10 Questions Counselors Could Ask about Culture

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By being sensitive to cultural and ethnic differences, counselors are able to help individuals overcome traumatic experiences. Maintaining sensitivity toward cultural differences in a variety of settings is a requirement that counselors must follow. Counselors can communicate with diverse clients by maintaining an awareness of cultural differences.

To learn more, check out the infographic below created by Wake Forest University’s online Master of Arts in Human Services degree program.

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Statistical Overview

In 2016, 14 percent of the U.S. population was foreign-born, whereas only five percent of the population was foreign-born in 1965. This increase in cultural diversity is noticeable in schools, workplaces, the military and many other settings. Being aware of demographics and statistics can help counselors understand any issues that may appear.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 49.7 million people of Hispanic descent, 14.4 million people of Asian descent, 39.9 million people of black descent and 200.9 million people of non-Hispanic white descent living in the U.S. in 2010.

While more people from Latin America are living in the U.S. than people from Asia, projections show that Asians are immigrating at a faster rate than Latin Americans. The Hispanic population is expected to increase 167 percent by 2050, but the Asian population is expected to increase 213 percent by this time.

10 Questions to Ask a Client with a Diverse Cultural Background

1. What was your experience growing up in your family, and in what ways has this impacted your view of family and parenting today?
This question helps remove native cultural stereotypes by focusing on family life.

2. What country are you originally from, and why did you move to the U.S.?
By showing counselors how and why the individual celebrates, this questions helps them learn more about cultural traditions.

3. Tell me about some traditions, celebrations or rituals your family participates in?
This question can show counselors how the individual celebrates and why.

4. Have you ever been treated poorly because of your ethnicity, race or beliefs? If so, in what ways?
This question helps counselors guide the discussion. By discerning possible trauma, the counselor can determine whether discrimination is a source of anger for the individual.

5. Have people made incorrect assumptions about you or your family in a way that’s caused problems?
This questions allows counselors to take the initial steps in determining the cause of a problem, which could help the individual make sense of possible reasons behind others’ inaccurate assumptions.

6. What spiritual or religious beliefs are important to you and your family, and how do they impact day-to-day life?
By understanding the religious beliefs of the individual, counselors persist in being sensitive and respectful.

7. Does your culture have a perspective on receiving counseling or mental health therapy?
By determining if a stigma toward mental health exists in the individual’s culture, counselors can identify whether it impacts the individual’s willingness to receive therapy.

8. What do you do and who do you turn to for help when your family has needs or troubles?
By asking this question, counselors can identify whether individuals value advice from religious authorities or prefer not involving outside parties for the sake of maintaining a favorable reputation in their cultural community.

9. How does your culture help with coping from anxiety, sadness or other troubles?
By figuring out whether the individual’s beliefs are more closely rooted to their culture than scientific fact, the counselor can show tact when suggesting counseling from licensed professionals.

10. Do you have any questions about counseling or this assessment?
By encouraging an open dialogue, the counselor can foster a sense of trust and respect as well as address any concerns that may have been overlooked by the counselor or the individual.

How Culture Can Affect Counseling

The counselor’s method of communicating is impacted by the varied ways that cultures communicate. Counselors should determine triggering terms as well as appropriate eye contact and gestures.

Experienced counselors can identify whether depression comes from the difficulties of adjusting to a new culture or from another source. Counselors can then make suggestions to help the client acclimate and foresee other issues that may arise. For example, if a client was raised in a small tribal society, they may need advice for becoming accustomed to large crowds.

Challenges and Resources for Counselors

When counselors work with clients from diverse backgrounds, they must navigate an array of challenges. Whether they’re overcoming personal prejudices or dealing with linguistic barriers, counselors must take any steps necessary to offer clients competent counseling services.

Unfortunately, counselors must often handle challenges associated with understaffing and underfunding when counseling culturally diverse individuals. Counselors should also be aware of their own limitations and be able to work with culture brokers and consultants to avert incorrect assessments, diagnoses and treatments.

Counselors can use the APA’s “Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic, and Culturally Diverse Populations” to find advice for providing culturally sensitive counseling services. Counselors can also access helpful podcasts, practice briefs, webinars and other resources from the American Counseling Association.

The U.S. population is becoming increasingly diverse, giving counselors opportunities to learn from a variety of cultural backgrounds and enrich their professional development. Pursuing a Master of Arts in Counseling allows students to take a valuable step toward a rewarding counseling career.