The state of Illinois produced the first black president in the United States. The population of the state is about 12.6 million people, about a third of California’s 39.5 million residents (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). The state of Illinois is dominated by a white majority at 77%, compared to California’s 72% white majority. The demographic statistics of the two are almost similar, the major difference being that Illinois has 15% black Americans, while California has 15% Asians (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). However, California has more foreign-born residents at 27% of their population, compared to Illinois’ 14% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). Most of the population trends appear very similar between the two states, reflecting a general trend that shows from across the United States. California is home to the highest number of immigrants to the United States, with over 11 million of them. However, Illinois must have demonstrated more cultural sensitivity than California by sponsoring a minority member to White House.
The statistics show that in any corner of the United States, a person lives in a community blend with different cultural norms. It is imperative to understand, learn, and respect the culture of others for harmonious living. One should remember that there are about 236 discernable faith groups in the United States. Statistics show that over 56% of people in Illinois identify with some religion (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). Therefore, it is fundamental for all people to understand the pace of culture in society for harmonious coexistence. A psychologist and counselor need to understand the different backgrounds that people in the state identify with. This is essential in the counseling journey, as no one would want to disparage their clients with offending information because they have no clues about their background. The people’s diversity should be their strength, and mot a source of conflict.
Self-awareness and Cultural Background
My Identity, Background, and Family of Origin
It is incredible to think about how different we are, yet so similar in other ways. I am a 32-year old Asian-American who was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Thailand (the homeland of my two parents) at the age of three. I have dual citizenship and also have a 30-year old brother who was born in Long Island, New York. I also have an 18-year old younger sister who was born in Bangkok, Thailand. We currently live in Illinois along with my dad, while my mom travels back and forth. My brother lives with his wife and two kids in Chicago, my dad and my sister live in the suburbs, and I live with my American boyfriend and his daughter. I grew up and lived in Thailand for over 15 years while attended an international school and came over to the United States for college. I have primarily been here ever since with school and work. I am mainly a description of what a mixed culture family looks like.
Similarity with Family
As a family, there are some beliefs, values, and philosophies that we hold dearly. Primarily, we are Buddhists from my paternal side. All through the paternal family lineage, we practice Buddhism. Interestingly, the family is spread across the world in different countries like Indonesia, China, Malaysia, Thailand, the United States, and Japan. As a family, we are explorative and enjoy that feeling of experiencing new places. We also strongly believe in the family unit. Even though mum and dad live in two different countries, they regularly visit and live with each other. My brother has a family of his own, and I also plan to start a family at some point. All the way through our family lineage, the family unit is respected and adored.
I hold the opinion that violence cannot be accepted as a social norm. Throughout my life, I have not experienced violence in my family, where everyone speaks about love and harmony. Probably, our religious upbringing has had a hand in my view of life and humanity. Some of the values shared in the family include respect, responsibility, compassion, and kindness. They may not always conform to what society demands and does, but they are the guiding lights in my family. Generally, we share more like a family than we differ in most of the things that we do. Growing up in the family, most of the things I learned through observation and constant reminders from my father and mother about what the family stands for and desires of everyone. With time, they are imparted into one’s life, and they become part of daily living.
Personal Biases, Limitations, or Prejudices
Every individual possesses some weaknesses that could hinder their performance in a multicultural setting. First, there has always been the belief that white Americans are supremacists, and they always want things done their way. Therefore, I will be wary of such a thing happening in my practice, which generates a fear of white clients. However, I have been learning a lot from my white boyfriend, and the fear is slowly fading away. Having grown and developed in a family built from different cultures may be a limitation. I am used to seeing people from their diverse cultures, and this may raise my expectations of clients too high. Some will have no knowledge about multicultural existence, and may not even be ready to be counseled by someone from Thailand. Therefore, I have to find a way of dealing with such clients.
As a society, we consume what the media airs from time to time. Such information at times shapes our way of doing things. Religious, nationalism, sexism, racism, and classism prejudices exist in bits in every individual. My greatest worry remains homophobic prejudice. As much as one tries to brush it off and forget, it remains almost impossible. Therefore, that remains my most significant concern of bias when I become a counselor, but that one too, I will overcome with time.
Personal Strengths or Abilities
What motivates me most are my strengths and abilities, and they make me believe that I will make an incredible counselor. First, growing up in a multicultural setting sets me a notch above my peers in this sector. Applying the cultural experience in this job is very important. One can manage to handle different clients from various backgrounds based on this multicultural competency. I am also self-aware. I understand myself to the core, my weaknesses, my beliefs, and my values. Therefore, I can manage to put them aside when dealing with clients, such that I approach their cases with the objectivity they deserve. All through life, I have always been an empathetic person. Sometimes, I become emotive too quick. However, I know it is vital as a counselor to be emotionally intelligent (Kaelber & Schwartz, 2014). On that account, my empathetic abilities will go a long way in aiding my career.
Finally, I am a person proud of her communication skills. I actively listen and dispense information without contradiction. A counselor must be skillful in communication, so easy to discharge duty effectively (Kuntze et al., 2009). Excellent communication skills play a significant role in ensuring that one is a good problem solver. Most clients will come on board with loads of problems, and they will be seeking solutions. Consequently, impeccable problem-solving skills are a derivative of effective communication, aiding a counselor in her work (Kuntze et al., 2009).
Methods for Enhancing Multicultural Competence in Counseling
Counseling requires a great deal of multicultural competence. It is an ever-changing dynamic because cultures evolve and change. Therefore, individuals, organizations, and institutions need to adopt different methods of enhancing multicultural competence. Some of the methods include;
Promoting self-awareness –for any individual to understand and appreciate other cultures, they need to be very aware of their own culture (Duan & Brown, 2016). Therefore, multicultural competence must begin with self-awareness. The entire process and concept of self-awareness should also determine an individual’s cultural effectiveness.
Understand the different facets of culture. In the minds of most people, culture begins and ends at skin color. However, there are other paradigms like family, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation play a role in cultural identity. Therefore, people should try to understand all the different facets to be competent counselors (Duan & Brown, 2016).
Background research about individual clients. When a counselor receives a client, it should be instrumental in evaluating their cultural background, even without blatantly stating it. Approaching a client’s case without understanding their cultural background is the first step of failure in a therapeutic process. Therefore, a counselor must make it a habit and norm to evaluate that element before dealing with a client.
One approach cannot entirely improve multicultural competence. Nonetheless, one can combine different approaches and methods to ensure that the clients get the highest quality of therapy possible.
Duan, C. & Brown, C. (2016). Becoming a multiculturally, competent counselor. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Kaelber, K., & Schwartz, R. (2014). Empathy and emotional intelligence among eastern and western counselor trainees: A preliminary study. International Journal for the Advancement of Counseling, 36(3), 274-286. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10447-013-9206-8
Kuntze, J., Molen, H., & Born, M. (2009). Increase in counseling communication skills after basic and advanced micro-skills training. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 79(1), 175-188. https://doi.org/10.1348/000709908x313758
U.S. Census Bureau. (2020). U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: California; Illinois; Texas. Census Bureau QuickFacts. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/CA,IL,TX/RHI725219.
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