Historical discrimination in workplace

Watch Color Blind or Color Brave  (Links to an external site.) and Assistive Technology in the Workplace (Links to an external site.)




Then, based on your reading of chapters 9-13, choose two populations, and discuss the following for each:

1. A common barrier/hardship that impedes career/work success and/or enjoyment for a member of this population and

2. How #1 might influence career counseling.

For example, women have experienced historical discrimination in the workplace. As such, I would employ the Multicultural Career Counseling Model for Ethnic Women (Zunker, 2016, Ch. 3) and learn the context in which clients who are women are experiencing work/career related concerns. As recommended by Zunker (2016, chapter 10) I would also consider addressing any cognitions that may be perpetuating gender stereotypes and helping clients develop skills such as assertiveness and coping as needed.








Below is chapter 9 to help answer the above questions









Main content

Chapter Introduction

Chapter Highlights

· Culture as a complex concept

· Cultural differences in work-related activities

· Five major culture groups

· Skills for cultural competence

· Strategies for dealing with multicultural influences

· Mental health issues of cultural groups

The need to develop career counseling strategies for multicultural groups will increase throughout this century. By the middle of the 21st century, the United States will no longer be a predominately White society. A more appropriate reference could be “a global society,” in which half of all Americans will be from four ethnic groups: Asian Americans, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans. These projected demographics containing the potential of an increasingly diverse society will present significant challenges to all the human service practitioners. As more multicultural groups gain access to opportunities for education and higher status jobs, the career counseling profession should be prepared to assist them.

Career counselors are intent on developing career counseling objectives and strategies that will assist individuals of various ethnic groups to overcome a multitude of barriers including prejudice, socioeconomic status, language differences, cultural isolation, and culture-related differences. Because this group is composed of persons from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, counselors are being challenged to become culturally aware, evaluate their personal views, and understand that other people’s perspectives may be as legitimate as their own (Brammer, 2012; Diller, 2011; Ponterotto et al., 2010; Ridley, 2005).

I begin this chapter with an introduction to the meaning of culture as it relates to career counseling. Second, cultural variability and worldviews are examined followed by culturally related work values and cultural differences in negotiations in the third section. In the fourth section, the challenge of becoming culturally competent is presented. Five major cultural groups are discussed in the fifth section. Mental health issues of cultural groups are reviewed in the sixth section. In the seventh section, I discuss issues when working with men and women of different cultures.

What Is Culture?

Cultural diversity is an important topic for all counselors, especially for the career counselor. In many respects, we have not addressed the issue of culture in the counseling profession. For example, researchers are in the early stages of studies to determine appropriate intervention strategies and assessment instruments for specific ethnic groups (Paniagua, 2005; Ponterotto et al., 2010) which are among the many issues and questions to be resolved. Because of the variety of ethnic groups found in the United States today, we may find the answer to these issues and questions to be very evasive and quite complex. To deal with this subject in greater depth, readers are provided with several relevant references in this chapter. In the meantime, the career counselor must give high priority to cultural variables that influence career development.

Returning to the question of identifying culture, perhaps each of us could offer an explanation of what culture means. We would be able to illustrate our definitions with examples of cultural aspects, variables, customs, and perceptions of different individuals from a variety of “cultures.” We could describe activities associated with a culture, we could refer to the heritage and traditions of cultures, we could describe rules and norms associated with cultures, we could describe behavioral approaches associated with cultures, and we could describe the origin of cultures. These are examples of different meanings associated with the definition of culture and the different interpretations one can use to identify people of different cultures. Thus, culture is a complex concept that can refer to many aspects of life and living. In addition to the definition of culture by Ogbu in chapter 1, Matsumoto and Juang (2013) offer the following definition:

Culture is a dynamic system of rules, explicit, and implicit, established by groups in order to ensure their survival, involving attitudes, values, beliefs, norms, and behaviors, shared by a group but harbored differently by each specific unit within the group, communicated across generations, relatively stable but potential to change across time. (p, 119)

This definition, although leaving a lot to be said about culture, provides a good fit for the career counselor’s use of the word. For example, sharing implies the degree to which an individual holds the values, attitudes, beliefs, norms, or behaviors of a particular group. Furthermore, the emphasis is on cognitive processes of psychological sharing of a particular attribute among members of a culture. Although culture can be conceptualized in different ways, there appears to be agreement that language, family structure, environment (social context), and traditions are most influential in determining group differences (Higginbotham & Andersen, 2012; Sue et al., 2014). The lesson to be learned is that even within cultures, each individual should be treated as such rather than from a stereotypical viewpoint that one has about a particular culture. There is cultural diversity among members of any ethnic group; for instance, Wehrly (1995) points out that 56 ethnic groups identify with their own culture and have their own language in Mexico. The point is that one should not assume that any ethnic group is homogenous.

Culture is a learned behavior. Therefore, two people from the same race may share some values, attitudes, and so on but might also have very different cultural make-ups. How much has been acculturated from racial heritage through socialization varies even within the dominant cultural group of a country (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013; Ponterotto et al., 2010). Therefore, we must not make assumptions from cultural stereotypes—all clients are to be treated as individuals who have their own distinct characteristics and traits. In the next section, I will briefly review two important issues—cultural variability and worldviews.

Cultural Variability and Worldviews

In general terms, worldview refers to the individual’s perception and understandings of the world. Several researchers including Matsumoto and Juang (2013) point out that worldviews include, among other variables, perceptions of basic human nature, the roles of families, relationships with others, locus of control, orientation of time, work values, and activities. Worldviews, in this context, are developed both through individual experiences that are nonshared and through shared experiences and events. Nonshared experiences account for much of the variability within cultures, whereas shared experiences reflect worldviews that are common among members of a specific culture. Individualism and collectivism are often used to explain cultural differences. In individualistic cultures, such as those in Europe and North America, a great amount of value is placed on individual accomplishment. The individual strives for self-actualization. The rugged individualist is revered for his or her autonomy and independence; individuals are empowered to achieve and become individually responsible.

In collectivist cultures, such as those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the individual’s major function is focused on the welfare of the group for their collective survival. Individuals strive to build group solidarity. In these societies, individual uniqueness is not rejected, but more emphasis is placed on being identified with one’s social group. The needs of the group take precedence over self-interest. What is important here are sharing, cooperation, and social responsibility. An individual may conceptualize a career choice, for example, from the perception of what is best for the family group rather than from an individualistic perspective. In many collectivist cultures, family is more important than the individual (Brammer, 2012).

When counseling individuals from different ethnic groups, counselors should evaluate the degree and nature of acculturation by how it has affected the client’s worldview. One is to evaluate if some cultural values break down as the younger generations assimilate the values of the dominant White culture. In this context, acculturation refers to the extent to which a client has assumed the beliefs, values, and behaviors of the dominant White society. It is not unusual for some clients to make an attempt to adjust to local environments whereas others live biculturally or multiculturally: One can expect to find that some clients adopt behaviors of the White dominant culture but retain values from their own culture and the cultures of others they have come to know. Many experience conflicts, especially between generations, when older members of a family want to retain cultural rules, scripts, and roles, while the younger generation adopts those of the dominant White society. The collectivist view of family honor conditions one to never oppose family decisions, but members of the younger generation may prefer a shift of locus of control from a collectivist to an individualist position. Clients in this position share a growing desire to express themselves independently and make decisions based on their individual needs and self-interest (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013).

Among some cultures, differences in time orientation from the dominant society can present barriers to effective career planning and other time commitments that are normally assumed in career counseling. In traditional career counseling, the client is expected to be on time for appointments and abide by a set of deadlines to complete certain counseling interventions. In many collectivist cultures, individuals are not as obsessed with being on time and maintaining a strict time commitment. A Navajo Indian woman asked me if the next meeting would be “Indian time” or “American time.” She explained that “Indian time” is “whenever we get together that is convenient.” Being on time for most counselors is viewed as a positive value, and lateness is often misunderstood as a symptom of indifference or a lack of basic work skills. In this case, I learned firsthand that time orientation has different meanings for different cultural groups.

Another worldview perspective, how different groups view human nature, is an important concept for counselors to understand when working with multicultural groups. African Americans and European Americans consider human nature as both good and bad. In African American cultures, good and bad behavior is determined by their benefits to the community. European Americans judge good and bad as a part of each individual; good and bad are two sides of human nature that are in opposition and conflict (Diller, 2011).

The belief that human nature is basically good and that human beings can be trusted to have positive motives is shared by Asian, Native, and Latino/a American cultures. Following this logic has subjected these groups to being judged by the dominant society as naive and gullible in the workplace. The perception is that individuals who follow such logic need to “wise up” to reality. Counselors should help individuals from different cultures to be aware of and alert to workplace associations, which might require them to modify their conceptualizations of human nature.

Finally, personal space and privacy are also considered to be culturally oriented. Individuals from different cultures tend to invade each other’s personal space without being aware of it. Triandis (1994), known for his cross-culture studies, suggests that you invade personal space by walking into it, staring into it, and even through smell by wearing a strong perfume. This invasion is culturally determined; for instance, North American and Arabic cultures expect others to look them in the eye when talking whereas Asians consider direct eye contact to be insulting.

Conversational distances are also determined by language and culture; for example, Latino/as usually stand closer to each other than European Americans do when conversing. Arabs expect to stand very close to each other when engaged in serious conservation (Ivey et al., 2013). Counselors need to be alert to any signals of discomfort with regard to space and adjust distances accordingly.

In sum, individuals are socialized and shaped by their societies and contextual interactions within their environments. Thus, it is not surprising that one cultural group may generally view a behavior as being appropriate, but members of a different culture may view that same behavior as gross or insulting. The point here is that counselors must attempt to understand clients in terms of their origins, assimilation, and acculturation; one should learn to appreciate differences that exist in the way others think and behave. Stereotyping clients by their culture is to be avoided. Counselors are to recognize that there are different worldviews within cultural groups; each client must be approached as an individual. Worldviews are developed within cultural contexts and they are indeed unique for each individual. Finally, worldviews can be modified through experiences with other cultures (Ponterroto et al., 2010). In the next section, I discuss the findings of a well-known study concerning cultural differences in work-related activities.

Cultural Differences in Work-Related Activities

Many clients have different work values, including people from different cultural backgrounds. It should surprise no one that value orientations to work can be sources of serious conflict and misunderstanding in the workplace. One of the most provocative studies of work-related values was done by Hofstede (1984, 2001) in the 1980s and continues to be quoted in much of the literature concerning culture and work behavior. His study included 50 different countries in 20 different languages and 7 different occupational levels (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013). His aim was to determine dimensions of cultural differences of work-related values. His findings are paraphrased as follows:

1. Power distance. This dimension attempts to answer the basic hierarchical relationship between immediate boss and subordinate. In some countries, such as the Philippines, Mexico, Venezuela, and India, individuals tended to maintain strong status differences. In countries such as New Zealand, Denmark, Israel, and Austria, status and power differentials were minimized. In the United States, there was some degree of minimizing power differences.

2. Uncertainty avoidance. This term is used to describe how different cultures and societies deal with anxiety and stress. On a questionnaire designed for this study, countries that had low uncertainty avoidance indexes differed significantly from countries that had high scores. Workers with low scores had lower job stress, less resistance to change, greater readiness to live for the day, and stronger ambition for advancement. Workers with high uncertainty avoidance scores tended to fear failure, were less involved in risk taking, had higher levels of job stress, experienced more worry about the future, and tended to have higher anxiety. The countries with the highest scores on this dimension were Greece, Portugal, Belgium, and Japan. Countries with lowest scores were Sweden, Denmark, and Singapore.

3. Individualism/collectivism. This dimension attempted to answer the question about which cultures foster individual tendencies rather than group or collectivist tendencies. The results of this study suggested that the United States, Great Britain, Australia, and Canada had the highest scores for individualism. Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela were most collectivistic. People in highly individualistic countries were characterized as placing more importance on employees’ personal lifestyle, were emotionally independent from the company, found small companies attractive, and placed more importance on freedom and challenge in jobs. People in countries with low individualism were emotionally dependent on companies, frowned on individual initiative, considered group decisions better than individual ones, and aspired to conformity and orderliness in managerial positions.

4. Masculinity. This dimension is thought to be an indicator of which cultures would maintain and foster differences between sexes in the workplace. However, most employees who answered the questionnaire were men, so the conclusions drawn here should be considered tentative. People in countries that had high scores on this variable were characterized as believing in independent decision making, having stronger achievement motivation, and aspiring for recognition. People in countries that had low scores on this variable were characterized as believing in group decisions, seeing security as more important, preferring shorter working hours, and having lower job stress. Countries with high scores on this dimension were Japan, Austria, Venezuela, and Italy. Countries with low scores were Denmark, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

These results appear to suggest that culture does have an important role in work-related values. Moreover, we can conclude that employees’ perceptions of work roles—as well as of other life roles—are influenced by culture-related values. Differences between cultures help in understanding employee attitudes, values, behaviors, and interpersonal dynamics. Nevertheless, one must be reminded that differences between countries, as outlined in this study, need not necessarily correspond with similar differences on the individual level. The cultural differences found in this study suggest that we use them as general guidelines as follows: to understand how cultural differences can influence work-related values, lead to conflicts in the workplace, provide a awareness of legitimate cultural differences, and to challenge all to recognize that individual differences exist within cultures (Diller, 2011; Pederson, Lonner, Draguns, & Trimble, 2008).

Cultural Differences in Negotiations

One would also expect to find additional differences between cultural groups in their approach to negotiations with other countries and in the process itself. The delicate process of negotiations between two different cultures underscores the need to understand the impact of cultural values and customs. Kimmel (1994) points out that in the United States most negotiators approach others with a firm commitment to established assumptions that are rooted in American culture and values. Pragmatism, independence, and competition, for instance, are characteristic of an American’s business person’s approach to negotiating with others. The major goal is to get the best deal as quickly as possible. In America, for example, one focuses on getting the job done quickly with little attention paid to social activities or building relationships.

What is implied here is that American negotiators tend to give little consideration to what is expected in the process of negotiations by some cultures. People of many other cultures, for example, place a great deal of emphasis on the role of socializing as a most important part of the negotiation process. There is an expectation to engage in such social activities as having dinner together, playing golf and /or just hanging out. The differences of expectations and basic beliefs on how to reach agreements are quite clear. To the American negotiator this is business only: get the job done, meet the deadline, and make sure bottom line objectives have been accomplished. In contrast, the basic beliefs and values of many other cultures is that negotiations are built from human relationships that are fostered by social activities. The goal in this case is to build long-term relationships. In addition, when both parties benefit from negotiations, it is considered a success (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013).

Counselors are to be prepared to assist clients build an understanding of intercultural issues in the workplace. The United Sates currently has an abundance of multinational and international corporations and more are expected in the future. Globalization will bring the challenges that accompany interactions of workers with vastly different views and lifestyles. An understanding and respect of the beliefs and values of other cultures should certainly contribute to harmony in the working world.

The Challenge of Becoming Culturally Competent

During the last three decades, an increasing number of publications have addressed the need for counselors to become culturally competent, that is, to develop the ability to provide appropriate services cross-culturally. In the early 1990s, Sue and colleagues (1992) developed nine competence areas as basic for a culturally skilled counselor. The three overarching dimensions were

· (1)

understanding one’s assumptions, values, and biases;

· (2)

understanding the worldview of the culturally different client; and

· (3)

developing appropriate intervention strategies and techniques.

The three dimensions are broken down into subgroups of beliefs and attitudes, knowledge, and skills, and each of the subgroups is delineated in self-explanatory statements. Information about competencies can be obtained from the American Counseling Association website listed in appendix I.

In an earlier publication, Cross, Bazron, Dennis, and Isaacs (1989) developed individual cultural competence skills. They suggested five skill areas that have some overlap with the nine competence areas reported by Sue and colleagues. Growth in each of the five skill areas can be measured separately, but growth in one area tends to support growth in the others. They include

· (1)

awareness and acceptance of differences,

· (2)


· (3)

dynamics of difference,

· (4)

knowledge of the client’s culture, and

· (5)

adaptation of skills.

Each skill area will be discussed next.

The first skill area, awareness and acceptance of differences, is essential for counselors to begin the process of becoming culturally competent. In addition to recognizing individual and unique differences with every client, counselors are to become more aware of cultural differences that exist in the worldviews and work-related activities that were discussed earlier. This first step is essential for developing an appreciation of cultural diversity.

When discussing awareness of differences, Diller (2011) suggested that Western-oriented mental health practices cannot be applied universally to culturally different populations without recognition of significant cultural differences. These groups of researchers implied that counselors who are unaware of different worldviews (psychological orientation, manners of thinking, ways of behaving and interpreting events) are essentially ineffective; counselors must learn to be more aware of the worldviews of others. The following characteristics are thought to be essential for one to be a culturally effective counselor (Sue, 1990, p. 451):

1. An ability to recognize which values and assumptions the counselor holds regarding the desirability or undesirability of human behavior

2. Awareness of the generic characteristics of counseling that cut across many schools of counseling theory

3. Understanding of the sociopolitical forces (oppression and racism) that have influenced the identity and perspective of the culturally different

4. An ability to share the worldview of his or her clients without negating its legitimacy

5. True eclecticism in his or her counseling.

Clearly counselors are to use their entire repertoire of counseling skills as long as they accept different views and are cognizant of the experiences and lifestyle of the culturally different. These researchers emphasized that counselors must be alert to the influences of different views and environmental factors that were developed in one’s cultural context. Finally, counselors must be cautious not to impose their values on others.

The second skill area, self-awareness, requires the counselor to recognize any prejudice that would make it difficult to empathize with people of color. Counselors are to view the role of culture in their own lives as a backdrop for appreciating how and why others may be different. The recommended outcome is for an appreciation of how a variety of cultural variables shape human behavior. To develop this skill area, one is required to develop sufficient self-knowledge of culture-specific factors that influence behavior and a personal awareness of one’s own cultural background. In short, counselors must recognize their limitations when counseling someone of a different culture. An evaluation of racial attitudes, beliefs, and feelings may well be assessed by a White racial identity developmental model such as the one built around the work of R. T. Carter (1995) and Helms (1990). Their conceptualization of an identity model that represents that of a White member of the dominant society contains five stages:

1. Contact stage: Is unaware of any biases associated with his or her race and racial identity.

2. Disintegration stage: Acknowledges a White identity that often results in confusion and conflict.

3. Reintegration stage: Devalues other races and idealizes whiteness.

4. Pseudo-independent stage: Intellectualizes the understanding and acceptance of other races and is somewhat tolerant.

5. Autonomy stage: Becomes nonracist and internalizes a multicultural identity.

This model enlightens counselors to the behavioral characteristics that occur at various stages of identity development for both the counselor and the client. The process should not be conceived as a linear progression, but rather, as continuous and cyclical, involving interactions with individuals from diverse cultures that lead to adaptive changes. Counselors should continually evaluate their progress of awareness as racial and cultural beings.

The third skill area, the dynamics of difference, also relates to self-awareness. This skill is seen as a counselor’s knowledge of subtle differences between cultures in the way they interact and communicate. Eye contact, for instance, has different meanings; some cultures avoid eye contact and others may expect it while conversing. Counselors can communicate an awareness of differences between cultures by adopting appropriate cultural counseling techniques.

The fourth skill area, knowledge of the client’s culture, suggests that counselors are to prepare for counseling by familiarizing themselves with the client’s cultural orientation. Suggested topics include country of origin, sociopolitical context, preferred language, religion, family role, gender roles, cultural assumptions of appropriate behavior, cultural values and ideologies, class definitions if any, power in relationships, work roles, customs, and traditions. Knowledge of the client’s culture is most relevant in the counseling process, especially in the development of appropriate collaborative relationships between client and counselor that are essential for productive counseling outcomes.

The adaptation of skills, the fifth skill, is the process of altering counseling programs and intervention strategies to fit the client’s cultural values better. Again, counselors must be familiar with the client’s cultural background. For example, clients from collectivistic cultures may expect their families to participate in all decisions, and counselors who ignore this basic need may be quite ineffective. Counselors need to evaluate the counseling process carefully from the perspective of how methods, procedures, and materials can be adapted to make certain they are culturally appropriate.

Counselors who become familiar with the terms etics, emics, and ethnocentrism will fully appreciate the need to adapt their counseling methods, materials, and procedures. The term “etic” suggests that there are universal truths across cultures. The basic assumption, for example, is that one can evaluate behavior and motivation by universal cultural norms. Thus, a counselor’s own culture has relevance for people of all cultures; one’s perspective is to judge behavior on what a counselor considers to be universal standards of behavior. The term “emic” considers truths as culture specific. In this case the basic assumption is that we should judge an individual’s behavior by the values, beliefs, and social mores of his or her particular culture. The emic perspective involves behavioral norms within the client’s culture (Paniagua, 2005; Wehrly, 1995). When counselors insist on using their own background of biases, values, and beliefs to interpret culturally different actions and behaviors, they are suggesting that their race is superior, and that is known as ethnocentricism (Ivey et al., 2014).

Cultural Identity

There has been a long association in career counseling with the term “identity”. Career counselors focus on how individuals understand self and form a personal identity that is recognized by others. There are, however, numerous forms of identity, but the focus here is on personal, collective, and relational identity.

Personal identity makes one unique and has been a key issue in the career choice process for all clients, especially for those who come from different cultural groups. Collective identities are created as members of social groups and networks, for example, religious, cultural, occupational, and other social groups. Relational identities are formed through group affiliation and interactions. People strive to build meaningful and lasting relationships. Interactions within groups teach social norms.

What is most important for counselors to recognize is that identities are fluid; they can change over time. Multicultural identities may provide the possibility of multiple psychocultural influences suggesting that both individualistic and collectivism worldviews influence the formation of self-identify. Immigrant groups, however, tend to maintain their original identity as a positive factor when facing uncertainties in a new environment (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013).

In sum, skill and competency development are most important in meeting the challenge of becoming culturally competent. Counselors, however, must also evaluate their basic assumptions about career counseling, that is, can contemporary theory and practices meet the needs of an increasingly diverse population? What is implied here is that counselors not only need to build skills for cultural competency, but they must also rethink the underlying principles of current theories and practices. In the next section, I will discuss five major cultural groups.

Main content

9-3 Five Major Cultural Groups

Governmental agencies have grouped individuals by culture for a variety of reasons, but especially for the national census. One of the most recent groupings is as follows: African Americans (black is often used), Asian, Southeast Asian, Asian Indian, and other Asian, Hispanic (Latino/a is often used), Native Americans (First Nations People is often used), and White (Anglo-Saxon and European American is often used). The data in Figure 9.1 reveal percentages of our total population by race from 1990 and projected to 2050. It is estimated that almost 50% of the population in the United States will be minorities by the year 2050 (U.S. Department of Commerce, 1996). More specifically, there will be an estimated increase from 12% to 15% in African Americans; from 0.8% to 1% in Native Americans; from 3% to 10% in Asian and Pacific Islanders; from 9% to 22% in Hispanics; and a decrease from 76% to 52% in White Americans. These data indicate that we must continue to rethink our counseling theories, models, and materials to meet the needs of this increasingly diverse population. Even though there appears to be justification for the construct of human universal issues common to all people, we must also remember that each individual is shaped by unique contextual experiences. This message has been repeated often throughout this text.

Figure 9.1

Percentage of population by race


Percentage of population by race


African Americans

The second largest racial minority group in this country is African Americans. Most African Americans live in urban areas and for the most part, they have been wage earners rather than being self-employed. Almost half of all African Americans own their home and a significant number are employed as business executives, managers, and professionals. African American men have achieved greater career mobility than African American women have. Some of both sexes have achieved upward mobility to professional occupations as the overall success of African Americans’ upward movement increases. Those who have attained middle-class status are also in position to take advantage of educational opportunities and career mobility. Others, particularly those classified as underclass—primarily from three generations of families on welfare—are without job skills and experience both internal and external resistance to changing their status.

The loss of jobs in the manufacturing sector has reduced job opportunities for many minority workers, including African Americans. Many of these jobs were filled by unskilled and semiskilled workers. It is therefore critical to connect minority groups with training and educational opportunities. Counseling interventions that encourage skill development to compete for the more attractive jobs in the workplace are most desirable; however, occupations that are available to African Americans continue to be relatively constricted.

Paniagua (2005) suggests some relevant counseling procedures for African American as follows:

1. Discuss racial differences.

One is to ask how the client feels about working with a White counselor. The obvious purpose of the discussion is to convince the client of the counselor’s sensitivity to racism and oppression and that all clients have unique experiences that are considered in the counseling process. African American counselors are not to assume that they have a guarantee of success because of their ethnic background.

2. Assess the client’s level of acculturation.

3. Avoid offering causal explanations of problems.

One is to avoid linking mental health problems to members of the family.

4. Include the client’s church in the counseling process.

5. Recognize and define the roles of those who accompany the client.

Involvement of family in interventions can be very effective.

6. Emphasize strengths rather than deficits.

7. Avoid giving the impression that you as a counselor are a protector of the race.

These recommendations suggest that counseling someone of a different cultural background will require preparation designed to understand culture-specific variables in order to appropriately address their needs. In the case of African Americans, counselors can build an understanding of their needs by becoming familiar with their unique history, and the impact of contemporary racism and oppression.

Asian and Pacific Americans

In the 2000 census, four major groups emerged as a means of identifying the incredibly diverse Asian population that now resides in the United States: Asian, Southeast Asian, Asian Indian, and other Asian. These groups are further divided as follows:

Asian Americans Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean
Southeast Asians Cambodian, Hmong, Vietnamese, Laotian, Thai, Malaysian, Singaporean
Asian Indian Bengalese, Bharat, Dravidian, East Indian, Goanese
Other Asian Bangladeshi, Burmese, Indonesian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan

It is not surprising that among these groups there are vast differences in ethnicity, language, religion, and cultural values. Each group has a distinct history and there are also within-group differences. It is therefore most important to view each Asian client as a unique individual whose status, characteristics, and traits have been shaped in a unique cultural context. Counselors may need to call on other helpers or individuals known to be familiar with certain populations of Asians.

We should also expect to find significant differences in educational achievement, occupation, wages earned, and standards of living among Asian Americans. Ridley (2005) suggests that there is a myth about Asians being a “model minority group.” There is no doubt that some Asians have excelled in educational achievement, earn high wages, and are employed in prestigious jobs and professions, but there are also Asians Americans who are undereducated, receive public assistance, live in crowded urban areas, are unemployed, and are involved in juvenile delinquency. Similar to other culturally diverse groups, there are indeed within-group differences.

We do know, however, that many Asian American groups place high value on education. There seems to be general agreement that Asian Americans perceive education as a means of upward mobility and are highly motivated to remove barriers that could limit them. However, there appears to be substantial evidence that Asian Americans are often victimized by discriminatory employment practices (Slattery, 2004). Like many other minority groups, Asian Americans are hindered in the job market because of poor communication skills. There is little doubt that Asian Americans have been successful in the fields of engineering, computer science, business, and economics.

In evaluating counseling processes as a source of conflict for Chinese Americans, Sue and Sue (1990) and more recently Brammer (2012) and Ponterotto et al. (2010) have made several pertinent observations:

· (1)

Chinese American students inhibit emotional expression and do not actively participate in the counseling process;

· (2)

Chinese Americans are discouraged from revealing emotional problems by their cultural conditioning; and

· (3)

Chinese American students react more favorably to well-structured counseling models.

These conclusions emphasize the importance of understanding cultural influences when counseling Chinese Americans and other Asians.

The following special needs and problems associated with Asian Americans in counseling are summarized from suggestions by Pederson and colleagues (2008); Ridley (2005); and Sue and Sue (2003).

1. Asian Americans are very sensitive about verbalizing psychological problems, especially in group encounters.

2. Asian Americans tend to be inexpressive when asked to discuss personal achievements and limitations.

3. Asian Americans tend to misinterpret the role of counseling in general and the benefits that may be derived from it.

4. Asian Americans can be perceived as very passive and nonassertive with authority figures, but in reality they are reacting to cultural inhibitions that discourage them from being perceived as aggressive.

5. Asian Americans may strongly resist suggestions to modify behavior that is unassuming and nonassertive.

As a group, Asian Americans are known to have a strong work ethic. In general, Asian Americans are very industrious workers, seem to value education, and have taken advantage of higher education to enhance their career development. They are also known to do well in business administration, engineering, and sciences. However, the stereotype of the Asian American as being good in sciences but lacking in verbal skills could limit their access to careers that require communication skills. Even though the most recent immigrants from Asia are employed mainly in service occupations, many Asian Pacific Americans can be found as workers in the professions, in office and clerical jobs, and as service workers.

Finally, among traditional Asian cultures, offering what is considered to be desirable help includes giving advice and suggestions, but avoiding confrontation and direct interpretation of motives and actions. When discussing personal issues for instance, it is more appropriate to be indirect, and counselors should do most of the initial verbalization with a rather formal interactive approach (Paniagua, 2005; Sue, 1994). Be aware that Asian Americans may resist help from a counselor or mental health worker because they often rely on a “natural healing” process (Leung & Cheung, 2001). According to Fong (2003, p. 270), Asian Americans may not seek help because they

1. do not recognize or acknowledge there is a mental health problem.

2. are afraid of being stigmatized if they seek help.

3. do not want to address negative comments about their traditional healing practices.

4. do not have access to bilingual bicultural services.

5. assume the provider will not be culturally competent.

Hispanic (Latinos/Latinas) Americans

The Hispanic population has grown much faster than predicted and as a result is currently the largest minority group in this country. Cohn and Fears (2001) point out that the largest subgroup of Hispanics is of Mexican ancestry. Other significant subgroups are from Central and South America, Puerto Rico, and Cuba. According to Ivey et al. (2014), some groups of Hispanic Americans prefer to be recognized as Mexican American, Cuban American, and Puerto Rican American, for example.

There appears to be solid evidence that Hispanics underuse counseling services in both mental health and academic settings (Ponterotto et al., 2010). Counselors need to encourage the use of services and advocate that there is good evidence that they could benefit from services, especially when intervention strategies are designed to meet their special needs. Interventions with academically and economically disadvantaged Puerto Rican women produced positive results by raising their levels of career maturity (adaptability) and developing beliefs that they can control their own destinies.

Social factors such as social-class membership, environment of the home and school, and the community in which many Hispanics reside have significantly influenced their career perspectives and attitudes toward work (Cormier et al., 2013; Diller, 2011; Ponterotto et al., 2010). What is emphasized here is that socioeconomic status and lack of opportunity have restricted Hispanics from access to higher education and subsequently in their occupational aspirations. Hispanics, however, are not a homogeneous group; there are important differences between subgroups and between Hispanics from different socioeconomic backgrounds. One is recognize that many Hispanics are acculturated and fit into the mainstream of society; expect to find diverse value systems among Hispanics. There are, however, some Hispanics who cling to their traditional heritages and, consequently, may have difficulty in adjusting to an Anglo-dominant culture. Caught between conflicting cultures, the adolescent Hispanic, for example, seeks the support of peers who are experiencing similar conflicts. This reaction is not uncommon in most cultural groups, but when there is less interaction with other groups of students, school can become a low priority.

The Mexican American family, in particular, has been characterized as a closely knit group that greatly influences the values of its members (Paniagua, 2005). Spanish-speaking children are generally taught to value and respect family, church, and school as well as masculinity and honor. Families are primarily patriarchal (as far as the center of authority is concerned) with a distinct division of duties; that is, the father is the breadwinner, and the mother is the homemaker. Spanish is the primary language spoken in the home and in the barrio. However, it appears that traditions, including family solidarity, are breaking down among younger Hispanics (Ridley, 2005).

Fouad (1995) recommends several career intervention strategies for Hispanics. Researchers are encouraged to assess these recommendations and to aim their research efforts toward examining the career behavior of Hispanics. The following career counseling recommendations have been paraphrased from Fouad (1997, pp. 186–187).

1. Consider the cultural context of all clients, including Hispanics. Some Hispanics have retained traditional value systems, whereas others may not be traditional. When we are not certain about the client’s cultural background, we need to be creative, that is, adopt what is referred as “creative uncertainty.” Using this approach, one is to direct counseling efforts toward the client’s willingness to inform us of how culture has influenced his or her life.

2. Be flexible in the career counseling process, especially when we incorporate familial and environmental factors in decision making.

3. Choose assessment instruments with care relative to what is appropriate for Hispanic cultures.

4. Use immediate intervention to retain Hispanic students in school. Career information should include reasons for taking math and science courses.

5. Develop strategies to include self-efficacy as a key to future career success.

6. Provide Hispanic females with a wide variety of career information, including information on nontraditional careers.

The following suggestions for developing effective interventions for Hispanic Americans are adapted from Zuniga (2003, pp. 257–258):

· Respond to cultural preferences of client rather than imposing your own.

· Include natural support networks.

· Address stress-related immigration issues.

· Attend to survival issues and personal needs of client and client’s family.

· Use techniques to assist clients make adaptations to new and different living conditions.

· Utilize client’s religion or belief system in strategy planning.

· Use narrative therapy, metaphor, and family system approaches.

· Act as an advocate for client’s needs.

Native Americans

Over time, several terms have been used for identifying native groups such as Native American, Native Indigenous, and First Nations People. In our discussion I will continue to use the general term Native American as there is no consensus as to which better describes or identifies native people. We do know, however, that Native Americans are quite diverse. Within the United States, there are more than 500 distinct Native American nations that differ significantly in language, religious beliefs, and social characteristics among other aspects of their cultures. Many Native Americans have lived in urban areas for training, college, or employment. Keeping close contact with their families and friends who live on reservations is a high priority (Tischler, 2014). Of those Native Americans who live outside the reservation, the largest concentrations are in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, but Minneapolis, Denver, Tulsa, Phoenix, and Milwaukee also contain significant numbers. The states with the highest numbers of Native Americans are Oklahoma, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Washington, North Carolina, Texas, New York, and Michigan. The latest census taken indicates there are 5.2 million Native Americans (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2012).

On the reservations, many are involved in farming, ranching, fishing, and lumber production. Off the reservations, Native Americans work in factories, on farms, and as skilled craft persons. Some tribes engage in various enterprises, such as motel management; others offer bingo and lottery games to the general public. Gambling casinos on reservations have also emerged.

An important variable in the career development of Native Americans is the degree to which they adhere to cultural customs, language, and traditions. The degree of cultural heritage is described on a continuum by Ryan and Ryan (1982, cited in LaFromboise, Trimble, & Mohatt, 1990), as follows:

1. Traditional: Speak only native language and observe traditions.

2. Transitional: Speak both native language and English and may question traditions of the past.

3. Marginal: Speak of themselves as Indian but identify with roles in dominant society.

4. Assimilated: Have generally embraced the dominant society.

5. Bicultural: Are accepted by dominant society but also identify with tribal traditions and culture.

As with other ethnic groups, one should not stereotype Native Americans, but rather, focus on the degree to which each client adheres to cultural customs, language, and traditions. Significant differences between individuals within cultural groups must be addressed in the career counseling process. But one should also remember that old traditions should be respected, and some may be used to foster career development; the use of role models and experientially related activities are recommended (Chandler, Lalonde, Sokol, & Hallett, 2003).

Many Native Americans have a strong desire to retain the symbolic aspects of their heritage, much of which is different from the dominant culture. The challenge for counselors is to assist Native Americans in preserving the positive aspects of their heritage while encouraging them to modify some behaviors. For example, the ability to enjoy the present should be combined with planning skills, the ability to share with others, and assertive behavior. The value orientation of Native Americans is a sensitive issue for career counselors. Ritual and ceremony continue to be used to help the ill (Gurung, 2014). One’s tribe and family are more important than the individual and one is determined to help others. Interpersonal harmony is of the utmost importance (Diller, 2011).

Native American resistance to counseling in general is exemplified by the underuse of existing mental health services. According to Weaver (2003), Native Americans are the most neglected group in the mental health field. Native Americans would take advantage of counseling relationships if appropriate counseling strategies were used. Trimble and LaFromboise (1985, p.131) summarized Miller’s strategies that remain on target in current times as follows:

1. Personal ethnic identity in itself is hardly sufficient for understanding the influence of culture on the client.

2. The client’s history contains a number of strengths that can promote and facilitate the counseling process.

3. The counselor should be aware of his or her own biases about cultural pluralism—they might interfere with the counseling relationship.

4. The counselor should encourage the client to become more active in identifying and learning the various elements associated with positive growth and development.

5. Most important are empathy, caring, and a sense of the importance of the human potential.

In sum, be aware of the diversity, history, culture, and contemporary problems of Native Americans. Display patience and listen intently. Remaining silent when major points are discussed communicates an understanding of Native American traditions of the time necessary to reason and think through problems (Diller, 2011).


White is used here to correspond with the percentage of the dominant population by race reported in Figure 9.1. The term “White” has problems similar to the use of the terms “Asians” and “Hispanics”—these groups of people are not homogenous. There are significant differences within cultural groups as well as differences between groups. White Americans are composed of individuals whose origins may be Western and Eastern European, Arabian, Jewish, South American, and Australian among other nationalities (Brammer, 2012). Other terms used to identify White Americans include Anglo-Saxon, and European Americans. The term “White” usually identifies a group of people who refer to themselves as “Americans” without any prefix. White Americans as a group are thought to be individualistic as opposed to collectivistic.

Throughout this chapter, the terms individualism and collectivism have been identified in numerous discussions as differences between groups of people that are primarily the result of unique cultural contextual experiences and life course events. Multicultural competency has justifiably focused on preparing counselors to counsel clients who have a different cultural orientation than their own. The focus of multicultural counseling has been directed to White counselors who counsel individuals from different cultural groups. In recent years, however, more professionally trained counselors of different ethnicities are emerging. There appears to be an increased interest in how a counselor who has a strong collectivistic background and may be of a different race is to counsel White clients who are individualistically oriented. The roles have been reversed.

The subtleties of effective counseling are quite extensive and are contained in numerous volumes of research and academic textbooks. Integrating career and personal counseling, however, identifies individual needs including cultural ones that are addressed through tailored interventions. In a whole person or holistic approach, the cultural dimension is a most important factor. Thus counselors must indeed be prepared to understand how cultural orientations can influence development and behavior. In the context of our discussions, the counselor whose cultural origin is collectivism is encouraged to recognize the significance of a client’s cultural orientation of individualism. One must also recognize that there is much about the development of behavior that we do not know. We do know, however, that behavior is driven by multidimensional forces that are very inclusive. What I am stressing here is that when an individual is identified as being influenced by a collectivistic or individualistic orientation, there are differences in the degree and strength of the orientation. Again I make the point—there are differences between individuals within groups, which suggests that every client is not exactly of the same ilk in any culture.

The term individual has been most important in the history of the United States in that individual rights have been and remain a cornerstone of its development as a nation. In the formative years of this country, the nature of government was to ensure human rights in order for individuals to own property and maximize their freedom. The point here is that the case for the individual has been deeply embedded in individual freedom that includes the option to enhance one’s personal and individual achievements; the groundwork for the ideal of personal autonomy was established and for the most part has been nurtured and fostered in American society over time.

I will now focus on European Americans who are generally thought of as representing individualistic characteristics more so than others of a different origin under the category of White reported earlier. For the purpose of clarity, I will refer to the counselor as a minority counselor. What we have here is a European American who is being counseled by a minority counselor whose origin is that of collectivism. Individualism in general terms places the focus on the welfare of the individual as opposed to collectivism that places a greater emphasis on the welfare of the group. Individualistic cultures are thought to value autonomy and independence. One who is individualistic searches for opportunities to achieve, is consumed with the desire to be productive, and strongly desires individual responsibility. Reinforcing one’s self-esteem is the approach one uses when faced with a challenge. Self-actualization is another important goal.

In addition, the American dream has many components including the opportunity for an individual to choose an optimal career based on one’s self-interests and future aspirations. More on collectivism and individualism can be found in the references cited in this chapter. I now turn to some suggestions for minority counselors who counsel European Americans.

The preparatory stage for entering a counseling relationship is most important. Counselors who counsel individuals from a different culture than their own are to focus on the client’s cultural identification, identity development, socioeconomic influences, potential stereotypes of others, and the strengths the client associates with her or his race. This information is obtained before counseling and in the intake interview. One is to focus on cultural contexts of the client that can influence career development and behavior. For example, are the client’s contextual experiences for the most part individualistic or collectivistic?

Next, minority counselors are to establish the counseling relationship. One is to structure the relationship in order for the client to be proactive. The recommendation here is one of collaboration in which there is consensus of opinion that determines the direction counseling is to take. More than likely an individualistic-oriented client will prefer a well-structured counseling approach—one must be organized and businesslike. Organization of materials (good organizational skills on the part of the counselor) and a solution-based counseling approach will likely impress a European American client. The availability of assessment instruments and their purpose are to be carefully explained. After all, one is not to waste time but make progress toward solving problems.

The counseling process as you have often heard requires effective communication skills. Minority counselors are to be very direct; explicit verbal communications are common in the European American community. Questions are to be directed at specific topics such as background data, current and past concerns, and expected outcomes. Most European American clients expect to discuss one’s lifestyle and other personal matters. One is to focus on acknowledging concerns, and it is most desirable to carefully discuss each concern with the client; European American clients expect the counselor to be very attentive to their personal needs. Acknowledgment and empathy of one’s concerns are most desirable.

Time is of the essence for most European Americans, who are considered to be of an individualistic orientation. Punctuality is a sign of respect. It is most important to start and end each session exactly on the time agreed upon. Keep in mind that some clients plan each day with firm time constraints in order to meet goals of accomplishment they have set. Any interruption in their schedule can be most annoying.

The client’s perception of the counselor is most important. In most cases, one can expect clients to respect earned credentials and they can be most impressed with the training program counselors have experienced. Prestige of university degrees and internships and residencies are also important to the client. The point here is that most all clients are interested in their counselor’s background, but in the case of European Americans, credentials can be most significant (Slattery, 2004). One’s achievements are a significant part of the European American’s lifestyle. One who enjoys and endorses personal achievement is more comfortable with another person who demonstrates those traits.

The counselor should keep in mind that some European Americans can be very action oriented. There is a strong need to take control of self and solve problems. In these cases, counselors are to use a variety of homework assignments that could be beneficial to the client. Homework assignments fit in nicely with clients who are driven by the need to work hard to overcome any barriers that diminish their ability to succeed. Periodic reinforcements of individual progress by the counselor can enhance the counseling relationship.

Counselors are to stress the strength of the individual. This does not suggest that we dismiss the value of social support from others, but European Americans strongly endorse independence. There is the feeling that an individual is able to overcome most obstacles through hard work and dedication. One is to bolster their self-efficacy through a series of successes. There is a strong desire to view the future as a challenge to their individualistic views of self. Engaging the client in the counseling process as much as possible reinforces individualistic views. What could you do to make it better? Do you think that you could achieve these goals? Is it important for you to be judged by your individual achievement? These are examples of engaging European Americans who strongly believe that personal effort is the pathway to success.

In this very brief discussion of suggestions for minority counselors who counsel European Americans, I offer only a few. As is often suggested in the counseling literature, one is to locate an ally who can be of assistance in developing counseling skills with clients who have a different worldview than their own. One can also expect to find more relevant research from which one can build their counseling skills in the future. In the meantime, follow the suggestions of how one can become a competent multicultural counselor discussed earlier in this chapter:

· (1)

Learn to understand your assumptions, values, and biases,

· (2)

become familiar with the worldview of culturally different clients, and

· (3)

develop effective and appropriate interventions strategies (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992).

Some Mental Health Issues of Cultural Groups

In this section, I address abnormal behavior of culturally different people to determine if their mental health disorders meet universal standards of abnormality or whether abnormality varies across cultures. Not surprisingly a great deal of research has been done to answer these questions. The interest in the answers is quite obvious. If abnormality is universal, then helpers would use universally validated diagnosis procedures and intervention strategies. If the opposite were true, and abnormality does indeed vary across cultures and is considered to be culture specific, counselors would turn to unique aspects of a particular culture for determining counseling procedures including diagnosis and interventions. In the next paragraphs, I will briefly review studies of anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, somatoform disorders, and schizophrenia. The symptoms of each disorder were discussed in chapter 5 and will not be emphasized here. I use the term mental health disorders instead of psychological disorders in this section as used by the World Health Organization.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is expressed in a variety of ways including fear and panic that exist worldwide. Horwath and Weissman (1997) found similar rates of panic among ethnic groups found in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Italy, Korea, and Taiwan. These findings give some support to the position of universality. The opposing argument of this position, however, suggests that there are differences in the way in which a person expresses reactions to an anxiety disorder. Castillo (1997) suggests that anxiety is conceptualized as manifestations of emotional distress that are based on culturally developed cognitive schemas. In addition, he suggests that the key to understanding the emotional process of all clients is to focus on the meaning that person draws from her or his unique experiences. Meaning in this context refers to contextual experiences that are unique aspects of a particular culture. It appears that symptoms of anxiety as a mental health disorder are similar among cultural groups, but the expression of anxious feelings tends to be culture specific.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is expressed in a variety of ways including fear and panic that exist worldwide. Horwath and Weissman (1997) found similar rates of panic among ethnic groups found in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, New Zealand, Italy, Korea, and Taiwan. These findings give some support to the position of universality. The opposing argument of this position, however, suggests that there are differences in the way in which a person expresses reactions to an anxiety disorder. Castillo (1997) suggests that anxiety is conceptualized as manifestations of emotional distress that are based on culturally developed cognitive schemas. In addition, he suggests that the key to understanding the emotional process of all clients is to focus on the meaning that person draws from her or his unique experiences. Meaning in this context refers to contextual experiences that are unique aspects of a particular culture. It appears that symptoms of anxiety as a mental health disorder are similar among cultural groups, but the expression of anxious feelings tends to be culture specific.

Depression—A Mood Disorder

In the 1980s the World Health Organization conducted a very thorough study of depression in Canada, India, Iran, Japan, and Switzerland. The researchers found constant symptoms of depression across cultures (World Health Organization, 1983). Thus the conclusions of this research suggest that the way people experience depression is constant across cultures; the position of universality of mood disorders is supported. The opposing view focused on how cultures vary in the way they communicate emotional terminology when expressing symptoms of depression. Three important conclusions were reached:

· (1)

There are only a few words in the respondent’s language to convey certain emotions,

· (2)

non-Westerners describe anxiety by focusing on bodily symptoms, and

· (3)

the expression of depression itself may be different in some cultures.

Once again it is suggested that the symptoms of depression are similar across cultures, but the expression of depression is culturally determined.

Personality Disorders

Similar personality structures were found in German, Portuguese, Hebrew, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people (McCrae & Costa, 1997). There have been other studies that have reached similar conclusions, suggesting that personality structures are similar across cultures (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013). The argument here is centered around evidence that personality structures are indeed universal, but other aspects of personality are culturally unique and are considered to be indigenous personality structures. Examples of indigenous personality descriptions include the Korean concept of cheong, which refers to human affection (Choi, Kim, & Choi, 1993); the Mexican concept of simpatica which refers to avoidance of conflict (Triandes, Marin, Lisansky, & Betancourt, 1984); and the Indian concept of kuma karma which refers to detachment. We can expect to learn more about indigenous personality development in the future. In the meantime, Matsumato and Juang (2013) suggest that we could blend the universal concepts of personality with indigenous personality structure in order to have a more meaningful appreciation of one’s personality. Their point is well taken—cultural contexts are a most relevant part of one’s personality structure.

Somatoform Disorders

This group of disorders includes psychological concerns with appearance and functions of the body. The major focus of these disorders involves imagined illness, conflicts that are converted into physical systems, and imagined defects of physical appearance. High levels and consistent patterns of anxiety over time are thought to be precursors to the development of somatoform disorders. For a long period of time, somatoform disorders were thought to be more common in developing countries; however, more recent research tells us that these disorders are uniform worldwide (Durand & Barlow, 2013).

Another false assumption was the belief that some cultures tended to camouflage psychological symptoms by reporting physical symptoms. In short, there is evidence to support the existence of symptoms associated with somatoform disorders worldwide, but as with most other mental health disorders, there is evidence of culture-specific meanings and recognition of expression modes used by different cultures (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013).


The World Health Organization (1981) sponsored and supervised research concerning the prevalence of schizophrenia in Czechoslovakia, Denmark, England, India, the Soviet Union, Taiwan, and the United States. Symptoms across all cultures were identified as auditory and verbal hallucinations, lack of insight, and references to self, indicating that one is viewed as the center of attention. Another most interesting finding was that the course of illness appeared to be easier and faster for clients in developing countries when compared to clients in highly industrialized countries. Castillo (1997) made a strong case for differences between cultures in the way schizophrenia is viewed. His major point was that people in the United States view schizophrenia as an internal problem whereas in many other countries the cause of psychotic symptoms is thought to be external to the individual. Furthermore, causation is thought to be from external forces that can be overcome and there is less criticism and hostility directed to the one who is ill. I am not suggesting that schizophrenia does not involve internal problems, but once again there is support for both universal and culture-specific symptoms of a mental health disorder—schizophrenia is no exception (Sue et al., 2014).

In this brief review of five mental disorders, I conclude that the cultural meaning of mental health symptoms provides one with a most important understanding of mental health problems. One should look beyond Western norms and meanings to develop necessary insight as to how mental health problems are perceived by people of different cultures. One can recognize the relevance of what constitutes abnormal behavior and in so doing come to the realization that what is considered abnormal in one culture may be judged quite differently in another. The case for the unique aspects of a culture suggests that beliefs derived from culture-specific contexts are to be included in the counseling process. In essence, cultural relativism is an endorsement of unique individuals whose socialization includes sociocultural events and experiences.

In the next part of this chapter, I address multicultural perspectives of men and women.

Strategies for Dealing with Multicultural Influences

The point has been made that women and men are socialized in a particular culture. By incorporating ethnicity in career development of both sexes, we gain a greater understanding of multiple facets of influence that shape values, beliefs, actions, and worldviews. A most important point to remember is that one’s development does not take place in isolation but is greatly influenced by salient messages received within the environment. Hence, ethnic-related messages are integrated with other variables that greatly affect gender-role development. We will briefly examine ethnicity and gender of African Americans, Southeastern Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

Working with African American Women and Men

African American women have a long history of doing menial labor as cooks, housemaids, nannies, and other low-pay-scale jobs (Galliano, 2003). More recently, African American women are found in professions largely as a result of federal legislation and affirmative action policies (Higginbotham, 1994; Matlin, 2004). An increasing number of African American women have been successful in owning their own businesses (Ballard, 1997). Most overall career growth appears to be in the public sector; however, women of color continue to be subjected to discrimination in the private sector.

The collective strengths of African American women are in social networks of other women and relatives such as sisters. Many regularly participate in sororities, church women’s groups, and women’s social clubs. In essence, female friendship is a strong support system for African American women. Women support each other in difficult times and remain loyal to their churches. African American women have a strong spiritual commitment that is used to counteract the unfairness and hardships of oppression and racism (Pederson et al., 2008). Some of the challenges facing African American women are health problems associated with poverty and isolation. Teenage pregnancy among African Americans is declining, but the problem remains a challenge.

Career counseling for ethnic women was discussed and illustrated in chapter 3. I cannot overemphasize the point that career counselors must recognize that there is diversity in any subgroup. Thus, African American women are not to be considered as a homogeneous group. Job training and child care are two primary needs of many African American women.

Parham (1996) makes the point that African American men value treating others with respect, kindness, and decency. He infers that African American men have not received reciprocal treatment in this country by the White dominant society. He suggests that counselors become active advocates to change discriminatory practices in communities. Furthermore, he suggests that counselors address the oppressions associated with racism and White supremacy directly with clients. A most important counseling goal is for counselors to assist African American men to develop self-awareness or self-knowledge. Counselors, for example, are to assist African American men in developing a self-identity that underscores their ability to express themselves openly and freely. Strongly suggested here is that we must “help African-American clients more fully understand, appreciate, and express, their Africanness” (Parham, 1996, p. 188). Finally, some developmental strategies to help African Americans include assisting self-concept development, developing more internally directed behavior, becoming more aware of job opportunities, clarifying motivational aspirations, and dealing with ambivalence toward Whites.

Working with Asian Women and Men

Southeastern Asian American women have received little attention in the research literature. This population consists of a variety of groups including women from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. Since 1975, more than 1 million Southeastern Asian refugees have migrated to the United States (Zaharlick, 2000). Of this group, the Vietnamese are thought to be the best educated and most fluent in English and have the most experience in professional and technical occupations. There is much diversity among this subgroup of people, however, although some values are shared. Southeastern Asian women feel a strong devotion to their children and to family continuity, they strive to avoid actions that would bring shame to the family, and they strongly embrace self-control (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2013).

A couple I know owned and operated a restaurant and both worked on the midnight shift in a local weaving plant. Their goal was to provide the necessary funds for their son’s educational expenses. Their devotion to their child’s education is a good example of their values and family commitment. When I expressed this to them, their response was simply that they expected him to spend most of his time studying. They did not seem to feel that what they were doing was anything special and showed great pride in their son’s achievement. Obviously, in this case, family and devotion to their child were of major importance.

Southeastern Asian women have difficulty in witnessing current breakdowns in family honor as their children adopt more of the values and lifestyle of the dominant culture. Their children are learning from a new and different peer group that individualism is the contemporary lifestyle. A pervasive problem for Southeastern Asian women is the growing trend of children to disobey family rules. Conflicting information experienced by all family members in a new and different society can result in family discord. Counselors can expect to find that some Asian clients have serious conflicts about their future work and life role.

When the needs of Asian American men are addressed, the tremendous diversity within and between groups should be kept in mind. According to Matsumoto and Juang (2013), however, individualism and collectivism are key variables for understanding differences between Asian Americans and Euro-Americans. This is especially true for Asian Americans who are less acculturated. Asian American men consider family honor more important than personal goals; hence, decisions are based on what is best for the family.

Client–counselor relationships, especially among less acculturated men, must be carefully balanced. Asian Americans, for example, expect a hierarchical relationship with counselors. More specifically, Asian American men expect a professional relationship rather than an egalitarian one. Balancing the roles of counselor and counselee is essential, therefore for effective interviewing and intervention strategies. Some suggested developmental strategies for Asian American men are learning to understand organization systems and bureaucracies, improving communication skills, and learning to understand the give-and-take of work environments. Counselors may find that using Asian Americans as role models will enhance the effectiveness of counseling goals (Matsumoto & Juang, 2013).

Working with Hispanic Women and Men. Hispanic women, a very diverse group who have migrated from many different countries, have some common background variables such as religion preference. Most are Christian and members of the Catholic Church, although in recent years some have joined Protestant groups. Hispanic women learn from their religion that they are to view their chief roles as mothers and wives. They are the primary caregivers and center their lives around family needs. Career, therefore, may not be a very meaningful term for many Hispanic women who are overseeing several children.

Traditionally, the health needs of some Hispanic women are taken care of by home remedies and other women in the family, and they use indigenous healing systems by referring individuals to a currandismo (Mexican folk healer). Counselors are to approach this subject carefully because some Hispanics strongly support indigenous healing systems. Although more information about the benefits of current medical practices may be needed, all nontraditional methods, remedies, and healers should be recognized (Panaigua, 2005; Sue, Ivey, & Pedersen, 1996).

Ortiz (1996) points out more Hispanic women are migrating and joining the U.S. labor force. Most have few skills, little education, and end up finding work as maids, factory workers, or in nonskilled jobs. Their major goal is to send their earnings back to their country of origin to support their families. Short-term goals include finding a place to live and a job. Long-term goals usually include becoming legal citizens and bringing their children, if any, and families to join them.

All Latino subgroups, such as Mexican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican, are quite nationalistic. Gender identity for men is associated with the term machismo, which generally stands for arrogance and sexual aggression in Latino/Latina relationships. Machismo is also associated with men having firm control of their families. This stereotyped portrayal of men suggests that more value is placed on boys than on girls in Latino/a culture. However, the reverence for motherhood has influenced the trend toward equalization of sexes in the Hispanic cultures (Arredondo, 1996; Pederson et al., 2008; Slattery, 2004).

Because of the great diversity among Hispanics, counselors should spend considerable time learning about specific cultures. Suggested developmental strategies for Hispanic American males include learning about effective communication skills, work environments and organizations, the use of career information, job search strategies, and interpersonal relationships. Other suggestions include learning goal-setting and problem-solving skills, developing working-parent skills, and improving financial management of resources.

Working with Native American Women and Men

Neal (2000) also reminds us that there is great diversity among the customs and cultures of Native Americans. “The roles of women vary from tribe to tribe and geographical region to geographic region” (p. 166). Native American women historically have been influential within their tribes. This tradition continues in many tribes; for instance, Wilma Mankiller was the Chief of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma in 1985 (Mankiller & Wallis, 1993). Other Indian nations have also elected women as chairpersons or chiefs. Some tribes have a council of women elders that has control of ceremonial life and businesses operated by the tribe. However, the traditional primary role for Native American women, similar to so many other cultures, is care of the family.

Of most significance to Native American women as homemaker and caregiver is that Native American families are the poorest socioeconomic group (Tischler, 2014). The most impoverished families in this country are Native American families with no husband present. The source of strength among Native Americans, however, is their biological family and the extended community family. They also find spiritual strength from their traditional ancestral homelands.

Native Americans are also a very diverse group of people who have been grossly misunderstood. Native American men have very often been stereotyped as drunkards who sit around the reservation and do little work. This reputation has unfortunately been widespread in this country and in Canada. The most devastating aspect is that the blame for alcoholism has been placed completely on the Native American. One needs to investigate the historical relationship between the U.S. government and Native Americans to understand the full extent of their losses individually and collectively.

LaFromboise and Jackson (1996) suggest that we return the principle of empowerment to the Native Americans so they can control their own lives: “People are capable of taking control but often choose not to do so because of social forces and institutions that hinder their efforts” (LaFromboise & Jackson, p. 196). The following strategies are designed to help Native American men maintain their cultural heritage while introducing concepts of career development of the dominant society:

1. Use parents and relatives as counseling facilitators. The rationale for this approach is embedded in the strong family ties of Native Americans.

2. Use Native American role models. They should assist in helping break down resistance to counseling objectives. Native Americans should react more favorably to other Native Americans.

3. Emphasize individual potential in the context of future goals. Identity conflicts that make it difficult for Native Americans to project themselves into other environments, including work environments.

In sum, counselors must be prepared to meet the needs of clients who have been shaped and influenced by their cultural heritage. This brief review of gender issues from different cultural groups suggests that much is to be learned about diversity issues in career counseling.

In this chapter, we have only touched on what it really means for someone to fully understand their cultural bias, racism, and stereotypical thinking. We have learned that culture is a learned behavior. Within our own ecological system, we have learned and accepted beliefs, traditions, and developed worldviews. Human development theorists inform us that an individual’s developmental process is both continuous and discontinuous over the life span. In other word, we make gradual progress to comprehend the world we live in or we stagnate. In this context, there are periods in our lives when we choose to take the time and “back away,” so to speak, in order to think through a situation that has emerged as a critical incident—for example, coming face-to-face with cultural differences that are difficult to comprehend. The time we spend during these periods of critical thinking are most important, primarily because we have chosen to not act emotionally, with little thought given to the consequences of our actions. On the contrary, we search for solutions and answers that include different approaches, an enlightened perspective of the past and the future, and in the end a means to live our life more fully.

Matsumoto and Juang (2013) suggest that we recognize that culture is the degree to which a group of people share attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors. It is not a race, nationality, or birthplace! From this perspective, we view culture as a psychological construct or a learned worldview and a way of thinking and living. We approach each person, therefore, as a unique individual who has learned customs and traditions from contextual interactions in a unique environment. Differences in behavior and thinking are the result of individual development and not meant as an insult or confrontation to others. Understanding how one’s beliefs have been developed is the key to understanding why differences exist between cultures and individuals from different cultures. From this perspective we can move away from negative stereotypes on to a more comprehensive viewpoint that recognizes that cultural differences are legitimate. We are indeed the product of a unique multidimensional developmental process. As a result, we just happen to think and behave differently.


1. Culture is a very complex concept that can refer to many aspects of life and living. Culture is a learned behavior. Two people from the same race could share some values, attitudes, and so on, but might also be very different in their cultural makeup. Counselors should be alert to value orientation when working among different cultural groups. One is likely to find differences in the way people from different cultures view work and associations. In negotiations, for example, cultural groups have different opinions of how the best results are achievied. One group may be completely business oriented, whereas the other cultural group believes that one is to develop a social relationship to make the process successful.

2. Five major cultural groups are African Americans, Asian Pacific Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, and Whites. Currently, the largest racial minority group in this country is Hispanics. The Hispanic family is a closely knit group that greatly influences the value system of its members. African Americans continue to make progress in social equality. Some of both sexes have achieved upward mobility to professional occupations as the overall success of African Americans’ upward movement increases. Many Asian Americans place a high value on education. Asian Americans tend to inhibit emotional expression and do not actively participate in counseling programs. Native Americans are culturally conditioned to view life from a different perspective than that of the dominant White culture. Native Americans are generally not motivated to achieve status through the accumulation of wealth. The lifestyle of most Native Americans is extremely democratic, and their culture promotes egalitarianism. The White dominant population is made up of people from a variety of nationalities. Their lifestyle, especially European Americans, is influenced by an individualistic orientation.

3. Culture variability of worldviews includes constructs of individualism and collectivism. Examples of other differences in cultures are time orientation, view of human nature, and personal space and privacy. Worldviews should be considered unique for each individual.

4. Culture does have an important role in work-related values. Differences between cultures help us understand employee attitudes, values, behaviors, and interpersonal dynamics.

5. Effective counselors have knowledge of, and are sensitive to, different cultural orientations when establishing rapport in counseling relationships. To be effective with populations of different cultures, counselors must be aware of different worldviews (the psychological orientation of thinking, behavior, and interpretation of events). Counselors must be careful not to impose their values on others. Necessary skill areas include awareness of differences, self-awareness, knowledge of the client’s culture, and adaptation of counseling method, materials, and procedures.

6. Counselors must develop a greater sensitivity to culturally diverse clients when conducting an interview. Technique issues include eye contact, touch, probing questions, space and distance, verbal style, restrictive emotions, confrontation, self-disclosure, and focus on self-in-relation and self-in-context.

7. Mental health issues of cultural groups that involved anxiety disorders, depression, personality disorders, somatoform disorders, and schizophrenia were found to have symptoms that are universal as well as culture-specific symptoms.

8. Strategies for dealing with multicultural groups include the recognition of differences between cultural groups as well as differences between gender roles in multicultural groups

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