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Cultural Competence In Counseling

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Cultural competence and ethical responsibility of counselors is an issue that holds increasing importance. To be both multicultural and ethical is increasingly challenging. The population of the United States is changing quickly from a predominately white Caucasian society to an ethnically diverse society'. The Hispanic population, which represented only 9% of the population in 1990, is projected to increase to about 25% of the population by 2050. The number of African Americans, Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, and American Indians/Eskimos/Aleuts will continue to increase as well (Aponte & Wohl, 2000). It has been predicted that Whites, who made up three fourths of the U.S. population in 1990, will no longer be in the majority by the year 2050 (Sue, 1996). These demographic changes mean that clients of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds increase importance of making multicultural competence a necessary standard.

Due to the changing demographics of society and cultural changes, counselors must be diligent in preparing themselves to be diversely competent. Competence is the ethical challenge at hand. Research suggests that the past and current versions of the ACA Code of Ethics do not adequately address the demands of working with non-white, non-western clients. Past versions of the ACA Code of Ethics paid little attention to the presenting multicultural issues of counseling. The difference between the 1988 and 1995 code is an indicator of the movement of the profession and the changes in values held by many in the profession. Recent revision efforts of the ACA Code of Ethics have given special consideration to culture to serve as guidelines for counselors. Kocet (2004) believes the revisions of the 1995 Code of Ethics could lead to a new focus in the counselor relationship that encourages interaction with clients that occurs both in clinical and non-clinical settings. Given the constant revision considerations it is important that education and preparation systems of counselors followed suit? It will not be enough for the Code of Ethics to simply state that counselors must be able to work effectively with individuals with differing cultures. The profession must adjust its preparation to improve or ensure this ability.

Counselors are bound by professional and ethical obligations to “respect the dignity and promote the welfare of the clients” (American Counseling Association, 1995, Section A.1.a.) and to practice competently. To counter these arising multicultural issues, the ACA president, created the ethics revision task force, whose goals were to put special emphasis on culture, diversity, and social justice issues. Although the 1995 version of the ACA Code of Ethics is seen as more culturally egalitarian that the previous version, Pederson (1997) pointed out that the code remains value laden with ideas that still do not embrace a diverse society but instead privilege a value system that reflects the inherent values and ideals of the dominant society.

Due to the impossible task of incorporating every ethical and culturally diverse situation into the Code of Ethics, other factors and strategies must be utilized to determine ethical responses. Academic, as well as multicultural training initiatives seem warranted to assist student competency. Knowledge and application of models for multicultural ethical decision making, and ethical philosophies, such as universalism is essential for today’s professional. Movement toward inclusion of multicultural pedagogies is needed so that counselor preparation becomes more diverse and includes values consistent with being a humanitarian.

Pedagogy attempts to provide a framework for the preparation of competent multicultural counselors. It is widely viewed that changes need to be made to incorporate individual client values into goals, and interventions. In an effort to ensure standardized development of multicultural competent counselors, the Counsel for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP; 2001) incorporated the goal of diversity into its academic standards. This represents needed changes in preparation of counselors to be more inclusive of diverse values held by diverse society. Research discovered several models and theories of which address application of cultural sensitivity and awareness.

The first formal description of multicultural counseling competencies, developed by the Education and Training Committee of the APA’s division of Counseling Psychology appeared in 1982 (sue et al., 1982). It outlines 11

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