Should counselors consider the role of “ecological validity” in working with diverse clients?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ecological validity is the cogency in the findings of behavioral studies. When behavioral studies claim that there is a correlation between one thing and a behavior, the question arises of whether the experiment was conducted in a location where the participant felt the same exact way as if he or she would feel when most comfortable and free to react most naturally. In other words, EV is questioned when participants are observed in environments that are not similar to their natural environment. The premise is that, if participants are not studied within an environment that is most natural to them, it is hard to determine whether the observations and correlations made are actually valid. 

This paradigm should be considered in counseling because the client will not manifest himself unless he feels as if he were in a familiar, safe, and comfortable environment. Therefore, the counselor has to take every step possible to build an atmosphere in the counseling center that invites the participant to really relax so that he can open up, lower the affective filter, and really expose the primary concerns. If, on the contrary, the counselor makes the environment of the counseling space about himself and not about the client, the latter will feel apprehensive and unsure of whether to manifest herself or not. An example would be an over-decorated or extravagant counseling office serving in a poor community. The client is more likely to feel out of place there rather than when visiting an office which looks precisely like that: like a place for dialogue and communication and not for fashion and looks. 

Moreover, the counseling office should be transparent and universal; everybody should feel welcome and safe and no biased trends should be visible. In other words, an optimal counseling space should be devoid of political, religious, ethnic, or gender-preference items that may polarize the client. When one is a counselor one does not work for oneself, but for the client. It is the counselor who should drive the tone and atmosphere of the counseling space in an unbiased, impartial way. 

Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ecological validity is a newly emergent concept in research in psychology and other social sciences. It posits that researchers must take into account the cultural or situational context of behavior and expression of motivational forces because there is an interplay between social and cultural persons and social and cultural context. This position opposes the previously exclusive position that behavior might be studied in a laboratory with dependent and independent variables. Thus, yes, counselors should take this into account.

Ecological validity refers to an acknowledgment of the fact that human action is situated and highly contingent on contextual factors/variables. To obtain 'valid' results, humans should be studied in the richness of their natural environment. (Interaction Design Foundation)