Multicultural Counseling Programs Research Paper Starter

Multicultural Counseling Programs

Today's students are the most culturally, ethnically, and racially diverse ever in our country's history (Ziffer & Wietor, 2006). 21st century school counselors are challenged in their ability to provide an appropriate array of services needed by students (Behring, 2002). In many school districts a shortage of support personnel exists, including social workers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors (American School Counselor Association, 2006). In addition to their services to individual students and families, school counselors are also often given the responsibility for "creating culturally accepting environments" in school settings (Schwallie-Giddis, 2004).

Keywords Culture; Diversity; Guidance Counselors; Minority Groups; Multicultural Competence; Multicultural Counseling; Multicultural Education; Racism; School Culture


Twenty-first century American schools are educating a generation of the most diverse students who vary intensely between cultures, ethnicities, and races in the history of education in the United States (Ziffer & Wietor, 2006). This rapid growth of diverse population groups challenges educators, including school counselors, to provide appropriate educational and support services (Sanchez, 1995). Henriksen and Nikels (2005) point out, "as the faces of our nation's youth change, it is essential that professionals within the school systems assist young people as they transition into a diverse global community."

The growth of minority population groups in the United States has outpaced the growth of the white population since the late twentieth century (National Center for Education Statistics, 2007). Hispanics have surpassed blacks as the largest minority group in the country, growing 192% between 1980 and 2005. In comparison, the white American population grew only 10% during the same 25-year period. Minorities are predicted to represent 39% of the population in the U.S. by the year 2020. In states such as California, New Mexico, Texas, and Hawaii the previous minority population has now become the majority (NCES, 2007).

Students and educators bring different cultural backgrounds to the school setting, based on factors such as gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, and disabling conditions (Behring, 2002). Each group has different beliefs, values, norms, traditions, language and other distinctive features. Culture is multifaceted, encompassing individual identity, group identity, cognition, communication, and behavior patterns. Students and educators can belong to multiple cultural groups, resulting in significant variation within and across cultural groups.

Twenty-first century school counselors are challenged in their ability to provide an appropriate array of services needed by students (Behring, 2002). In many school districts a shortage of support personnel exists, including social workers, school psychologists, and guidance counselors (American School Counselor Association, 2006). Student caseloads are too high for counselors to effectively provide services to all students. While the American School Counselor Association advise that there be a 250-to-1 ratio of students to counselors. The national average for the 2004-2005 was 479 (American School Counselor Association, 2006). While the American student population continues to diversify, the majority of school counselors providing services are not culturally or linguistically diverse, making it vital for counselors to learn and utilize culturally competent practices (Nuijens & Klotz, 2004).

These challenges are further complicated by the many diverse needs of students entering the schoolhouse today. Chandras et al. (2006) states that, "In our increasingly global and diverse world, counselors need to develop an ability to work with students whose backgrounds and experiences are different from their own. Cross-cultural knowledge and skills are a must for counselors who work with culturally different students and their families" (Chandras, DeLambo, & Chandras, 2006, ¶ 17). These skills include the ability to listen, value diverse cultural norms, and leave open the idea of their own values and cultures (Diller & Moule, 2005).

The Role of School Counselors

Schools counselors, while also giving their services to students and their families, are often given the responsibility for "creating culturally accepting environments" in school settings (Schwallie-Giddis, 2004). This involves the development and implementation of ongoing school wide programs that raise multicultural awareness and promote tolerance. Counselors contribute by helping to educate and sensitize majority culture students to their peers who have cultural and linguistic differences. Meanwhile, they have the responsibility of helping culturally and linguistically diverse students assimilate into the school culture. These minority students face unique challenges such as:

• Problems associated with discrimination, injustice, and racism;

• Language barriers;

• Cultural stereotypes;

• Forming positive identities when school and home cultures differ;

• Reconciling differences between two different cultures;

• Peer pressures that differ from family cultural values and traditions;

• Varied roles of females;

• Academic problems related to language barriers; and

• Feelings of suspicion and distrust of schools and professionals (Baruth & Manning, 2000).

The American School Counselor Association (ASCA) has adopted a position statement related to meeting the multicultural counseling needs of students which states:

“Professional school counselors advocate for appropriate opportunities and services that promote maximum development for all students regardless of cultural backgrounds and strive to remove barriers that impede student success” (ASCA, 2004, as cited in Canada, 2005, p. 52).

The role of the school counselor is further delineated:

“Professional school counselors take action to ensure that students of culturally diverse backgrounds have access to services and opportunities that promote maximum academic, personal/social and career development. Professional school counselors use a variety of strategies to: increase awareness of culturally diverse persons and populations, increase sensitivity of students and parents to cultural diversity, enhance the total school and community climate for all students. Professional school counselors have the skills necessary to collaborate with students, parents and school personnel to identify attitudes and policies that impede the learning process of culturally diverse students. Professional school counselors strive to ensure that all students' rights are respected, which allows students to maximize their potential in a supportive environment and encourages maximum growth and development. The professional school counselor continues to seek professional development to better understand the cultural traditions and customs of their students. The professional school counselor also collaborates with members of the community who provide services to students from a variety of backgrounds” (ASCA, 2004 as cited in Canada, 2005, p. 52).

The Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP, 2001) demands that accredited counselor preparation programs must offer and make available proper counseling to students with curricular experiences that tend to investigate issues associated with sociocultural, demographic, and lifestyle variety.

Traditional School Counseling Programs

As our nation's predominant culture has historically been European-American, the values and beliefs that guided the creation of American schools have been European-American (Behring, 2002). School counseling programs, accordingly, have been developed based upon best practices for European-American students, and most school counselors have been trained in traditional interventions and approaches that have been tested and validated to meet the needs of the majority population, but may not be appropriate for culturally diverse students. Counselors who are unaware of cultural differences, including cultural perspectives toward school and success, cultural customs, mannerisms, native languages, and family expectations and their implications for counseling, run the risk of mistakenly assuming traditional counseling practices are effective for students of all cultures. This...

(The entire section is 3771 words.)