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Diversity and Psychology
There were two major developments that influenced the field of psychology and the professions' views regarding multicultural competence, emphasized in 2003. The American Psychological Associations' 2002 Ethical Principles and Code of Conduct and the Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice and Organizational Change for Psychologists published in 2003 both stressed the importance of moving from a mono-cultural school of thought to a multicultural perspective and that these 'new rules' acknowledge an appreciation of differences as well as an "understanding of the inherent ambiguity and complexity in psychological practice (Pack-Brown & Williams, 2003; Manesse, Saito, & Rodolfa, 2004). Knapp and VandeCreek (2003) said of these new guidelines that they articulate a need for greater sensitivity regarding linguistic and cultural minorities. The development of the new Code of Ethics and the APA's positioning were purported to be in response to a long awaited recognition of the need for increased cultural acknowledgement, understanding and 'sensitivity' in the field of psychology. However, many practitioners and scholars argue that the language in the Code of Ethics, in particular, is still slanted toward Western European emphasis and toward "singularly defined bounded relationships" Manesse, Saito, & Rodolfa, 2004).
The Code does facilitate multicultural competence with the recognition that in specific cultural contexts, more complex and often closer involvement in the client's lives may facilitate protection for the client and more appropriate service delivery. Maintaining healthy boundaries does require professional judgment and a commitment to what is determined to be in the best interest of the client, articulated, in part, by the client, and within the contextual framework most suited to the individual client. More clarity and specifics were purported to give specific directions to practitioners advising the importance of not providing services when they indeed lack sufficient knowledge and when professional or scientific knowledge has determined that a specific understanding of gender, age, race, ethnicity, culture, gender identity, national origin, religion, disability, language or socioeconomic status in required for effective service delivery (May, 2003).
Multicultural competence, in its broadest definition, includes the dimensions of awareness of one's (practitioners) beliefs and attitudes, knowledge regarding cultural differences, and particular skills in working with diverse groups (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; Sue, et al., 1982). In order for practitioners to develop the necessary skill set, minimally involve recognition of cultural dimensions of clinical work that include different world views and the effects of oppression and racism, thereby increasing their abilities to address clients with cultural sensitivity, flexibility, and increasing their abilities to understand their own biases, assumptions, and reactions (Manessa, Saito, & Rodolfa, 2004).
Application to Criminal Justice in Parole
The scholarly literature provides a great deal of correlational studies between criminal justice and parole and the impact of psychology as it relates to the discipline. Forensic psychology, in particular, posits a number of empirical studies utilizing various methodologies with the treatment and rehabilitation of offenders, specifically sexual offenders (Howells, 2009). There is, however, less scholarly literature regarding violent offenders which comprises a great number of the criminal population and those who have been paroled (Howells, Daffern, & Day, 2008).
The challenges the field of criminal justice and psychology face is the lack of an overarching theory of cognition as it relates to offender cognition and prior to the examination of offenders (Gannon, 2009). Most often, professional and practitioner response to criminal offending has focused on intrapersonal causal factors such as cognitions, beliefs, traits, emotional reactions, etc., and have neglected situational variables, which have an extended history in psychology (Mischel, 2004).
Moreover, most prior studies related to criminal justice, particularly as it relates to criminal sanctioning have focused primarily and almost exclusively on the individual level predictors of sentencing outcomes (Wang & Mears, 2009). Findings and evidence of these studies have indicated a propensity for minorities and men to be sentenced more severely which bespeaks the need predicated by issues faced in psychology and the need for multicultural psychology (Steffensmeirer & Demuth, 2006). More recent studies have focused on racial and ethnic composition, crime, political affiliation, and unemployment in specific geographic regions (Wooldredge, 2007).
Although the most recent studies over the past decade have served to inform psychology and criminal justice, the racial and ethnic minority threat perspective leave a number of questions. For years, the focus of psychological and empirical study has been the need for social as minority populations posed a threat to the white majority (Stults & Baumer, 2007). As a result of this perceived threat, there was a demand by whites for intensified social control in order to maintain social, political, and economic dominance. This contextual framework has set the precedent for how psychology and criminal justice have worked collaboratively. This historical perspective offers insight into the mono-cultural perspective that has so impeded psychology from being as effective in accurately addressing the needs not just of offenders but of those who set the parameters for probation and sentencing. The discriminatory nature of the criminal justice system particularly in the United States has a long way to go in being fare to offenders of different ethnicities, races, and social classes. Inasmuch as psychology has served to provide some insight into this fractured system, most scholars and experts agree, the work between criminal justice and psychology continue to be in a nascent state and require a more assertive methodology to provide genuine, prejudice free treatment and rehabilitation.
From its foundation as a separate science, psychology has been a dynamic and ever evolving discipline with ongoing debate as to how to explain and describe behavior and the human mind. From pre-modernism to post-modernism, psychology has evolved with several influential schools of thought that collectively purported a goal of informing regarding human cognition and behavior. Some of the most prominent schools of thought have been the psychoanalytic, behavioral, and humanistic theories.
The basic tenets of psychoanalysis posit that experience, cognition and human behavior are predominantly determined by irrational drives that are largely unconscious; efforts to bring these drives into conscious awareness meets with internal resistance as conflicts between the conscious view of reality and the repressed or unconscious view can result in anxiety, neurosis, depression or other neurotic traits; as well as a move from primarily an unconscious focus to bringing material into consciousness (Leichsenring, 2005). The basic tenets and principles of behavioral psychology are still very much in use today as evidenced by therapeutic techniques including behavior modification, token economy systems, and behavior analysis used to address and remediate maladaptive behavior. While the basic tenets of humanistic theory favor the derivation of methodology from the subject matter and not natural science and advocates for pluralism in methodology which lends the perspective to qualitative approaches (Giorgi, 2009).
There have been a number of noted issues when it comes to diversity and psychology. In response to the mono-cultural approach to analysis and intervention The APA posited the need for practitioners to be culturally competent, with recognition of the limitations of past practice, and acknowledgement of the need to have the necessary knowledge to effectively practice with diverse populations.
Psychology has served to inform criminal justice in a number of ways. However, there continues to be a lack of an overarching theory and methodology that serves to effectively address the offender population from initial sentencing through probation. There also continues to be a uni-focused approach in addressing this particular population. Moreover, there is a demonstrable need for more empirical and scholarly work to be done in order to provide effective treatment and service delivery in the criminal justice arena.
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