School Counseling in a Multicultural Society: An Overview
More and more diversity is becoming the buzzword in society at large and within educational facilities across the nation. As the population in the United States continues to become increasingly diversified and representative of individuals from varying ethnic, socioeconomic and racial backgrounds, educators are realizing an increased need for attention to the specific needs of diverse student populations.
The need for multicultural competencies development among school counseling professionals has recently been acknowledged by the American Psychological Association (1992) and the American Counseling Association (1995) whose ethnical standards dictate that school counselors should achieve a certain level of multicultural competence prior to embarking on a professional career in student counseling.
Despite the acknowledgment of a need for increased awareness and training to ensure a positive student/counselor relationship, there is little evidence that much is being done in the way of establishing a core set of standardized competencies for student counselors in varying school districts (Arredondo, Cheatam, Mio, Sue & Trimble, 1999; Goodnough, Noel & Perusse, 2001).
Thus it is vital that educators and counseling professionals start paying more close attention to the need for standardized diversity training and multicultural competencies before working with student populations, to ensure that the relationship developed between students and counselor is maximized to the best possible ability of both parties.
The critical nature of multicultural competencies and the need for direct assessment of diverse student populations is never more evident than it is in the field of school counseling. These ideas and more are explored in depth below.
School Counseling in a Multicultural Society
Diversity is more and more considered a critical element of education and school counseling programs in an ever more multicultural society. The term has been used to describe existing variables including cultural differences and beliefs that exist among populations whose personal experiences are generally considered different from those of the majority or 'norm' (Arredondo, Cheatam, Mio, Sue & Trimble, 1999).
Counseling a diverse student population is among the challenges that professional school counselors now face. Diversification of communities has resulted in a need for new core competencies to be developed among school counseling professionals that includes instruction geared toward working with people who have norms, values and personal views that are different from those of the majority population (Ponterotto, Casas, Suzuki & Alexander, 1995).
Educational programs should also help counselors realize that multicultural groups are more and more the norm rather than the exception to the rule. In the early twentieth century, there was a tendency for counselors and educators to view the term 'diversity' as something that was 'inferior' from the norm, rather than the norm itself (Arredondo, et. al, 1999).
However more recently the realization has come about that multicultural groups are every present within the educational system, and this awareness has opened the doors for an acknowledgement by the American Psychological Association among other groups that a need exists for more diversification in training and counseling techniques (Trickett, Watts & Birman, 1994; Arredondo, et. al, 1999).
There are a growing number of racial and ethnic minorities in the United States, which has resulted in an increased awareness that the needs of this population need to be addressed, both in the educational system and in society at large (Kim & Lyons, 2003; Atkinson, Morten & Sue, 1998). Research finding tend to suggest that minority students may be less likely than other students to seek out assistance from counselors, thus student counselors might consider a more aggressive approach to ensure they can provide culturally relevant services to help establish a meaningful relationship with students of varying backgrounds (Cheung & Snowden, 1990; Sue & Sue, 1999).
A strong relationship between counselor's and a counselor's positive views of multicultural competence have been viewed in literature as a critical element to the success of a professional school counselor's relationship with students (Sue & Sue, 1999). The American Counseling Association has recently established a set of guidelines that have called attention to the need for cultural changes in the realm of counseling, to ensure that all individuals' needs are adequately addressed, and to ensure that counselors have multicultural competence when addressing the needs of ethnic minority students (Kim & Lyons, 2003; ACA, 1995; APA, 1992).
Multicultural competence at the scholarly level has also resulted in an increased awareness among counselors of the vital components of competence, which include an awareness and knowledge of the needs of minority clients, and a need for competence among counselor trainees before they can work with this population (Kim & Lyons, 2003). However despite this acknowledgement of a need for multicultural competence before working with a diverse student population, there is relatively little in the way of standardization and training available for counselors working with student populations (Kim & Lyons, 2003).
Training and Competency
Preparation for school counseling is half the battle when it comes to preparing school counselors to address a multicultural society. Goodnough, Noel & Perusse (2001) conducted an examination of the results of a national survey that examined the preparation of entry level school counseling students in order to ascertain what similarities and differences might exist between varying school counselor preparation programs.
Since training and education are the first step toward acquiring core competencies, training and education should be consistently evaluated to determine whether or not the training and education are meeting the needs of an increasingly diverse population. The literature available with regard to training and education suggest that at this time a majority of school counselors are inadequately prepared to deal with the challenges presented in a multicultural educational environment (Goodnough, Noel & Perusse, 2001).
In fact, the results on the studies and surveys conducted by Goodnough, Noel & Perusse suggest that school counselor educators across the country prepare entry level students to meet school requirements and job requirements in varying ways; however the methods adopted have not yet been standardized with specific attention to multicultural training.
The American School Counselor Associations national standards suggest that school counselors be prepared to function in many different roles in order to support a broad range of diverse students from varying backgrounds, with regard to their academic pursuits, future career, and personal and social development (Goodnough, Noel & Perusse, 2001). By very nature this is a testament to the need for school counselors to be instructed with regard to multicultural competencies. However the American School Counselor Association does not specifically delineate what this training entails, or how school counselors should go about acquiring it.
School counselors participating in entry level training through the ASCA are expected to engage in individual as well as group counseling school wide programs and case management activities. Though this aspect of training will help round out a school counselors core competencies, again it does not specifically address the needs of a diverse student population that requires a strong background in multicultural issues and they types of problems that students in diverse student populations may be facing, unique to their ethnic and racial backgrounds.
The ASCA does not offer specific and well defined or researched guidelines that delineated exactly what school counselor education programs should teach, which may explain the wide range of varying methods and technique used to prepare school counselors for the educational setting (Goodnough & Perusse, 2001). Thus one may conclude that the first step toward adequate preparation for school counselors in the multicultural environment will be education with regard to multicultural issues, so that school counselors are afforded the opportunity to develop core competencies specific to the needs of diverse student populations.
Further studies with regard to the exact needs of diverse student populations and multicultural competencies among school counselors is warranted (Goodnough & Perusse, 2001) given the lack of adequate information that currently exists on the subject.
Given the dynamic and rapidly evolving face of classrooms, where students are more and more dynamic, diverse and ethnically challenged in some ways, it seems reasonable that school counseling educational programs should be standardized to include diversity training in order to help better prepare classrooms for the diverse environment and student populations they will be facing.
There are guidelines that have been established by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Problems (CACREP) that state that all students should receive instruction in common core areas which include human growth and development, social and cultural foundations, helping relationships, group work, career development, appraisal, research and evaluation and professional orientation (Goodnough, Noel & Perusse, 2001).
Of these categories social and cultural foundations are most akin to a multicultural background and society, however further emphasis in this area is warranted (Goodnough, Noel & Perusse, 2001). The program also, while recommending the types of education to be received does not specifically delineate how many courses or how many hours should be dedicated to each aspect of training, which may limit a school counselors exposure to diversity type training.
Studies of school counselor training reveal that a need exists for specific coursework requirements related to multicultural competence…