Sunday, August 5, 2012
I have chosen the Latino/Hispanic American culture that has a worldview different from my own, and a culture whose perceptions could influence the therapeutic relationship. The primary challenge that comes to mind is the sole focus in therapy on the client. Members of this diverse population have a more collectivist orientation that makes them group-oriented and less comfortable as the center of attention. Having deep roots in individualist notions, I might find it difficult to understand that the collectivist nature of my client may make her perceive therapy in general as inappropriate and the process inaccurate. As Sue and Sue (2008) explains, counselors with an individualist perspective perceive independence, status, recognition, and autonomy as "healthy and desirable goals" (pg. 141).
In comparison to my Latino or Hispanic client, my individualist acculturation may make it difficult to find common ground and an intervention that will be of consequence to my client. This would be especially true when counseling an individual who is not comfortable being the focus of conversation. Furthermore, she may see my drive toward individualism as divergent from her spiritual goals. As noted by Sue and Sue (2008), generally speaking, this population perceives the individual as a component of the fundamental family system. The worldview of an individual from this population, as with all worldviews, results in pervasive beliefs and attitudes, one of which that may be the perception of a therapist who was clearly quite different, or possibly deviant.
Although the Hispanic/Latino populations tend to use self-disclosure extensively, they typically refrain from such disclosure outside of close relationships (Schwartz, Galliher, & Domenech Rodríguez, 2011). I appreciated Sue and Sue's (2008) example of the difference between the typical American and a more collectivist greeting; the former asks how have you been, whereas the later asks, how has your family been. Obviously, there are widely varying implications on an equally grand spectrum between an individualist counselor and a Latino/Hispanic client.
For example, if I were counseling a female Latino/Hispanic woman, part of the natural therapeutic process would be to help the client become an independent woman, free from the constraints of social, political, and gender affects (Pederson, 2000). With a Latino/Hispanic female client this perspective would be the antithesis of the client's self-perception and the norms for her family, her heritage, and perhaps even her religious beliefs. Her perception of making decisions autonomously could be confusing, a personal affront, and an insult to her family and community.
The typical goals and process of therapy might have to be changed radically to be of consequence to my client. The values bound by the collectivist socialization changes the perspective of therapy. The client may see it as intrusive and harsh. My expressiveness may be perceived as overwhelming, pushy, and dominant to her. Because of the tendency of collectivist cultures to feel shame if they do not perform adequately, the client may experience this emotion if she believes she is not fulfilling her responsibility in therapy.
Finally, the subtle language inferences and innuendo may serve to separate rather than to strengthen the bond between the culturally collectivist Latino/Hispanic and the individualist American counselor (Sue & Sue, 2008). Of all the widely varying aspects of cultural affects, it seems critical to understand some of the fundamental differences in perceptions between individualism and collectivism. Although one culture may perceive the other as deviant and antithetical, I believe there are commonalities that can be reached through multicultural training as well as the desire to be empathetic and genuine.
Pederson, P. B. (2000). A handbook for developing multicultural awareness. Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.
Schwartz, A. L., Galliher, R. V., & Domenech Rodríguez, M. M. (2011). Self-disclosure in Latinos' intercultural and intracultural friendships and acquaintanceships: Links with collectivism, ethnic identity, and acculturation. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(1), 116-121. doi: 10.1037/a0021824
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.