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African/Black Americans have a long history in the U.S., dating to the early settlement of the southern colonies when they were imported as slave labor.
Deprived of freedom and education, African/Black Americans developed a strong oral tradition that still exists.
Even with the advent of emancipation in 1865, the sheer strength of structural racism prevented African/Black Americans from accessing institutions, businesses, and occupations open to citizens of European descent.
It was not until the passage of civil rights legislation in the 1960s that African/Black Americans legally could enter public facilities, marry whom they chose, and vote in all states.
African/Black Americans constitute approximately 12% of the U.S. population.
Female African/Black Americans tend to have higher employment rates than males, for whom the male employment advantage found in other groups does not apply.
Fewer African/Black American couples marry and stay married than any other racial/ethnic group.
African/Black American households often include several generations, relatives outside the immediate family, and friends.
African/Black Americans are underrepre-sented in the sciences and overrepresented in low paying, human service occupations.
Although pride in work is a common value, middle-class African/Black Americans are less wealthy than their peers in other groups.
Other major characteristics of the African/Black American cultural group include:
speaking various dialectical forms of
emphasis on nonverbal communication;
field sensitive interpretation of events;
presence of spiritual networks in the
members of the macroculture;
strong sense of communal heritage,
commonality, and cooperation;
action orientation with focus on short
term goals; and
collective sensitivity to injustice and dis-
Common presenting social and mental health problems of African/Black Americans include:
physical difficulties (hypertension) associated with excessive emotional control;
self-esteem issues related to the inability to fulfill societal roles typically expected of males;
problems of aggression;
drug and alcohol dependence, possibly resulting from a sense of societal alienation and racism.
African/Black Americans generally do not seek counseling and, when they do, they tend to terminate prematurely.
Asian Americans in the U.S. have their origins in Korea, Japan, China, and Southeast Asia.
As a group, Asian Americans tend to display a bimodal economic distribution in which a large number are highly educated and economically successful and others are extremely poor and uneducated.
Asian Americans are overrepresented in technical and scientific occupations and underrepresented in supervisory and managerial occupations.
Asian American families tend to have few children and often include elders in the household.
Asian American mothers may retain strong control over their children, even into adulthood.
Spirituality for many first and second generation Asian Americans may include witchcraft, ancestor worship, herbalism, and belief in demonic possession.
Cultural characteristics of Asian Americans may include:
a priority on filial piety, harmonious re-
lationships, and respect for elders;
an enjoyment and appreciation of a
passive, contemplative lifestyle;
an emphasis on academic/educational
preparation and development.
Asian Americans tend to view mental health in terms of harmonious relationships among family members and with the spirit world.
Disharmony results in physical ailment and is thought to be remediated by the intervention of a shaman, herbalist, or healer.
Counseling does not exist in the traditional Asian (American) frame of reference.
Counselors can expect to encounter Asian Americans primarily in college counseling centers or through social welfare agencies.
distress caused by the failure of children to sufficiently please their less acculturated parents;
lack of social skills and educational
skills necessary to “fit in” or succeed in the macroculture;
conflict between old world customs
and macroculture expectations regarding child rearing, abuse, and/or neglect.
Hispanic/Latino Americans can point to North, South, or Central America as well as Spain for their origins.
Over 90% of Hispanic/Latino Americans in the U.S. have their roots in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, or South America.
Hispanic/Latino Americans are considered multiracial because they represent the historical blending of the native peoples of the Americas with Europeans and Africans.
The common denominator among Hispanics and Latinos, regardless of nationality, is a history involving the Spanish language.
Hispanic/Latino Americans typically marry and have children at an earlier age than other racial/ethnic groups.
As a group, Hispanic/Latino Americans have greater marital stability than other groups, fewer divorces, and a higher percentage of two parent households.
Hispanic/Latino Americans also have the highest birth rate of all major cultural groups.
Largely because of this high birth rate, the percentage of American society made up of Hispanic/Latino Americans is growing rapidly.
A preponderance of Latinos practice Roman Catholicism.
Hispanic/Latino Americans as a group have the lowest education and salary levels of the major cultural groups; about 50% do not have high school diplomas.
Hispanic/Latino Americans are over-represented in low status, low wage, and declining occupations, such as machine operators and household workers, and are underrepresented in the scientific, technical, and medical fields.
Hispanic/Latino Americans tend to reside in urban areas, and a great proportion reside in just two states: California and Texas.
an action-oriented, practical approach
to problem solving;
unquestioning acceptance of parental
and elder authority;
emphasis on enduring, selflessness,
morality, and dependence (females);
behavior, and authority over women and children (males); and
high value is placed on work.
Common problems within the Hispanic/Latino American cultural group include:
conflicting cultural demands from
away from family;
conflicts in interethnic marriages,
particularly feelings of inferiority to spouse;
teenage pregnancy; and
gang membership, violence, and criminal behavior.
The Native American cultural groups refer to people whose ancestors populated the areas now known as The United States of America before the arrival of European settlers.
Native Americans further self-define by tribal affiliation.
Often, persons self-identifying as members of another major cultural group will also claim Native American heritage.
Native Americans tend to live in poverty, especially on the reservations. They have a high divorce rate and the highest unem-ployment rate of all major cultural groups.
Family disruption of all kinds, child abuse and neglect, poverty, school drop out, and high unemployment rates are prevalent among Native Americans.
Very few Native Americans count them-selves as members of the middle class.
emphasis on the collective well-being of the community;
distrust of persons outside the community or tribe;
the teaching of good sportsmanship,
self discipline, and humility;
passivity in problem situations;
knowledge of English as well as a native
emphasis on immediate, practical,
short term actions to fulfill needs or wants;
a flexible approach to time;
obligatory hospitality for all;
avoiding direct eye contact as a sign
of respect; and
perceiving the macroculture as the
(Native American) Indian religion is based on the tribe’s maintaining a harmonious relationship with the environment.
A Native American’s problems are considered problems of the community, not the individual, and a result of breaking a taboo.
A shaman can use a healing ceremony to restore harmony, but introspective interventions have no place in Native traditions.
problems (e.g., unemployment) brought
on by geographic isolation;
alcoholism and drug addiction;
child abuse and neglect;
feelings of disloyalty upon leaving the
reservation for education or employment opportunities.
All human interactions are cross cultural to the degree that persons differ by age, socioeconomic status, gender, lifestyle, and affiliation.
Learning more about one’s own culture than is commonly required is a first step toward understanding the basis of other cultures.
A culture centered, or emic, approach to counseling emphasizes the cultural assumptions that determine behavior, expectations, and values.
Multicultural awareness prevents over- or underemphasizing any single cultural characteristic a person (i.e., client) may possess.
Overemphasizing cultural similarities by presuming all people are alike imposes the majority viewpoint on less powerful minorities and results in inaccurate inferences and attributions.
Overemphasizing differences creates stereotyping and polarization.
Culturally sensitive counselors are aware that all individuals:
form expectations depending on how
they view a situation;
base judgments on incomplete information;
use stereotypes to judge in new situations or with unknown people;
perceive selectively, favoring evidence that supports their expectations.
Most clients, when given the choice, prefer counselors from their own racial/ethnic group.
Statements of inference are made before, during, and after observation. They are only somewhat probable and can lead to honest disagreement.
To the extent that people share the same cultural system, their assumptions are likely to be similar.
Counseling from a multicultural perspective involves developing knowledge of how American history has been experienced differently by persons of low socioeconomic status, little education or access to power, as well as by ethnic and racial groups.
While client and counselor cultures may be different, political, social, cultural, economic, or historical commonalities may serve as connection points for client and counselor.
Cognitive complexity refers to the extent of a person’s personal constructs for interpreting the world.
The more cognitively complex and sensitive to others’ perspectives, the more tolerant of ambiguity and less anxious the individual is in unstructured or unfamiliar situations.
Culturally sensitive counselors have a high degree of cognitive complexity.
Counselors enhance their cognitive complexity through activities such as:
reading newspapers and periodicals targeting specific populations;
attending different religious services;
participating in civil rights marches;
shopping in ethnic groceries;
learning a second or third language;
going to welfare or civil service offices to observe the service orientation;
engaging a mentor from another culture;
enrolling in cultural studies courses; or
attending minority group celebrations or gatherings.
Counselors may unwittingly erect barriers that prevent effective cross-cultural counseling, including:
assuming that a Eurocentric, middle class
value system exists for all clients;
promoting individual, as opposed to family centered, interventions;
preferring and expecting verbal expressiveness to controlled speech in clients;
tiveness vis-a-vis client consultation with the family or cultural group;
preferring and encouraging client insight to avoidance of unpleasant thoughts;
using primarily linear or analytical thinking processes to explain the world, as opposed to holistic or harmonious thinking;
counseling over a client’s homeopathic or religious mental health resources;
preferring and encouraging client flexibility and tolerance for ambiguity to structured social patterns and relations;
insisting upon establishing a relationship
of equals in counseling when the client might expect and prefer a more hierarchical relationship;
use of imagery, analogy, and expressions with which the client is unfamiliar.
In multicultural counseling, helpers evaluate the world view of clients to help determine the appropriate intervention.
Intervention may take the form of family consultation, community outreach, or facilitation of indigenous support systems in place of or in addition to traditional counseling strategies.
Cultural and Social Foundations