The American Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) Multicultural Counseling Competencies have both strengths and limitations. The American Counseling Association (2014) Code of Ethics requires counselors to display multicultural sensitivity to the needs of an increasingly more culturally diverse nation of people (ACA, 2014). The development of the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies (1996) provides a guide for counselors to identify and address the “dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression that influence the counseling relationship” (Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, Butler, & McCullough, 2015). Having counselors complete on-going self-assessment and receive additional training and knowledge about culturally diverse clientele is a positive step towards promoting understanding and sensitivity to the issues of culturally different people (Hays, 2016; Sue & Sue, 2016). However, the theories, interventions, and techniques taught in educational institutions are developed from the viewpoint of the dominant culture in the United States and lacks the cultural perspectives of minority groups, thereby limiting the effectiveness of implementation, despite counselor initiative (Sue & Sue, 2016).
Recommendations to Enhance Guidelines
McIntosh (1990) encourages counselors to look at ways to limit their level of privilege instead of constructing and acting on the belief of raising the level of access of minorities in the United States to meet their standards of privilege. Advocacy efforts at the macrosystemic level would focus less on bringing others up to the standard of the dominant culture, but more on the leveling of the standards of equality, to encompass all people, and the acceptance of their cultural diversity. I believe that creating new competencies that take into account the worldview of the world’s majority as the standard for developing cultural competence and skills enhancement will allow counselors to learn from the experiences of the histories written from the perspective of other cultures. Also requiring institutions of training for professional helpers to develop research findings that are based on the positive achievements of minorities and culturally diverse populations, will allow for the advancement of beliefs and attitude formation that are more realistic of the experiences diverse clients (Sue & Sue, 2016). I would also like to see an acceptance of boundary crossing and self-disclosure as a norm for establishing rapport and trust with culturally diverse populations that may lack trust due to a history of oppression and the impact of microaggressions committed against them (Sue & Sue, 2016).
Working with Culturally Diverse Clients
With my recommended enhancements to the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies (1996) counselors will be able to understand the dynamic differences and strengths better that clients from culturally different perspectives bring to the counseling relationship (Sue & Sue, 2016). Self and client awareness will positively impact the interactions and perceptions of diversely different views and cultures because additional research will produce more positive representations of the culturally diverse (Sue & Sue, 2016). Multiculturally competent counselors recognize there is more than one perspective when clients have presenting issues that bring them to counseling (Hays, 2016). Listening with intent to the client’s reality in light of their cultural worldview will allow the counselor to establish a rapport. Establishing therapeutic requirements that focus on trust building and self-disclosure, authorizing some boundary crossings, where culturally appropriate, are important in creating a therapeutic alliance within some cultural contexts (Remley & Herlihy, 2015; Sue & Sue, 2016). When an initial level of trust has been established through culturally-sensitive adaptations, clients may be more apt to return to counseling (Kumpfer, Alvarado, Smith, & Bellamy, 2002; Sue & Sue, 2016).
Without a bond, hopefulness, and trust it may be impossible to set an atmosphere that is necessary for change within the individuals, professional, microsystems and macrosystems in which people reciprocally interact (Sue & Sue, 2016). Multiculturally competent counselors not only advocate for social change, but are willing to lay down their privileges to level the ground for all people, and not just to raise a standard to their level of privilege (McIntosh, 1990; Hays, 2016; Sue & Sue, 2016).
American Counseling Association (ACA). (2014). 2014 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/docs/ethics/2014-aca-code-of-ethics.pdf?sfvrsn=4
Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD). (1996). AMCD multicultural counseling competencies. Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/Resources/Competencies/Multicultural_Competencies.pdf
Hays, P. A. (2016). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and
therapy (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Kumpfer, K. L., Alvarado, R., Smith, P., & Bellamy, N. (2002). Cultural sensitivity and
adaptation in family-based prevention interventions. Prevention Science, 3(3), 241–246.
Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.
McIntosh, P. (1990). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Independent School,
Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2015). Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies. Retrieved fromhttps://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/competencies/multicultural-and-social-justice-counseling-competencies.pdf?sfvrsn=20
Remley, T. P., Jr., & Herlihy, B. (2016). Ethical, legal, and
professional issues in counseling (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.).
Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
2. (A. Ox)
The American Counseling Association (ACA) has “20 chartered divisions” within the organization (ACA, 2018, n.p.). One of these chartered divisions is the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD). This association’s intended purpose is to enhance compassion and understanding through programs that promote personal growth in terms of a multicultural aspect; ethnicity, race, culture, etc (ACA. 2018). The AMCD provides a guideline for counselors called, Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC). The purpose of this discussion is to talk about the strengths, weakness, and enhancement recommendations in reference to the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies.
One of the strengths of the MSJCC is the guideline as a whole. Having a guideline to provide a basic tenant of what is expected of a multicultural and social justice counselor is extremely helpful. Another strength is figure one, provided on page 4. This figure provides a visual representation of identities and expected competencies, as well as how the quadrants and intersections of “identities and the dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression that influence the counseling relationship” (AMCD, 2015, p.3).
The guidelines also point out the four areas of competence: self-awareness of the counselor, worldview of the client, therapeutic relationship, and interventions for counseling and advocating for social justice. Each section of competence has four areas of focus: Attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, skills, and action (AMCD, 2015). The guideline goes even more in depth by listing out areas of acknowledgement, development, skills, and actions to accomplish each competency. These thorough guidelines are a strength of the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies.
One of the most important limitation with discussing and moving towards cultural competence is trying to understand a clear definition of what it means to be culturally competent (Sue & Sue, 2016). Another limitation is that the creators of the document all studied at American institutions. While diversity within themselves may exist, there is the potential that this has been written from the view of Americanized culture and individualized values (Wienrach & Thomas, 2004). Another limitation is the counselor is the one who self-evaluates their cultural competence (Rogers-Sirin, et al., n.d.).
Rogers-Sirin, Rogers-Sirin, Melendez, Refano, & Zegarra (n.d.) did a study on cultural competence of counselors. The study helped them to identify what culturally competent meant to the immigrants in the study. This could be a sample way to start testing counselors, not only for multicultural competencies, but also counseling competencies as a whole. By regularly evaluating counselors’ skills through studies, we can not only have a better understanding on what the multicultural client expects from a counselor, we can learn and grow to become more competent overall, as a counselor.
Another recommendation to overcome the limitations of the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies is to follow this as a guideline only. As counselors, we should not limit ourselves to one standard of competencies. It can take a lifetime, or maybe never, to become truly competent in counseling. There is no way to ever be 100% culturally competent, but we can be always striving to learn more and continuing to expose ourselves to different cultural groups, reading their community literature, and reaching out to them to know as much as we can.
The AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies are a basic tenant to utilize towards one’s goal of becoming culturally competent and expand on their social justice advocacy goals. However, the strength in this basic tenant is just that, basic. There is more we can do as counselors to become as culturally competent as possible. By agreeing to participate in studies and evaluations on cultural competence, we can help the counseling profession to grow and understand what values matter the most to our clients. While one can never be fully competent with the vast amounts of ever changing cultures, we can try to be our best for our clients from a counseling and culturally competent perspective.
American Counseling Association, (2018). ACA Divisions. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/divisions
Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies. (2015). Retrieved March 12,2018, from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/competencies/multicultural-and-social-justice-counseling-competencies.pdf?sfvrsn=8573422c_20
Rogers-Sirin, L., , , Rogers-Sirin, L., Melendez, F., Refano, C., & Zegarra, Y. (n.d). Immigrant Perceptions of Therapists’ Cultural Competence: A Qualitative Investigation. Professional Psychology-Research And Practice, 46(4), 258-269. Retrieved from Walden Library databases
Weinrach, S. G., & Thomas, K. R. (2004). The AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies: A Critically Flawed Initiative. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 26(1), 81-93. Retrieved from Walden Library databases
3. (B. Mar)
The Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), has produced guidelines and resources that allows counselors to build upon their self-awareness, knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs on multicultural skills (Sue, Arredondo & McDavies, 1992). The dynamic of the guidelines given by the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies, present counselors with the concept of becoming culturally aware of diverse groups and their worldviews. According to the AMCD (1996), the purpose is to acknowledge and diversity and the multicultural concept of society; to strengthen the rights and psychological health of individuals. Having said that, there are strengths and limitations of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies along with recommendations which build on the guidelines and resources of the AMCD.
Strengths and Limitations of AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies
In view of every great counselor is acknowledging yet being able to remain aware of strengths and weaknesses on topics that can impact their work is key (Sue, Arredondo & McDavies, 1992). In other words, a strength that I have acknowledged is the skills portion. Although the AMCD is broken up into the counselor’s self-awareness, client worldview, counseling relationship and counseling and advocacy intervention each section provides specific sets of skills. These skills allow the counselor to comprehend and acknowledge cultural competencies such as education, beliefs, values, behaviors, and worldviews (AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies 1996). The skills presented guide counselors to enhance their understanding of culturally diverse groups. Furthermore, it guides the counselors to build and maintain their own biases and beliefs that can allow interference in their work. With that being said, another strength is that this allows the counselor to build upon their worldviews and focuses on steps that need to be taken for culturally diverse groups which will provide the client with an understanding and warmth towards their culture, race, and ethnicity (AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies 1996). This will ultimately allow counselors to take the appropriate approach to guiding the client with respect in regards to their culture. However, with strength comes limitations.
One limitation that can be addressed is the understanding and education of being culturally competent. Although AMCD focuses on culture, ethnicity, and race at the level and understanding of cultural groups (Weinrach & Thomas, 2004), it still does not give a clear understanding of what it means to be culturally competent (Sue & Sue, 2016). It provides the resources and guidelines and some skills yet it does not provide the tools to help you apply the guidelines and resources. With that in mind another limitation that can be an issue while it is critical and important to focus on culture, ethnicity, beliefs, and values there are other aspects that are just as important to becoming and understanding what it means to be culturally competent. For instance gender, sexual identity, social classes etc., are other competencies that can assist a counselor in becoming more culturally competent. Staying focused on the basic competencies can possibly deter a client who may have trouble with their social status and identity (Weinrach & Thomas, 2004). It can leave them feeling alienated and go against the purpose and guidelines of the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies.
With any great resource or guideline to help counselors, there is always room for improvement and recommendations. One recommendation that I would make is actually taking the guidelines and resources given and applying them. Allow a training/application that tests the counselor’s competency on culture to make sure they have a full understanding and skills required to provide to clients of that nature (Jone, Begay, Nakagawa, Cevasco, & Sit, 2016). This will allow the counselor to not only demonstrate their competence but, to apply it as well. It will enrich the relationship and environment for the client which will allow them to feel more comfortable and at ease.
Another recommendation that I believe would be key is to strictly use the AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies as a reference and general guideline to assist counselors. We should allow ourselves as counselors to maintain competencies and take in the meaning and understanding. As a counselor, there are so many topics, issues, concerns, rules, and regulations that we have to allow ourselves to take in that we may not understand and get correct initially. No one knows how long it actually takes to become culturally competent and if we ever actually do. Furthermore, as counselors we will never know the full benefit of being culturally competent because cultures change, beliefs change, and values changes, however, we have to use the tools and resources that are provided to us and make sure we use them in the appropriate manner that will strengthen ourselves and our clients.
AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies are guidelines and a resource that helps counselors comprehend cultural competency. It provides counselors with basic knowledge of awareness (self and of the client), worldviews, biases, relationships, and advocacy to help maintain balance with culturally diverse groups. Like every great guide and resource, it has its strengths and limitations that assist but can also hinder counselors. We can stick with the understanding that counselors or anyone can be competent with the right tools, education, and willingness to learn and expand outside of the guidelines, counselors can build a strong understanding of culturally diverse groups.
AMCD multicultural counseling competences. (1996). Retrieved from http://www.counseling.org/Resources/Competencies/Multcultural_Competencies.pdf
Jones, J. M., Kawena Begay, K., Nakagawa, Y., Cevasco, M., & Sit, J. (2016). Multicultural Counseling Competence Training: Adding Value With Multicultural Consultation. Journal Of Educational & Psychological Consultation, 26(3), 241-265. doi:10.1080/10474412.2015.1012671.
Sue, D. W., Arrendondo, P., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: a call to the profession. Journal Of Counseling And Development, (4), 477.
Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2016). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (7th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Weinrach, S. G., & Thomas, K. R. (2004). The AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies: A Critically Flawed Initiative. Journal of Mental Health Counseling,26(1), 81-93.