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More specifically, Sections II-VI focus comprehensively on each of the minority groups' backgrounds; histories inside and outside America; typical experiences in America and elsewhere, characteristic challenges, setbacks, prejudices, and other hardships encountered in America and elsewhere, and likely attitudes, both positive and negative, about counseling and other health care in America. These sections, since they are all written by experts with personal as well as professional experience of a given minority group, are especially powerful, memorable, illustrative, and potentially extremely useful within actual future clinical settings.
The first chapter also points out that although "minorities" are frequently regarded, especially by European-descended Caucasian-Americans (still the large majority of counselors in America today), as somehow one large amalgamated block, of people "different from ourselves," the four minority groups discussed within the book are extremely distinct from one another: in values; beliefs; assumptions; attitudes; historical backgrounds, encounters with particular kinds of prejudices, and real life experiences. Moreover, vast differences, far more so than generally recognized, exist within subgroups of each of the four major minority groups discussed.
Atkinson further reminds readers, also, that the concept of counseling, in and of itself, is one with which many minority group members, for diverse and often unrecognized and unappreciated (by counselors) reasons, will often be experienced as inherently uncomfortable for the minority group member. For example, since for most Native Americans, emphasis is typically placed much more on the extended family group or tribe as a whole, than it is on the individual, it would not be unusual for a Native American client to feel uncomfortable discussing himself or herself separately from the group to which he or she belongs.
Native Americans also typically have a much different concept of family, and the importance of lifelong family connections and interactions, than do Caucasians. According to Atkinson et al., for example, while a typical first question for a counselor to ask a Caucasian client might be something like "Can you tell me about yourself and what brings you here?" A more appropriate question to ask a Native American first time client would be "Can you tell me about your people and your family?"
Since minority group members, in general, experience day-to-day life in America far differently than Caucasians typically do, they will, consequently, present far different issues to counselors. Garrett points out, in Chapter 7 on Native Americans, how almost all Native American values; priorities, and attitudes are different from those of Caucasian-Americans. For example, while Caucasians are typically encouraged to be individually competitive and focused on individual goals and progress, Native Americans are taught to be focused on their group, and the collective well-being of that group. As a consequence, Native Americans in a school, college, or university setting will generally not endeavor to stand out from the rest of the group by asking questions of an instructor or displaying individual knowledge. However, Native American students value and participate, often more comfortably than Caucasians do, in co-operative or group activities, in which no one is expected to excel, but where the entire group works together toward an outcome or a goal.
Within Counseling American Minorities, then, Atkinson effectively explores myriad complex therapeutic implications of working with culturally diverse clients. Atkinson also points out, in his introductory chapter, that his discussion of minorities in America is far from comprehensive, since numerous other minority groups also exist within the United States, e.g., the disabled; gay Americans; Jewish-Americans, etc., but that the four groups focused upon within the text represent the largest minority groups living in America, and therefore, the groups most likely to be encountered by practicing counselors today. In fact, the only aspect of Counseling American Minorities that disappointed me personally (and mainly because the information in the book was both so interesting, from a personal perspective, and so helpful, from a professional one) was that more minority groups (e.g., the disabled; gays; Muslims; Jews, etc.) were not also discussed. However, even with that limitation, the material offered within the text is a useful point of departure, by which to better understand these, and later, based perhaps on future research by these authors and/or others, additional minority groups, and their unique perspectives, experiences, challenges, and problems, in America as well.
Atkinson, Donald R.…[continue]
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