Knowledge of avenues for community support as well as for physical aid such as shelter and food are vital to providing help, both immediate and long-term, to discriminated populations. I have confidence that between my studies and real-life experiences such as internships and work, that I can gain this knowledge and disperse it amongst clientele.
The fourth role a therapist ought to play is as a "consultant helping clients (and others in their life) find ways to work toward reducing discriminatory practices in the community" (Atkinson, et.al., 1993, pp. 264-270, cited in Cooper and Lesser, 2005, p. 67). This role dovetails with the second role above of being an advocate oneself.
If one is successfully filling the role of advocate, then sharing information on how to participate in the local community, to contact one's officials, and to agitate for change is not a large step. Teaching clients how to successfully change discriminatory practices should come naturally to a therapist who is trying to change those practices herself, and again, I believe that any unconscious bias I might hold against a group would be easily overwhelmed by my feeling of solidarity with them as the "other" from my own experiences.
The next criteria for cross-cultural therapists is serving as a "change agent trying to effect changes in those conditions in the social environment that contribute to social injustice" (Atkinson, et.al., 1993, pp. 264-270, cited in Cooper and Lesser, 2005, p. 67). This criteria, again, blends easily with the role as advocate mentioned earlier. However, I believe that a "change agent" is more directly participatory than someone who is simply an "advocate." For example, an advocate might call local government officials, or grant an interview to a local news station for a report on the discriminatory practices. But a change agent would be the person who is petitioning door-to-door for support for an upcoming debate, who is actively scheduling meetings with the powers that be in order to inform and influence people regarding the social injustices brought to light in their social work practice.
The therapist should also be a "counselor aimed toward preventing intrapsychic problems from occurring" (Atkinson, et.al., 1993, pp. 264-270, cited in Cooper and Lesser, 2005, p. 67). This role is also informed by my education and training. One of the basic tenets of social work training is to recognize and treat psychic harm, mental traumas, and perhaps repressed traumas that are trapped in the mind. Part of my training and education will serve to teach me to recognize these problems, and to identify not only the problem but a method of treatment for it and a mode of future prevention.
The final role to be filled by a therapist also relates to these intrapsychic problems: "Psychotherapist aimed at treating intrapsychic problems" (Atkinson, et.al., 1993, pp. 264-270, cited in Cooper and Lesser, 2005, p. 67). This, again, will be taught to be in my training for social work, and I have full confidence in my ability to absorb and apply any lessons shared with me in the university to my individual practice in finding and treating these intrapsychic problems. I do not see my personal biases, either toward or against sociocultural minorities, affecting this ability to recognize and treat the specific phenomena which I will be trained for in university.
These cross-cultural counseling rules are not to be interpreted as a complete removal of racial considerations, however. In the realm of education, the effects of complete "colorblindness" has been studied on both schoolchildren and their teachers, with mixed results (Schofield, 2005). Schofield found that, in an elementary school "where race is a social category of no relevance to one's behaviors and decisions," where "individuals should not and perhaps even do not notice each other's racial group membership," that racial identification and cultural influences still existed (2005, p. 270). Schofield discovered that were, in fact, aware of their race and in the ways that it affected their social constructs-one student noted that she was friends with another student "even though she's white" (2005, p. 272).
To simply remove all racial considerations from one's perspective is as detrimental to a productive social work practice as it would be to allow traditional, historical stereotypes to unduly influence one's counsel and advocacy in a therapeutic setting.
To truly counsel individuals, a social worker must be able to consider all influences on a situation, and that includes examining the racial and social factors in a potentially discriminatory setting. I believe that my own experience as the "other," as well as my training and education in social work and my preparation for this task, will provide me with the skills that I need to best fulfill an unbiased and fair counseling and advocacy role in the lives of my clients.
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