Multicultural counseling embraces the different and shared characteristics of people, according to the National Guidance Research Forum. Multicultural counseling training, therefore, is intended to assist counselors with providing services to individuals and groups from all cultural backgrounds. Training can be received as part of a degree program, or it can be presented through individual courses.
Multicultural counseling training concentrates on understanding individuals on the basis of race, gender, sexual preference, economic background, religious beliefs, age, disability and social class. Multicultural counseling training, therefore, tries to provide the counselor with skills and knowledge that she can use in assisting people from all societal groups.
Training in multiculturalism for counselors has been growing in importance because of the increasingly diverse society that exists across the world. No longer are countries made up of one culture, nor do they consist of only people born to that nation, but are filled with individuals from all parts of the globe. These individuals bring with them their own beliefs, customs and cultural connections. Nevertheless, traditional counseling practices have suggested that all people can receive counseling in the same manner, without considerations for variations in cultural background. The National Guidance Research Forum indicates that this approach to counseling in relation to a multicultural society does not support the needs of all people. Consequently, training in multiculturalism for counselors is imperative.
The American Counseling Association added ethical standards for the counseling code of conduct in relation to multicultural sensitivity in counseling in 2005. According to the American Counseling Association, counselors must respect the varying beliefs of people from different cultural backgrounds, as well as the individual's view toward the counseling process itself. Counseling training in relation to multiculturalism, therefore, must include a focus on multiculturalism as it pertains to ethics and the standards that guide the profession.
Multicultural counseling training should call on the counselor or student to examine his own culture and cultural beliefs in an attempt to understand the cultural factors that influence his counseling practice. Self-examination means that the counselor should consider his own cultural background and his own values and beliefs in relation to culture and the cultural standards that he currently embraces. Such an examination creates a multicultural belief awareness that the counselor can build upon or alter to provide more effective services to people of other cultures.
Training in multiculturalism in the counseling profession should also include a focus on communication methods. This includes communication that is verbal and non-verbal. Communication practices regarding culture are important because some common statements in one culture may be highly offensive in another. Likewise, some non-verbal communication that is considered perfectly acceptable in one culture may be taboo for the members of another cultural group.
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