect their view of the normal counseling process. The understanding is important because there are differences in an individual’s knowledge and experience in issues dealing with discrimination, stereotyping, and oppression.  These types of issues can have different effects on people and could affect an individual’s life.  Studies have shown that these methods apply to every counselor from every background; however, it is specifically aims to Caucasian counselors due to the need for an understanding for the knowledge of racism.  For example, a Caucasian counselor who is trained to be culturally aware would have a better understanding of the social impacts and the communication differences in their minority patients.  In order to obtain this type of knowledge in cultural awareness, it is important for counselors to have this type of training as a mandatory part of their education process, especially for those counselors that may have negative feelings or experiences with other racial groups, which could ultimately result in the outcome of their counseling.  Part of the criteria incorporates that the counselor has a nonjudgmental attitude and approach to their patients.  It is also important that the training make aware of the life experiences, cultural heritage, and history of each racial or ethnic group.  Understanding different racial groups can help diagnose disorders and behavioral problems in a patient. (American Counseling Association, 2013)

Bowers et al. (2007) suggested that counselor’s issues with race are usually found while already a practicing counselor.  It was also suggested that it may be more of a challenge when dealing with patients who are already culturally predetermined.  Researchers therefore suggest that counselors have reflexivity training. Reflexivity helps counselors undergo a self and social analysis that examines their personal values, beliefs, and prejudices that could affect their counseling practices. In the Bowers et al. (2005a) study, it was found that patients expected their counselor to have the appropriate training to understand their needs, as well as their counselor to be able to meet the standard of care. Specifically, the patients wanted the counselors to have the knowledge and understanding to communicate and provide empathy towards their culture and background. Counselors therefore should be responsible for understanding the different types of races and the culture that goes along with it.  In another study conducted by  Bowers et al. (2007), it was suggested that counselors should obtain this type of knowledge through conducting research. The study showed that it is through hands on research that a counselor can understand what types of prejudices and bias are present in their own personal life.  Bowers et al. (2007) also suggested that the type of research should be qualitative studies that show the racial and cultural issues that are pertinent in counselor development.

The research explains that counselors need to evaluate the data obtained in these research such in order to obtain knowledge of diverse races, ethnicities, backgrounds and cultures.  In addition, the counselors need to take the information and reflect on their own personal experiences and how their personal beliefs and values affect their opinion or outcome to a specific situation. It is important for the counselors to understand how certain variables would impact their patients.  For instance, in the study conducted by Bowers et al., (2007), the minority subjects indicated that they had to explain too many details about their lives and background because the counselor didn’t understand their culture.  On the other hand, when looking at the counselors themselves there was significant evidence found that showed counselors having behaviors, such as homophobia with their self-awareness of these issues low.   In the discussion from Bowers et al (2007) research, Bowers makes a great point: “It was then the researcher realized that we just have to face our prejudice, raise our awareness, and address ‘the beast’ that we fear most – the prejudice that might lurk in the shadows and might harm clients if we are not more aware”.  Through this research it was clear that counselors did not receive enough education and training in their personal experiences with racism and this lack of education could decrease their ability to help minority clients.

Race and ethnicity issues in psychological research are complicated when trying to quantify the research. The design of quantitative studies requires the use of statistics and therefore a large sample size. Finding a large sample size in order to investigate differences between races and cultures can be difficult due to the amount of time needed and the number of people required for the study. Previous counseling research has used larger categories in order to evaluate differences in races in groups of people, which increases the change for bias between and within sample groups. The lack of quantitative data has resulted in the use of counselors reporting the race and ethnicity results from their practices. (Delgado-Romero et al., 2005)  Researchers have therefore promoted the use of reporting information about their patients in regard to race, ethnicity and age. In addition, it was highly suggested to indicate other demographic information such as education status, socioeconomic status, gender, primary language, geographic region, racial identity development, level of acculturation and other any relevant demographic information. This provided type of information from counselors could help counselors in training understanding racial and ethnic differences in their potential clients.

Other research supports the lack of definitions for race and ethnicity and has further resulting in counselors ignoring these definitions with their clients.  (Fish, 2000)   In evaluating the definitions of racisms used in the psychology field, the results show that there is little known about the relationship between racism and mental health.  In fact, a study conducted by Carter (2007) investigated middle-class African Americans opinion on the subject.  It was found that a White person may perceive each act of discrimination as an isolated event and that the Black person is overreacting; however, for the Black person they may have undergone numerous racists’ incidents over their lifetime and therefore there is a cumulative effect.  The purpose of this study was to emphasize the cumulative effects of racist’s acts and the possible causation to mental health problems. In addition, it was indicated that the scale and frequency of the racist incidents should be evaluated by the counselor.  Miller and Feagin (2007) provide a good example of a Black woman in her 70s who talks about her childhood encounter with a White man during the time of legal segregation.  The woman indicates that her mother worker for a White man and washed and ironed his clothes. One day there was a spot of the collar and the man cussed at her mother repeatedly and this was her first memory as a child.  From a psychological standpoint, the woman’s first memory was a traumatic experience with a White man. Even though it was over 60 years ago, she recalls every detail in the attack.

Other researchers have found that there is a lack of published information that on racisms and counseling in counseling psychology. Graham (2000) found that most of the published research compares the minority races to the Caucasian race, as the default population, implying that Caucasians are the “norm”. In addition, the published research is limited to the use of models proposing different racial demographics.  Munley et al. (2002) used Personal Dimensions of Identity model to analyze the subjects in a research study.  The model was us to analyze different characteristics such as age, culture, ethnicity, preferred language, gender, race, sexual orientation, social class, education status, income, marital status, family number, religion, military experience, work experience, and specific life changing historical or political events that happened during their lifetime. Obtaining this type of information, although using a model to present it could be helpful for counselors in realizing the diverse and broad spectrum of people that could be their clients.

Multicultural training        

Other research suggests the use of multicultural issues to address issues with racism in counseling.  Delgado-Romero et al. (2007) performed a research study from a multicultural standpoint.  The researchers investigated population in counseling psychology over time a long period of time. The purpose of the work was to use data obtained from previous conducted research and illustrate that race and ethnicity are reported with little to none contextual information. The researchers used data reported in psychology counseling journals and found that overall; ethnicity and race were not usually reported.  With little to no contextual information reported overall in psychological counseling journals, it was suggested that using the multicultural approach, as developed by Dr. Sue in 1982, as the framework for counseling training.  The original purpose of this model was to create some sort of basic standard for counseling trainees to utilize and gain the needed knowledge and skills that can help to understand different client from diverse cultures and backgrounds. It is now a requirement for counselors to participate in this type of training.  In addition, the multicultural training program is referred to as the cornerstone of ethical practice.  The model for multicultural awareness contains three areas: 1) attitudes, beliefs and the awareness of one’s own attitudes and beliefs, 2) knowledge and understanding of diverse cultures worldwide, and 3) skills for developing intervention strategies and techniques.  In addition, it important to note that the model’s primary focus was to help the counselor in training get a good understanding of their own racial and ethnic background, as well as personal values, which ultimately would help achieve success in all three areas.  It has also been found that counselors who underwent the training are more effective counselors of diverse racial and ethnic groups.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Research has been conducted in regards to the outcome of counselors that have participated in the multicultural training process.  Constantine (2001) found that minority counselors in training exhibited a greater understanding of multicultural issues than White counselors in training.  Neville et al. (2006) also found that minority trainees had higher scores in the multicultural courses compared to White students in regard to their multicultural knowledge.  However, other studies have shown no significant difference between minority and non-minority counselors in training.  (Smith et al., 2006)  It can be expected that minority students would excel in this area compared to non-minority students, as they most likely have more personal experiences with people from different races and cultures.  The research does show that there is a need overall for this type of class, regardless of race or ethnicity.

Although some studies showed no difference between racial groups in the multicultural courses, some researchers have suggested that white students would most likely need more raining in the multicultural area. Chao et al. (2011) found that when minority groups had lower levels of training, they illustrated a significantly higher multicultural awareness compared to the non-minority group.  However, it was also shown that with higher levels of training, the minorities exhibited lower multicultural awareness compared to the non-minority group.  The results of this study show that the non-minority group significantly benefit from multicultural trained; whereas, the minority groups remain at a constant level of multicultural awareness.  This can further be interpreted as non-minority groups gain a greater understanding of multicultural awareness from these courses that can be implemented into their counseling practices. In addition, the study found that the groups, whether minority or non-minority would benefit from additional training, research projects and workshops as information obtained from these courses could be implemented into other coursework, as well as actual interactions with people from different backgrounds and races.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Color-Blindness and Counseling

Some counselors have been referred to as being “color-blind”.  Color-blindness refers to as the denial of any issue related to racism or ethnicity.  Basically, people who are termed “color-blind” use this to justify inequality.  Color-blindness is not subjected to a specific race or culture. Anyone can exhibit this type of belief, regardless of their race or ethnicity. Research geared towards color blindness in counseling has found that this can negatively affect the counselor’s multicultural awareness of their client, which can ultimately results in the incorrect counseling methods and/or diagnosis.  Studies have directly linked color-blindness with multicultural knowledge. Research has found that in individuals presumed to have color blindness believe that race should and doesn’t matter and therefore all people should be treated equal.  In addition, it was found that higher level of multicultural training resulting in lower levels of color blindness. Therefore, it is further suggested that multicultural training is a necessity for increasing counselor knowledge of other races, as well as decreasing counselor beliefs that racism and ethnicity is not an issue. Overall, it can be implied that color-blindness as a whole is a racism-related issue, as well as racial unconsciousness in some individuals.  (Chao et al., 2011)

Conclusion

Racism and counseling has been a controversial topic in counseling psychology.  Researchers have continually investigated different aspects of the topic in regard to actual counseling, as well as the appropriate methods needed for counselors in training.  For instance, the Journal of Counseling and Development and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) incorporated criteria in their accreditation for counselors.  In addition, current research has focused on race and ethnicity influences, such as specifically incorporating an array of demographics to gain a better understanding of each subject’s background.  This type of standard criteria and research in psychology is important to the ethical practices of counselors and to ensure that race and cultures are taken into consideration when applying counseling methods and evaluations to patient needs.

Researchers have stressed the need for counselors to gain a better understanding of their personal racial issues and level of understanding through the implementation multicultural awareness training. Research has found that counselors, who were more culturally aware and understood their own heritages and cultural background, were more prepared to counsel clients of different racial backgrounds.  Therefore, it is recommended that multicultural training be implemented to counseling graduate students.

Overall, there are different methods and criteria that can influence racism in counseling, as well as influence the beliefs of counselors in training, such as increasing awareness that racism is an issue and that “color-blindness” can result in negative effects to a patient.  In addition, research has shown the need graduate students to perform quantitative research and participate in multicultural training in order to have a better understanding of their clients with different backgrounds.

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.

Carter, R.T. (2007).  Racism and psychological and emotional injury: Recognizing and assessing race-based traumatic stress.  The Counseling Pyschologist. 35(1):13-105.

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 multicultural constructs: Integration and research directions. In J. G. Ponterotto, J. M. Casas, L. A. Suzuki, & C. M. Alexander (Eds.), Handbook of multicultural counseling (2nd ed., pp. 482–493). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Delgado-Romero, E. A., Galván, N., Maschino, P., and Rowland, M. (2005). Race and ethnicity In empirical 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 (2002). Personal dimensions of identity and empirical research in APA journals. Cultural Diversity & 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 association between color-blind racial ideology and multicultural counseling competencies. 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 health professions: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Counseling Psychology,53, 132–145. doi:10.1037/0022-0167.53.1.132

Thompson-Miller, R. and Feagin, J.R.  (2007).  Continuing Injuries of Racism: Counseling in a Racist Context. The Counseling Pyschologist.  35:106.  Retrieved from: http://www.sagepub.com/dimensionsofmulticulturalcounselingstudy/articles/section1/Article20.pdf

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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