Cultural competencies- how far we’ve come! There are so many real and transforming learning experiences being shared within ACA- this is a truly amazing time in our evolution as a profession. Yet, I also wonder this- at what point do we transform multicultural training so that, outside of the multicultural counseling class that is standard in all master’s level courses, it can be something other than an end-of-chapter or end-of-book quickie? It’s as if an author is saying “Oops, before we go- let’s spend a few moments talking about (fill in the blank) theories/ethics/group counseling in work with (fill in the blank) special populations/minorities/women’s issues.” Often, these add-ins seem to be only means by which authors or editors can produce a new edition (and more money!) with minimal effort (and I do mean, minimal!) Has anyone ever seen feminist theory receive nearly the space or placement given to psychoanalysis or CBT in a counseling theories textbook, in spite of the fact that what we know about family sexual violence is largely because of the efforts of social workers who were working with pregnant teens during the 70s? In spite of the fact that Latina/os are the fastest growing in the U.S., when do we teach about liberation psychology or any discourse on the subject of helping that has been written by authors with origins in the rest of America (the one that exists outside the U.S.)? After any coursework on LGBT issues, does any student walk away knowing the joy (and hence, the resilience factors) of being a lesbian or transgender woman, or do we only talk about incidence of LGBT depression, substance abuse, and suicide statistics- if the subject isn’t skirted altogether in search of safer waters that put the faculty member more at ease? In spite of volumes of rich and informative work that counselors are producing about the experiences of marginalized communities, our dominant body of knowledge is still traced back to a body of knowledge that is overwhelmingly White, male, individualistic, and heterosexist. My initial counselor training in multiculturalism had all of the teaching value of a bus on an “If This is Tuesday, This Must be Belgium” style multinational tour, navigating racial-ethnic communities of color in a quick, week-by-week discussion of some of the largest generalizations that could be made to cover the most information in the shortest amount of time possible. Such gems as, “Remember, when working with a Japanese couple, shake the man’s hand first,” were what I got for my student-loan financed education. I left class each night feeling dissatisfied, and often a little grouchy about how shallow and stupidly stereotyping our training seemed. While we may have made advancements in working to integrate cultural competence into a body of counselor training (thankfully, we are moving away from silly all-or-nothing edicts that teach students to generalize and stereotype to the point of being completely unhelpful), we still have so far to go.
Stacee Reicherzer is a counselor, a faculty member at Walden University, and a private consultant with special interests that include: transgender issues in counseling, lateral (within-group) marginalization, and sexual abuse survival.