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Multicultural Counseling: What is It?

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.


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