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One issue at hand as it relates to counselor bias and how to avoid it is that not all racial, ethnic and other social traits are easily detectable. Not all disabilities, as another example, are not obvious to the naked eye. Even ethnic/national origin traits are not something that a person can simply observe. Black people, just as one example, could be born and raised in the United States but they could just as easily be from Britain or Haiti. White people can easily be from Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia or even parts of South America (Hays, 1996).
Where this detection can be an issue is that some patients do not readily or easily self-identify the traits that are related to the aggravating issues or conditions in their life. As such, the counselor must build a rapport with the client and make it clear that they have to know the honest truth of what is going on and why and what factors and phobias are feeding the problem. If this does not occur, the counselor will probably struggle because they really need to know the true issue and the factors that are feeding the same if they want to be of any help (Hays, 1996).
A good ice-breaker that the Hays article suggests is to ask the patient to describe themselves, to define what they find important and to ask how they think others see the patient. This line of questioning, coupled with a major focus on non-judgment and the genuine intent to help, should help patients open up about their struggles. Ms. Hays then discusses how it is important to center on what is important factor (or factors) in a given person's life. For example, many black people take very pride in their race, their ancestry and their origins. Other black people, however, are indifferent about the subject. Many people define themselves through their sexuality or religion, while others may give it less emphasis even if it plays a prominent part in their life (Hays, 1996).
Even if the proper cultural and social factors are addressed, there are a few things that can still cause problems. For example, a heterosexual counselor may find problems giving good counsel to a homosexual patient. The main reason for this is that one person is within the sphere in which they are affected and the other is probably not. Another example would be a counselor that has never been disabled counseling someone that has issues pertaining to the treatment they endure because of the disability, either past or present (Hays, 1996).
The other main speed bump is that many people will manifest more than one factor at the same time. Two good examples of this would be a gay black man or an older Hispanic. Both of these examples are of people that could very well be facing more than one bias or other challenge relating to their sexual, social and racial traits. The problem inherent to such a happenstance is that there is probably a "weighting" as to what is more prominent and/or problematic. For example, the gay black man may be fine from a racial standpoint but may endure a lot of homophobia, or it could very well be the opposite or even both at once (Hays, 1996).
The author of this paper would generally agree with the main point of the report, but it is perhaps a bridge too far. The author does not minimize the fact that different races, ages, etc. mean different personality traits and belief structures but to carelessly assume things about people based on race is a very bad idea. If interpreted wrongly, this report would seem to condone or even encourage stereotyping in a very implicit way. The words about catering to a person's culture and identity is good enough, but counselors need to be careful about making brash or even obtuse assumptions about people based on racial traits, gender and so forth. Other than that, Ms. Hays offered a very good point to her paper and the research she offered seems to back her up. The report was easy to follow and there was a common-sense structure to the report. It was not too brief but it also was not too long either. This report was more deductive rather than inductive because Ms. Hays relied heavily on prior studies on the subject rather…[continue]
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