Understanding other cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes, in an era where public policy and discrimination play a major role in adaptation of other values and systems. Amalgamation of cultural differences is a focal point in this article, with emphasis on inclusion. Attitudes from policy makers and public perspectives recognize diversity exists in today’s society and implement positive changes. The reality of multiculturalism in the United States exists and continues its growth in population (Naylor, 1997). As clinical psychologists practicing in a growing multicultural society an essential portion of treatment, is in accepting other persons of differing cultures, beliefs, and values. The challenge becomes individual counselor’s responses to multiculturalism, a direction that can implement or hinder change in a diverse society.
Defining Cultural Relativism in Relationship to Inclusion
Anthropological and historical views of cultural relativism presented by Ulin (2007) are research-based approach to diversity and critical thinking. Representing his perspective of a modern day approach of culture, from a political and social viewpoint, Ulin (2007) addresses the social, political, and ethical aspects of cultural relativisms regarding inequalities. The main theme of this past research implies an appreciator for differing cultural meaning of their social world and practices. Communication is a valid factor of discrimination and biases, often due to lack of understanding, even though the meanings are similar.
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Universality is an argument of relativism or perhaps interpretation of a historical cultural meaning. Geertz (1973) though not a recent publication points out the need for a systemic view of a divers culture one that incorporates the disciplines of “biological, psychological, sociological” (Geertz, 1973, p. 44) aspects which factors in to the equation of differing norms of other cultures. This philosophical view of decades of social and cultural problems and differences is not a new theory, perhaps a different dimension of revitalization theory presented in modern philosophy of cultural diversity. Promoting change in a self-absorbed society represents open-mindedness in terms of cultural differences. The rationale of human nature is to resist change, therefore it is conceivable adjusting to multicultural diversity takes time, and inclusion takes effort, understanding, and communication.
Geertz (1973) suggests another aspect of cultural meaning that of interpretation of what culture really pertains too. From an anthropological viewpoint, the study of human nature certainly includes biological perspectives. Considering persons biology is anatomically the same, other than gender differences. Nevertheless, behaviors differ in cultural beliefs and rituals. Is it because we lack understanding or disagree, implying the need for further education, communication, and cohesiveness. Since understanding of other cultures is often the unfamiliarity of norms, therefore deficiencies in mutual entities or interpretations of cultural meaning become problematic. This comes back to diversified thinking, in terms of relating to others with differencing cultural backgrounds whereby further understanding may delineated the theory of early relativism of dissimilarities of groups (Segall, Lonner, & Berry, 1998). Not to say that persons will ever comprehend all cultural differences, yet to respect the differences promoting change in the natural process of human nature. Misconception and turmoil of cultural differences in society notably mentioned in past literatures depict various views. In order to gain a more unified society, multiculturalism, and psychology needs to expand its philosophy in relationship to developing understanding of diversity from all societal aspects of cultural differences.
Contrasting Views of Cultural Differences
Often lack of understanding other cultural languages, beliefs, rituals and heritage, becomes the obstacle of inclusion. Naylor (1997) summarizes orientation of diversity involves individual understanding and experiences and interaction with diverse cultures. For example, family morals, values, and attitudes towards persons from other cultures are a crucial entity in terms of generational attitudes towards persons of race, color, and religious beliefs. Negativity and judgmental beliefs handed down from generations, is significant to the conflicts that occur in the United States today (Naylor, 1997). Attitudes such as this is our country that we are “Americans” this is our heritage, other persons of cultural differences invade our territory utilize our socioeconomic resources. Perhaps self-evaluation of heritage is questionable in terms of our own heritage. For example, the heritage of my background is a multiplex value and mixture of French, Cajun, and Cherokee, originally my decedents came from France and Canada, not exactly Americana. Centuries ago many of our decedents migrated to this country called America, first and second generations represented a diverse culture. So quickly we forget our heritage and judge others, when conceivably the possibility that the majority of our ancestors are all decedents that migrated to this country.
Cultural differences equate to any other minority group in terms of unfairness such as gender, race, and sexual preferences. These criteria are foremost part of the 21st century issues for society and psychology. Since the United States faces enormous amounts of multiculturalism. Naylor (1997) suggests the essence of culture is integration of populations seeking to adapt in a world equally foreign to American culture as well as other cultures residing in the same society.
Globalization and Cultural Humanity
In essence, multiculturalism is a body of people, evaluating behaviors, in an environment that tends to be a continuum of complexities of social issues and distinctive ideas of diversity (Naylor, 1997). In addition, consideration of individual rights of all people pertains to the freedom of speech, Binderup, (2007) and the controversial issues of citizenship, equality, and autonomy of cultural differences. Binderup (2007) suggests a moral reasoning of cultural expression and beliefs, how the media influences frequent negativity especially in face of multicultural issues in the United States. The premise of freedom of speech is an American concept established by the ancestors of this country. Meaningful communication among diverse groups is an important element to inclusion. Granted multi-languages make this a difficult task; obtaining some type of communication can provide harmony in the face of diversity. Experiencing some semblance of “self-knowledge” (Naylor, 1997, p. 88) is the beginning of relating to others, acceptance of others beliefs, and values of cultural differences, which decreases the complexities of diversity.
Future research of a legacy left behind
The prospect of cohesiveness of a united culture is a challenge, which policy makers need to address, since an increased diversified population continues its growth in America (Deaux, 2006). The importance of cohesiveness as a legacy is in educating a younger generation that inclusion is necessary to thrive in a healthy society. Previous literature explores the necessity of understanding and accepting multiculturalism in America. A method of finding a common goal among people in a complex society is essential from an individual and professional viewpoint. If every individual person communicated and expressed compassion and tried to understand one another, perhaps change in a diverse society is not impossible or unrealistic. Preceding literature also implies the variables from a historical perspective of multiculturalism, and diversity. In terms of psychology, it continues to seek solutions, providing empirical evidence of this lingering problem. As a society, change can occur if each entity of sociology, anthropology, and psychology lead the path towards inclusion.
Inclusion is vital to a successful society for future generations, in terms of relating to one another, excepting differences in gender, race, and ethnicity. As a civilization of people, coexisting in a dynamic country like the United States, plus educational opportunities we surmise that the leadership role of incorporating cultural differences and possibilities of historically changing this nation’s view in itself is a legacy.
Making a difference as scholar practitioners
In addressing the fundamental practices of fairness, Hage, Kindaichi, Bryant, & Constantine, (2007) present an important contribution to multiculturalism and self- awareness within the counseling profession regarding diversity (Hage et al., 2007, p. 24) address “social justice” regardless of cultural differences. Educating counselors in the area of multiculturalism is essential to the counseling profession, in terms of fair and equal treatment within the counseling setting. From a clinical example, several moths ago, I counseled a family from Trinidad, granted language and cognitive perceptions differed. Nevertheless, providing this family with adequate intervention became vital to the success of treatment goals. The issue of multicultural difference occurred when another worker of the team reported the family to the Department of Human Services for abuse, since the client told this person that the parents spanked him. The parents clearly upset by this report nearly sued the agency, simply because this is how Trinidad, parents discipline their children, the case was unfounded. Moreover, the other worker did not try to inform himself of cultural differences in parenting styles, this type of situation frequently occurs due to lack of understanding and education of counselors and workers of diverse cultural differences and beliefs. Essential part of therapeutic intervention is becoming knowledgeable about cultural differences, providing information to parents in this case of the appropriate guidelines and expectation of this society.
Another example presented in literature of cultural misunderstanding is that of a young woman from Peru, reporting symptoms of depression participating in a counseling session; the practitioner’s first impression is this young woman is homesick. Due to lack of training in cultural differences, this practitioner did not surmise that the woman has depressed feelings were due to being discriminated against by her peers (Hage et al., 2007). Undoubtedly, literature provides numerous scenarios such as that of this woman, further necessitating the need for educating practitioners in the area of multiculturalism and social justice.
Previous research claims that the counseling professions are slow in educating multicultural aspects of the therapeutic relationship “client’s level of acculturation, problems etiology, and treatment goals might result in the delivery of ineffective or culturally irrelevant services” (Hage et al., 2007, p. 26). This is an excellent point in terms of amalgamation from a social perspective involving education, individual awareness, principles, biases, and prejudices that are frequently covert in nature. Practitioners encountering multiculturalism on a daily basis, presenting a positive non- biased approach to therapy elicits change in oneself and others.
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For example, previous studies by Matrone & Lahey, (2005) discuss the area of counseling competencies, suggesting that (Sue, 2001, as cited by Matrone & Lahey, 2005, p. 234) “(a) counselors awareness of cultural vales and biases, (b) counselors awareness of worldview and (c) culturally appropriate intervention strategies.” The relevance of this quote is to exemplify the case noted in this research regarding competencies and understanding as a major problem for some counselors. Considering social justice within the counseling profession further education in the area of multiculturalism is imperative to the well-being of clients (Hage et al., 2007).
In other words, the counseling profession in today’s society requires an open-mindedness of cultural differences implementing multicultural practices in their profession.
From an anthropological viewpoint, cultural relativism in relationship to inclusion from a professional and societal perspective is an old concept of understanding cultural differences and humanity (Ulin, 2007). In modern day society understanding cultural differences, along with open- minded approaches, ethics, and philosophies is essential to the growth of the practitioner in view of a diverse society. Educating mental health workers and other professionals in the areas of communication, social understanding, of cultural diversity certainly enables healthier adaptations of the counseling profession. The impact and change of professionals in the area of cultural counseling in communities across the United States promotes inclusion, the ethical, and responsibility of fair counseling practices providing treatment as humanitarians.
Previous literature presents the need for counselors and psychologists to participate in trainings, and workshops regarding diversity of cultures. Further knowledge and education of multicultural differences, provides a greater level of understanding, and communication. Practitioners engaging in further education of cultural differences, while self-evaluating their own biases and values. The importance of implementing multicultural aspects to the counseling profession goes back to cultural relativism and the modern day theory inclusion in the fields of psychology. Historically, psychology provides systemic views of observations, behaviors, and experimentation it keeps an open-minded approach to various aspects of human nature. Psychology has come a long ways, gaining much respect from society, perhaps as front-runners of this field counselor, by example can promote change. The challenges remain communication factors, attitudes, and directives of individual practitioners, and policy makers towards amalgamation of cultures.
Binderup, L. (2007). Global freedom of speech. Trames: a Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences, 11(4), 403-418.
Deaux, K. (2006). A nation of immigrants: Living our legacy. Journal of Social Psychology, 62(3), 633-651.
Geertz, C. (1973). The Intrepertation of Cultures. New York: Basic Books.
Hage, S., Kindaichi, M. M., Bryant, R. M., & Constantine, M. G. (2007). Social Justice and Multicultural Issues: Implications for the Practice and Training of Counselors and Counseling Psychologist. Journal of Counseling and Development, 85(1), 24-29.
Matrone, K. F., & Lahey, M. J. (2005). The rehabilitation between vocational rehabilitation client outcomes and rehabilitation counselor multicultural competencies. Rehabilitation Counseling Bulletin, 48(4), 233-244. (Matrone & Lahey, 2005)
Naylor, L. L. (1997). Cultural Diversity in the United States. Westport, CT: Greenwood publishing Group Inc.
Segall, M. H., Lonner, W. J., & Berry, J. W. (1998). Cross-cultural psychology as a scholarly discipline:On flowering of culture in behavioral research. American Psychologist, 53(10), 1101-1110.
Sue, D. W. (2001). Multidimensional facets of cultural competence. The Counseling Psychologist, 29, 790-821.
Ulin, R. C. (Ed.). (2007). Revisiting cultural relativism: Old prospects for a new cultural critique [Special section]. Anthropoligical Quarterly, 80, 803-820.
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