March is National Disability Awareness Month. In general, disabilities can be divided into four categories:

  1. Physical: disabilities thwarting regular body movement and control; i.e. cerebral palsy and spina bifida

  2. Developmental: disabilities originating from mental and/or physical impairments; i.e. autism spectrum disorder

  3. Behavioral or emotional: disabilities that hinder learning and/or building or maintaining interpersonal relationships; i.e. bipolar and attention deficit disorder

  4. Sensory: disabilities obstructing one or more senses; i.e. visual and/or auditory impairment

As society becomes more aware of special needs, recognition of and language surrounding those with impairments has changed. Generally speaking, speech trends surrounding limitations have become more positive rather than negative.

For instance, language emphasizing a person’s lack or inability has been replaced with labels indicating giftedness or uniqueness. An example of this shift would be recognizing someone as a “person using a hearing device” rather than identifying him or her as “deaf.” This linguistic change also accentuates a person’s abilities rather than disabilities.

 

Living disconnected from those with differing abilities does not benefit either party.

 

Connecting with others who have differing abilities also develops empathy. For example, a friend whose son is autistic recently began visiting a family whose daughter deals with cerebral palsy. The son began playfully using the daughter’s wheelchair, and my friend asked her parents if this behavior was acceptable. They stated it was and that they did not mind if her son navigated the wheelchair. My friend later realized her son’s use of the device presented opportunities for empathy by allowing him to perceive life from that of someone with cerebral palsy.



When thinking of the term multicultural, people often picture various aspects relating to race or ethnicity. However, multiculturalism includes many facets, to include characteristics relating to

· Religious affiliation

· Gender identity

· Relationship status

· Generational perspectives (for example, Gen X or Millennial viewpoints)

· Immigration status

· Age

· Ability

· Sexual orientation

· Social class

· Socio-economic status

· Educational background

· Geographic region

· Profession and professional status

· Spirituality

Sometimes, issues of multiculturalism arise in counseling. In fact, many believe every counseling session is cross-cultural; in other words, all counselor-client relationships possess multicultural differences even if the counselor and client share the same race and ethnicity.

Multicultural counseling, therefore, is a therapeutic relationship between client and counselor that recognizes and respects the impact of a client’s cultural identity on his or her mental health. For example, a person’s mental health may be affected by his or her low socio-economic status. If this person seeks counseling, a skilled multicultural counselor will likely acknowledge this dynamic.


 

Effective multicultural counseling respects how a person's culture affects his or her mental health.

 

Feeling uncomfortable about multicultural disparities in counseling is normal. Although some seeking therapy may never experience or even be aware of cultural differences with counselors, other clients may be acutely conscious of and/or challenged by such variations.

Oftentimes, however, the best way to address multicultural differences is directly.

For example, a client and counselor may come from different ethnicities and age brackets. This disparity may result in the client’s belief he or she is misunderstood by the counselor. In these types of situations, speaking candidly about differences and concerns may acknowledge and potentially resolve unspoken counseling impediments.


Between sixty-four and eighty percent of new years’ resolutions are abandoned after one month, and most are never achieved at all. However, a few mindset changes can transition resolutions from unsuccessful to successful.

Effective cliché #1: Aim for progress rather than perfection. Performance that demands flawlessness typically dies in the graveyard of unrealism. The world is imperfect and seems to be quickly growing more complicated. Therefore, goals must adjust. For example, if a new diet restricts food intake to 1,500 calories per day, and you eat 1,749 calories, count that as a win. More could have easily been eaten, and those who have inhaled a 5,000-calorie banana split in ten minutes know this too well.

Effective cliché #2: Many interventions are marathons rather than sprints. Rarely is a worthy goal accomplished quickly and easily. Most life-changing achievements require more patience than 21st-century humans are accustomed to giving. In terms of the time necessary to achieve goals, grace is needed.

True cliché #3: Shoot for moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land amongst the stars. This means those who work towards goals but ultimately do not attain them usually gain some semblance of the target. For example, Melinda sets a weight-loss goal of four pounds per week with a total weight loss of 20 pounds over five months. However, she loses an average of three, rather than her projected four, pounds per month, and ultimately she loses only fifteen, rather than twenty, pounds. Melinda may be disappointed she did not lose twenty pounds. However, she can be grateful she shed fifteen, as she is fifteen pounds lighter than she was five months prior.

Use SMART goals. Research suggests SMART goals are more likely than others to succeed. SMART is an acronym and stands for Specific, Measureable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-oriented. For example, Melinda sets a SMART goal of losing one pound per week for fifteen weeks to achieve a total weight-loss goal of fifteen pounds. This goal is specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-oriented.

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