I just returned from a residency offered by my school in Orlando, FL. I absolutely loved the experience, the lectures, networking opportunities, and finally being able to meet everyone. I got quite a role-play “workout” during my time there and can honestly say that I am a lot more confident regarding counseling skills and ethical and multicultural competencies. Although my experience would highly deserve an article, I decided I would focus on something else: judgments and prejudices. So, how long does it take to look at someone you’ve never seen before and label them?
Well, I guess it depends on many things but usually, no more than just a few seconds. How about when the person in question proves his/her competency yet, because of their lifestyle you still aren’t convinced, you choose to label them and treat them like second-class citizens? I started thinking about the short amount of time it takes us to judge someone, after attending a lecture on Counseling GLBT.
I went out to socialize with some of the soon to be counselors that attended the presentation and became horrified by the amount of stereotypes, prejudices, judgments, and overall ignorance that filled the air. “I guess nowadays we have to treat them as equals; like they are normal and as if they are like us”; “we can’t even say anything about them anymore, because we might get kicked out of the counseling program”. These are just a few comments I heard from my colleagues- my colleagues who will soon hold the emotional wellness of their clients in their hands; my colleagues who abide by the ACA’s Code of Ethics and proudly write in their weekly school assignments about their lack of bias, commitment to respect a client’s autonomy, and their duty to cause no harm. How does that work? If the counselors of tomorrow are so intolerant of their client’s sexual identity, cultural background, and overall beliefs how does ethical counseling take place?
Last I checked it was year 2010; over 30 years ago the DSM finally managed to admit that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender was never a choice, but simply genetics. So, how is it that a certain population of our reality still has to prove itself as being “normal”? Well, I guess it shouldn’t really surprise me considering that only yesterday the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that governs our military was repealed. I guess some of us learn better through modeling, so if the government or any other authority rejects reality, so must we. Sometimes it’s hard to look reality in the face, let alone acknowledge it. But then again, maybe I have a “liberal bias” that forces me to point out to all the research studies regarding GLBT, the rest of the world who just happen to have no military laws regarding the GLBT population because “they” are seen simply as men and women.
In the meanwhile, ranting aside, what are we going to do about this distressing situation? It seems that the emphasis on multicultural issues in our master level counseling programs doesn’t really make a difference. Our students read the books, use what seems to be the politically correct answers to get an A and move on to graduating and practicing while holding onto the same antiquated beliefs: “being gay is wrong and can be eradicated”.
Diana C. Pitaru is a counselor-in-training, and a student at Walden University. Her theoretical interests are in Gestalt, Art, and Narrative therapy while focusing on multicultural issues and eating disorders.