Personal identification regarding ethnicity, gender, and ability status is a diverse, detailed process given my cultural background. I am a 27-year-old American-born Indian female practicing Hinduism as my religion. Sexually, I am heterosexually oriented but bear no prejudice against people of other alignments. I perceive my good writing and reading skills as my most significant abilities. I love dancing, especially to the Bollywood Hip-Hop fusion. I consider myself multi-lingual as I can fluently speak English, Hindi, and Gujarati. I am the first generation to attend undergraduate, graduate, and currently pursuing a master’s degree in MHC at Mercy College in a part-time program. I also work as an employment skills coordinator at the AHRC-NYC. Socially, I have never been married, no children, and I live with my dad after losing my mother during my senior year in high school. I have one sibling, an older brother aged 31 years, and works as a radiation oncologist.
My approach to the counseling process is influenced by my background in various ways. As an Indian living in the United States, it is often challenging. Adapting to a new environment and having to fit in with people of different cultures is difficult, and thus counseling goes a long way in helping through the transition. By being able to identify and embrace my culture, clients who share the same cultural background experience a sense of trust and are more confident as they feel they are well understood. However, this positive aspect is only applicable to clients who share the same ethnic background. Having been raised in a multi-cultural setting, I am pre-exposed to various cultural practices and beliefs. As a result, I can offer to counsel to a diverse group of clients without being biased. I bear a genuine interest in understanding other people’s ethnicities and their cultural stand which enables me to think beyond the stereotypic judgments of people.
My eloquence in three languages is an advantage in counseling as it helps in curbing language barrier, thus reaching a larger group of people to offer the services. My writing skills also serve as an added advantage as I can document the client’s therapy sessions in detailed yet analyzed ways that are helpful in figuring out the problems and coming up with solutions. Reading allows me to learn more from a different source, which adds knowledge on issues that are relevant to counseling. It enables me to keep track of emerging issues, and by so doing, gather more problem-solving skills that are up-to-date and relevant to specific client issues.
Despite the positive impacts my background would have on counseling, there are a few challenges it presents. Being a young counselor, I have limited life experience, and older clients might refrain from being open and transparent. The prejudice that young therapists are incompetent as they lack the first-hand experience may prompt clients to withhold information, which hinders my ability to offer optimal counseling. Consequently, I am an emotional person, and at times, I go from being empathetic to being sympathetic. As a professional therapist, this could affect my ability to stay objective and focus on the bigger picture losing focus on the problem that needs addressing. In this line of work, it is essential that I do not develop attachment towards the clients to work efficiently.
The counseling setting requires one to be able to make a judgment of situations independent of personal feelings and history while applying experiences positively to help the client. However, individuals present prejudices and standards and areas of oppressions and privileges that exist in the counseling process. Regarding biases, having lost a parent and living with a single dad, it would be difficult to remain indifferent of a client who has also lost a partner, as I have witnessed my father struggle since my mother’s death. My other favoritism would be to the homeless. Certain privileges predispose individuals to misjudgments from others, while oppression enables others to relate. Coming from an upper-middle social class, people presume one cannot understand the problems of those in the lower class. On the other hand, oppressions such as sexism connect people of the same genders to liberate themselves. As a female, it is easy to advocate for women rights, and people who feel oppressed on that level will be more trusting and confident to consult.
An encounter with my autistic cousin was the most significant experience that impacted on my character. Growing up and during family gatherings, I was never allowed to interact with him given his physical disability. Due to the lack of knowledge, my family had on the condition they assumed it was contagious. Consequently, I became very empathetic and caring person as I perceive equality for everyone as a critical aspect of life which includes people with disabilities. In my work as a counselor, I will strive to assure clients of their self-worth regardless of their appearances or disabilities. Recognition and appreciation, in my opinion, are essential values in psychology.
The death of my mother affected my personality considerably. The experience provided a platform to acknowledge the life struggles of single parenthood.The process of grieve and recovery to attain psychological balance require support from friends, relatives as well as a psychologist (Ibrahim & Heuer, 2016). Self-disclosure is essential in trying to reach the patient and sharing my encounters, if and when it is beneficial to my client help them relate to and respond to the similarity. However, the amount of content to disclose should be limited to what is significant in helping the patient.
In the case study, I could apply the Asian American cultural group. This group of people has a unique cultural standard they uphold, and that directly or indirectly affect their mental state of mind. They are said to underuse psychological services; it is uncertain if this is owing to low rates of socio-emotional problems or ethnic beliefs hindering self-referral” (Zane & Ku, 2014). However, from the mother’s effort to seek help, it is evident that she is concerned about her child’s future. The poor performance of her child and his deteriorating discipline, she seeks professional guidance. Parents are thought to be confident and with knowledge on what is best for their children and should, therefore, impact on their career choices (Pew Research Center, 2013).
An equally important issue in the case study is the sudden change of behavior displayed by the child which could be a subconscious response to the family break-up. In the Asian- American cultures, open display of intense emotions, especially in public, is considered a symbol of immaturity or absence of self-will; regulation of feelings on the other hand is considered an indication of inner strength (Laungani, 2009). In the case, the teenager, depicts the need to be viewed and addressed as a mature which entails display of strength by holding up emotions which in turn results in acts that depict attention deficiency disorder. Another crucial issue would be the situation at school regarding ethnic relations. It is unfortunate that the Asian- Americans endure subjection to discrimination and racism (Hwang & Goto, 2009).In the Asian- American cultures, open display of intense emotions, especially in public, is considered a symbol of childishness or absence of self-will; regulation of feelings is considered an indication of inner-strength (Kim, 2011). As a teenager, there is a need to be perceived and addressed as a mature and show of emotions is not admissible. The lack of freedom to express emotions results in acts of depicting attention deficiency disorder. Also, the situation at school regarding ethnic relations is a matter of concern.
The case study themes regarding Asian-American cultures include the parenting style depicted in the case. The hierarchy of parenting with authoritarian parenting style is depicted (Wu & Chao, 2011). The willingness of the mother to seek to counsel despite being an Asian America is commendable considering the reluctance of the people to pursue help as they view it as a weakness (Atkinson, Lowe, & Matthews, 2005). Resolving to use a professional in dealing with the issue shows faith in their ability to offer solutions. Attitude towards counseling is an essential aspect of the process (Atkinson & Gim, 1989). In the counseling process, I would potentially focus on the gender stereotype, especially since males are viewed as dominant. The family structure which is hierarchical and the cultural value depicted in need of educational success would also be a focal point.
The second cultural/ethnic group would be the Latino American. This group focuses on specific issues more especially family unity, respect, and tradition (familsmo) as a significant aspect of life (Sue & Sue, 2016). The separating of parents expresses a broken family who could impact negatively on the child and cause them to alter behaviors as a coping technique. In this particular group, teenagers are supposed to obey and usually are not included in making family decisions (Lefkowitz, Romo, Corona, Au, & Sigman, 2000). It has an impact on the child, especially teenagers as they feel left out and are at a point whereby their perception as adults is vital to them. Further, the cultural expectations of the society are that men should be strong, leading, and the principal earner for the household (machismo), while females are expected to be submissive to the male, fostering, meek, honorable, and self-sacrificing (marianismo) (Deardorff et al., 2013). With parents’ separation, the mother has to take it upon herself to be the provider, stay strong and dominate leaving the child in the care of the grandmother.
Mental instability and seeking professional counseling results in discrimination of individual as it is considered a show of weakness. The Cultural stigma against mental illness patients is imminent with the majority of the people terming psychiatric medications as addictive (Sue &Sue, 2016). The case study themes focus mostly on the Latino academic success as a significant cultural aspect (Alfaro et al. 2009). According to studies, family structures of the Latino American (Familsimo, Simplicity, and Personalismo) are such that members are united and help each other through difficult times (Landale, Oropesa, & Bradatan, 2006). Further, religious values are significant with people praying for spiritual guidance from saints especially Catholics.
The third culture about the case study is the Arab American and Muslim American. The mother role in this culture is to take care of the children which is why she takes it upon herself to seek help. These gender roles define children as they grow up and the decisions they make as adults (Ali, Liu, & Humedian, 2004). Movies depict Muslims, Arab-Americans, and Arabs as terrorists, sheiks, or barbaric (Nassar-McMillian, Lambert, & Hakim-Larson, 2011). Due to this constant discrimination and racial profiling, many Arab American and Muslims fail to acknowledge their faith or cultural upbringing and take to adjust their names to sound American (Shammas, 2009). Contemporary immigrants are more probable to uphold their cultural identity and reside in traditional societies and are likely to be Muslim and openly exercise their religious practices. (Amri, 2010). Spiritual/religious values including teaching from the Quran and the post 9/11 discrimination are a relevant areas of focus during counseling.
Following the assessment of personal background and the case studies, various problems require specific counseling strategies. The first problem is the Discipline/behavior. In the Asian American case, I would explore their parenting skills and see how it connects to children’s behaviors. Try to focus on different aspects such as teaching and modeling which gives the family a different perspective on the disciple.
In the Latino American, I would focus on who the authoritarian figure is in the family and help spread different responsibilities, so all members feel equal. Efficient communication between parents and children and considering their leniency towards the children’s wants is also significant. In the case of Arab American and Muslim American, the emphasis would be on what to expect of each member and what the contributing factors are and how the society treats them. Look into racism and what negative experiences they have had and the individual impact.
Divorce is a significant problem presented in the case. The Asian American culture is family-oriented; I would speak to each member of the family and shift their focus on the effect the divorce would have on the children emotionally and the appropriate adjustment needed. In Latino American, I would bring the focus on personal change and what each wants to accomplish. Establishing if it is a mutual decision or due to differences that can be resolved. It is also essential to include children and how they are affected by this. For the Arab American and Muslim American, considering the little importance given to females, try to bring her into the light. Independence can be very scary, especially when having to do everything by oneself. Provide resources that can help build towards independence. Also, see how much impact a separation can have on children.
Equally important is the problem of poor academic performance. In dealing with an Asian American, the question of whether the parents are influencing children’s career decision making is crucial.Help the child explore personal interest without the fear of rejection from parents and family. For the Latino American, I would try to understand if the child feels meaningful and relevant to others. Often, rejection at home can lead to academic failures I would help build a support system such as friends, and extended family members. With the Arab American and Muslim American, explore the current living style at home. Often they will have extended family member visits that can last a long time and figure out if this is causing a distraction in a child’s life. Are the parents going through any marital problems that can cause a child to be upset? Most importantly, are there any academic influences from parents towards the child?
While working with the various groups, I would apply different counseling strategies. For the Asian-American, I would use culturally adapted therapy (Griner and Smith, 2006). This case looks at cultural adaption such as improving access to treatment, corresponding client-counselor language, and race/ethnicity, integrating clients’ ethnic principles, enabling home-based support which made the counseling session effectiveness. Solving conversational restrictions which involve the use of different strategies to help one achieve dialogue goals such as inquiry, self-disclosure, and conflict resolution (Alberta & Wood, 2008). It is a significant procedure in this culture as they do not seek help very often. Therefore, trust must be built for them to open up.
For Latino Americans, I would use the familiso strategy that involves having all family members present in a therapy session (Parsai, Voisine, Marsiglia, Kulis, & Nieri, 2009). Use of “dichos” proverbs and sayings help engage the client in the process of addressing and reframing emotional reactions. Free expression is also an important strategy that allows clients to express their feelings and emotions without judgment or criticism freely. In the Arab/Muslim American, spiritual healing that focuses on the emotions, soul, body, intellect, mind, and spirit help in the session (Carter & Rashidi, 2004, p. 153, 2004). Authoritative: “A therapeutic style that is warm, interactive, structured, and supportive would be beneficial to the majority of the Arabs and Middle Easterners. They view counselors as powerful figures and experts in their fields. Hence, a mixture of cognitive–behavioral, empathetic, dynamic, experiential, educational, and existential methods would be vastly advantageous.”
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