Application of Family Counseling In Multicultural Counseling Abstract

Applicationof Family Counseling In Multicultural Counseling


Familytherapy is often the choice of multicultural treatment. Culturalissues define what a family is. The relationships, roles, and ruleswithin the family can differ among and between cultures. Every familyhas various cultural expectations and these expectations play a bigrole in the family relationships and group experiences. In addition,part of our self concept is influenced by our ethnic heritage. Thebeliefs and attitudes that each and every family member holds varyfrom individual to individual and can also be shaped by the ethnicheritage. The intention of this paper is to discuss multiculturalcounseling fundamental issues and how they are relevant in familytherapy. To get a better understanding of this, not only do we needto understand what multicultural counseling is, but also understandwhat family counseling involve.

Applicationof Family Counseling In Multicultural Counseling

Multiculturalismis an integral part of family counseling. Cultural perspectives cantherefore be not ignored as they relate to the structure of thefamily. Ignoring ethical and ethnic guidelines in a family therapysession might offend individual members, offend the family, or mayinfluence the original problem that brought the family to theirtherapy (Waldegrave, 2009). Every family is composed of a structureand this structure is influenced by beliefs that are culturallydetermined. It is important for a family therapist to first of alldetermine whether their clients’ family structure is problematic(Connel, 2010).

Thereis a variation of what a family is, from different cultures. Familydynamics and what constitute appropriate family roles varies widelyacross various cultures. Moreover, even single family systems canexperience cultural variation within the group. So, it is importantfor the counselor to sensitively recognize intergenerational issueswithin the family to ensure effective relationships within the familymembers, which is the key goal of family counseling. Themulticultural and family perspective in psychotherapy and counselingshare a premise that can only be understood from a larger contextrather than from a particular individual, for example, culture orfamily that shapes an individual. Thus, family counseling mustaddress and evaluate cultural issues during sessions. In addition,most states have welfare codes for children, which mandate thatcultural information must be incorporated in child protectivesystems.

Multiculturalismcounseling involves helping individuals who are culturally diverse toget along with each other and adapt in a healthy way (Barbara, 2008).Researchers suggest that different individuals respond differently totherapy, because they come from different cultures. For moreeffective and smoother therapy, the counselor ought to take intoconsideration his or her client’s cultural biases, traditions, andalso backgrounds.

Onthe other hand, family counseling refers to a form of psychotherapythat promotes and creates an understanding among the family members.According to Charles (2009), this type of counseling enhances betterrelationships and promotes effective ways of communication within thefamily. For example, therapy might aim to address problems broughtabout by one family member who might be suffering from a physical ormental problem that is affecting the whole family. Also, therapy canbe conducted during incidences like when a family member has atermination illness or during a divorce. Often, family therapy occursin a group setting when all members are present, although sometimesit is not the case. When one member is suffering from drug addictionor alcoholism, he or she might not attend therapy because he or sheis the reason the family needs help.

Itis the responsibility of the counselor to observe how the familymembers interact. In addition, non-interacting family members’perception about the issue should also be observed. If there aredisagreements between the members, it is the responsibility of thecounselor to engage the other members and know how they are dealingwith that situation. Communication is very vital during counselingsessions. The therapist helps the family members to come up withbetter methods of communication with each other. Better and positiveways of communication are enhanced, thus replacing previous negativepatterns of communication. All members are given a chance tocontribute as to what solutions are best for the stability of thefamily. So the perceptions and worldviews that one person holds, canaffect all other members of the family.

Therefore,both multicultural and family counseling occurs in a group settingand are somehow intertwined. This means that family therapy can bedone in a multicultural setting, and on the other hand, when offeringfamily counseling, the therapist should be aware of different culturevariations among the family members, and him too. In a multiculturalcontext, the therapist is mandated to be aware of his or her ownworld view and frame of reference (Barbara, 2008).

Innineteen ninety six Ibrahim and Lonner described worldview as howpeople perceive their world from a social, philosophical, moral, andethical perspective. Worldview forms the assumptions, beliefs, andvalues of a person. How a therapist views an incident is differentfrom how the client sees it. Each individual have their own uniquebiases. Moreover, psychotherapy and counseling professional trainingis most of the time embedded to western culture, thus making itculture bound. Incongruence in values of the client and those of thecounselor is often experienced (Constantine,2009).Pederson in nineteen eighty seven suggested some of the counselingbiases that he termed as cultural. They were client self disclosureexpectations, openness expectation, independence and individualismemphasis, and universality of normality assumption.

Duringthe assessment phase of family therapy, the therapist should be awareof his or her own specific biases and world view. This is because theabnormal or deviant behavior reflected by the family might beculturally appropriate to them. Pathologizing families and client isvery dangerous in counseling since it can traumatize family membersand they might terminate the counseling process. Some attributes likelowering one head, avoiding eye contact, and giving littleinformation might be culturally accepted as a sign of respect by somecommunities, but a therapist who has been western trained mightperceive this behavior as a sign of avoidance, resistance, ordepression.


Connel(2010) suggests that a family is composed of subsystems such asparental, spousal, and sibling. A family therapist determines whatthe subsystems are and identifies them as either dysfunctional orfunctional, and what cultural beliefs influence the familysubsystems. Individuals also form subsystems such as mother child orhusband wife. There are various forms of subsystems such asfunctional, sexual, based on interest, and generational. Thus, eachmember of the family have different subsystems in which they belongto , and have power levels that are different, and finally learndifferent skills in each and every level. Thus, each individual’sperceptions vary. Sometimes, these subsystems become dysfunctionaland they are often defined and shaped by the culture of the family.

Flexibilityto the cultural values of the family is of paramount importance forthe therapist to be able to treat the family effectively. Being awareof one’s stereotypes and prejudices before starting a therapeuticsession might help to create an effective and safe environment forcounseling. It becomes oppressive for the client when a therapistuses some levels of prejudice, and in turn can lead to the clientstopping therapy. The therapist should also reflect whether thefamily culture has been contextually considered within thesesubsystems. Such issues like acculturation, disengagement, andenmeshment should be observed. For effective therapy, anunderstanding of the family subsystems and how culture influencesthem is essential. Effective interactions and positive communicationare the way to go, if we were to treat problems within familysubsystems.


Anotherimportant area in family therapy that applies to multiculturalism isthe issue of boundaries. Every family contains boundaries and thework of the therapist is to observe their functionality among thefamily members. Boundaries dictate the rules of the familysubsystems. Subsystem differentiation is protected by thefunctionality of the boundaries. Each member in a specific subsystemhas specific demands and tasks attributed to them. The interpersonalskills achieved in various subsystems are determined by the freedomfrom interference from other subsystems. Thus, to achieve clearboundaries, family subsystems must function properly. Therapists whodeal with the structure of the family actively involve the familymembers in assessing each family member’s boundary functionality.Connel (2010) suggests that nurturance, socialization, and supportare some of the essential functions that must be enhanced by an idealstructure of the family under need.

Welldefined boundaries leads to a healthy family due to the minimalproblems among the family members .On the other hand, boundaries thatare not clearly defined creates dysfunctional families that arecharacterized by poor communication and other negative factors.Sometimes it is difficult to solve the family problems whenineffective and repetitive techniques are used. According to Cook(2008), arguments and yells are some of these techniques andtherefore, forms first order change. This kind of change involvesresolutions that might make a family problem worse or do not make anychange in a problem. When change is done to first order resolutions,second order change is attaining which leads to problem resolution.

Thetherapist use motivational interviewing to determine whether or notthe family use first order techniques to solve their differences.Clarification of boundaries is done by use of second ordertechniques. However, difficulties that do not relate to the needs ofthe family arise when boundaries become diffuse or rigid. Thetherapist takes the responsibility of ensuring that this rigidity isanalyzed for effective creation of the second order. A counselor whois multicultural sensitive analyses questions like whether theproblems within boundaries are formed by the level of acculturation,are the boundaries in this family defined by cultural issues, orwhether the family has realized the importance of conforming ordeparting from the cultural norms for a healthy family, are thefamily members willing to negate or embrace change related to theircultural boundaries. Functionality of family boundaries is attainedby an approach that is culturally sensitive. Mexican Americanmarriages experience conflict due to diffuse boundaries between theparents and couples. For example, within a spousal subsystem, bothspouses must be able to understand each other’s culturalexpectations to avoid problems brought up by diffuse boundaries.

Howfamily boundaries should be defined should not be determined bybeliefs of the counselor. Rather, it is his or her responsibility tofacilitate the type of change that is sensitive to cultures, with theaim of creating acceptable and healthy boundaries amongst the systemsof the family and amongst the family members. The task of a counselorin a family setting is therefore to free the family members frombehavioral sequences and rigid habits that look dysfunctional. Thismeans working with all levels of development, structure, boundaries,and subsystems within the family seeking help (Midlarsky, Cohen, &ampPirutinsky, 2012). It is thus important for a therapist to learnabout different families’ cultures through education, so that theycan be armed in dealing with matters of effective functionality in acertain family. During therapy session, the counselor can distributequestionnaires to family members, engage in open discussion, orresearch about the client’s cultural norms and beliefs. Cultureaffects subsystems, boundaries, and even structure of the family,thus making it paramount for the therapist to be sensitive tocultural components and work hard to implement various strategiesthat enhances effective joining of the family. For each familyattending therapeutic session, the counselor must create anenvironment that is safe and sensitive for better facilitation ofproactive and positive change.


Racialidentity and acculturation are other components that are important inboth family counseling and multiculturalism. Acculturation involves aprocess of adaptation experienced by a population as contact is madewith another culture. Individuals and ethnic families in America havedifferent level of acculturation depending on various factors likesocioeconomic status, geographic location, and exposure to theAmerica’s mainstream culture. Counselors who are culturally awareare given information of issues of acculturation issues andimmigration for families as well as individuals (Waldegrave, 2009).Not only does acculturation vary between single families, but alsovaries between generations. For example, many children today havebeen exposed to various cultures through exposure to influencesoutside and school attendance. However, their parents are somehowtied to their origin, thus their generations vary significantly. Atherapist working in such a setting must have appropriate knowledgeof how to realize and negotiate these interfamilial differencesbecause different generational gap can be the cause of lack ofunderstanding and frustration between members of the family. The rolethat the client takes with the counselor and the type ofinterventions to apply is dictated by the level of acculturation.

Acculturationlevel is important since it can influence the decision of the familyor an individual to attend or terminate therapy. Furthermore it caninfluence the trust level held by client about the counselor.


Allhelping methods including the family counseling are conducted withinthe cultural context. Multicultural counseling identifies andrecognizes the cultural issues within and among clients in a familytherapy. Also, how these cultural factors play part in one’s worldviews is looked at by the therapist concerned. Multiculturalism isimportant because it is sensitive to cultural values within diversegroups. Gender roles are important within a family context. The needto seek for therapy might be caused by differences in gender roles(Constantine,2009).For example, women in abusive relationships find it difficult toleave, because their marriages are defined by gender norms that aretraditional and are particularly male dominated or patriarchal. Sucha situation can hinder the freedom of women and can lead todependency and other health problems like depression. Familycounselor therefore discusses these roles with the family members andcreates awareness about their importance among and within the familymembers. Each member is encouraged to understand the worldviews ofothers.


Coupleswho might be having problems due to their differences in racialattitudes and beliefs are examined by the therapist. In addition,before starting the session, the therapist is required to be awareone owns racial attitudes and beliefs. Then the next step is todiscuss topics that are racially relevant and any circumstances ofoppression and discrimination. According to Zanolin (2010), duringthe counseling process of family members with racial differences, theclient is viewed as a member of a particular group or as anindividual for effective healing.


Althoughfamilies have varying ethnic background, they are diverse andsimilar. Thus, family issues are dealt with against the socialsituation and distinct history of the family context (D’Andrea &ampHeckman, (2008). Anderson and Morrison suggest that immigrants facea lot of challenges that are similar in the foreign country. Moreoften, immigrants are required to begin new jobs, find support fromnew neighborhoods, find good housing, and also learn new languages.Furthermore, some of them are not accompanied by their families.Culture shock can also be a problem to some. Problems arise due tothese challenging factors, and might cause strain and stress onfamilies and individuals. These challenges occur as the family triesto integrate and resettle into a community that is new to them. Forexample, help seeking in some cultures is viewed as a sign ofweakness and thus can influence the decision of the family to seekhelp in a foreign country, leading to stress within the familymembers. The therapist’s responsibility is to engage everyindividual in coming out with the best resolution and facilitatechange.

Healthand illness

Definitionof Health and illness varies considerably between cultures. Acounselor who is culturally sensitive recognizes that differentcultural norms and beliefs dictate what is ill, and what is healthy.Diverse reactions therefore should be expected when a therapist ishelping a family that might seek help due to a mentally ill child,parent, spouse, and so on. Families from different ethnic backgroundhave different beliefs, behaviors, and values. These differences caninfluence how members of the family develop and express symptoms, howthey explain those symptoms, how distress is communicated and towhom, and finally how they respond to treatment. Treatment can alsobe surrounded by different assumptions that might be or might not becompatible with the cultural issues of the family (Cook, 2007). Whatis defined as mental illness in western cultures might be culturallyacceptable in other cultures.


Insummary, how people view their world is shaped by cultural attitudes,beliefs, and values. A family might experience problems that areculturally determined, and therefore it is the responsibility of thecounselor to be aware of his or her own cultural practices andbeliefs, and realize that other people have beliefs and practicesthat are different from his or hers. Counseling families in amulticultural context is more than recognizing other people’scultural features and speaking their language. It might also involvethe change of biases or prejudgments one might have of other people’scultural customs and beliefs. Family boundaries and subsystems mightalso be influenced by people’s cultural beliefs. For goodrelationships and effective communication to be achieved in thefamily, the therapist might facilitate change in beliefs and customsthat might be the reason the family is seeking for help. Issues oftraditional gender roles and racial concepts are also discussed bythe therapist. Moreover, acculturation aspect is recognized by thefamily therapist. He or she should understand that every personexperiences acculturation differently. For example, members of thesame family might experience acculturation at different rates.Therefore, therapists associated with family counseling must be awareof destructive cultural factors within the family and in therapysessions and facilitate conflict resolutions that are effective forthe benefit of that family.


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