What is meant by cultural divisions and heritage and how these may influence the counselling relationship?

Expert Answers
Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many places today, now that we are a global village, one's clients are likely to come from a variety of cultures and heritages, cultures and heritages different from those of the therapist.  This difference has consequences for the counseling relationship in many ways.

Many people who are from cultures that are not the "mainstream" culture have experienced unpleasant treatment because of their differences.  The implication of this is that there can be a lack of trust initially in the relationship, which is certainly understandable.  It is up to the therapist to get past this by finding common ground and by being very sure to show respect for these differences. 

A second consequence is that a therapist may very well be lacking in knowledge about a client's culture and heritage, which acts as a barrier to understanding and efficacy.  The therapist should make every effort possible to learn about the client's cultural background.  Not doing so is irresponsible, and, like teaching, counseling is as much about learning oneself as it is about helping another.

Such differences have implications for the counselor's choices in therapy, too.  What are the goals of the therapy?  If the client needs assistance with situations and relationships in his or her own cultural "world," that is a very different goal from a client's need for assistance in making cultural adjustments to the mainstream world in which he or she must function.  Without acknowledging, respecting, and understanding these differences, the therapist is not of much use in meeting goals.  

At the beginning and throughout the counseling relationship, a good therapist will always be on the alert for these differences and their implications.