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Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Coping with the Challenges
Ethics and Cultural Diversity continuing education addiction counselor CEUs

Section 9
Ethical Challenges in a Complex World

Ethics CEU Question 9 | Ethics CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

White middle-class value systems are often reflected in counseling and social psychological research regarding racial and ethnic minorities. Historically, three very harmful models have been used to guide and conceptualize research on racial and linguistic minorities (Casas, 1985; Katz, 1985; Ponterotto, 1988; Sue & Sue, 1990). The first of these is the inferiority or pathological model. The basic premise is that minorities are lower on the evolutionary scale (more primitive) than are their White counterparts and, thus, are more inherently pathological. The second model assumes that Blacks and other racial and ethnic minorities were deficient in desirable genes and that differences between Whites and minorities were the reflection of biological and genetic inferiority (genetically deficient model). The culturally deprived (deficient) model blamed the culture for the "minority problem." Ironically, it was well-intentioned White social scientists who were attempting to reject the genetically deficient model who talked about "cultural deprivation." Unfortunately, these social scientists were as much prisoners of their own cultural conditioning as those of an earlier decade (Sue & Sue, 1990). Instead of blaming genes, they blamed the culture. The cultural deficit notion does not make sense because everyone inherits a culture. What proponents of this view were really saying was that racial and ethnic minorities do not possess "the right culture." Thus, the underlying data and research base regarding racial and ethnic minorities have (a) perpetuated a view that minorities are inherently pathological, (b) perpetuated racist research and counseling practices, and (c) provided an excuse for counseling professionals not to take social action to rectify inequities in the system (Baratz & Baratz, 1970; Katz, 1985; Sue & Sue, 1990; Thomas & Sillen, 1972).

Within the last 10 years, a new and conceptually different model has emerged in the literature. Oftentimes referred to as the "culturally different model" (Katz, 1985; Sue, 1981), multicultural model (Johnson, 1990), culturally pluralistic model, or culturally diverse model (Ponterotto & Casas, 1991), the new model makes several assumptions. First and foremost is the explicit belief that to be culturally different does not equate with "deviancy," "pathology," or "inferiority." Second, there is strong acknowledgment that racial and ethnic minorities are bicultural and function in at least two different cultural contexts. Third, biculturality is seen as a positive and desirable quality that enriches the full range of human potential. Last, individuals are viewed in relationship to their environment, and the larger social forces (racism, oppression, discrimination, and so forth) rather than the individual or minority group may be the obstacles.

If professional organizations take a strong stand in adopting the new model and all its implicit assumptions, then research and counseling may become a proactive means of correcting many of the inadequacies and problems that have plagued us for ages. For example, adoption of such a model would mean that (a) graduate programs could no longer present a predominately White Anglo-Saxon Protestant orientation, (b) racial and ethnic minority issues would become an integral part of the curriculum and internship requirement. (c) research would become a powerful means of combating stereotypes and correcting biased studies, (d) studies would begin to focus on the positive attributes and characteristics of minorities as well as biculturalism, (e) recruitment, retention, and promotion of racial and ethnic minorities in counseling would increase, (f) interracial and interethnic relations would be improved, and (g) we would refocus research and practice toward the environment though systems intervention.

Ethical Issues
The provision of professional services to persons of culturally diverse backgrounds by persons not competent in understanding and providing professional services to such groups shall be considered unethical. (Korman, 1974, p. 105)

A serious moral vacuum exists in the delivery of cross-cultural counseling and therapy services because the values of a dominant culture have been imposed on the culturally different consumer. Cultural differences complicate the definition of guidelines even for the conscientious and well-intentioned counselor and therapist. (Pedersen & Marsella, 1982, p. 498)

Both of these quotes make it clear that professionals without training or competence in working with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds are unethical and potentially harmful, which borders on a violation of human rights. In 1981 both AACD (1981) and APA (1981) published ethical guidelines making it imperative for counselors and therapists to have some sort of formal training on cultural differences. Yet, declarations such as these do not automatically improve counselor sensitivity and effectiveness, nor do they mean that training programs will on their own volition infuse cross-cultural concepts into the curriculum (Ibrahim & Arredondo, 1986, 1990). Too often, lip service is given to multicultural concerns, without the commitment to translate them into ethical standards and see that they become part of the accreditation criteria. If we truly believe that multiculturalism is central to our definition of a competent counselor, then monoculturalism can be seen as a form of maladjustment in a pluralistic society (Szapocznik, Santisteban, Durtines, Perez-Vidal, & Hervis, 1983).

It seems that a major obstacle in getting our profession to understand the negative implications of monoculturalism is that White culture is such a dominant norm that it acts as an invisible veil that prevents people from seeing counseling as a potentially biased system (Katz, 1985). Counselors who are unaware of the basis for differences that occur between them and their culturally different clients are likely to impute negative characteristics. What is needed is for counselors to become culturally aware, to act on the basis of a critical analysis and understanding on their own conditioning, the conditioning of their clients, and the sociopolitical system of which they are both a part. Without such awareness, the counselor who works with a culturally different client may be engaging in cultural oppression using unethical and harmful practices.
- Kocet, Michael M.; Ethical Challenges in a Complex World: Highlights of the 2005 ACA Code of Ethics; Journal of Counseling & Development; Spring 2006; Vol. 84, Issue 2.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about multicultural conceptualizations and ethical issues.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

What complicates the definition of therapy guidelines even for the conscientious and well-intentioned counselor and therapist? Record the letter of the correct answer the Ethics CEU Answer Booklet.

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Table of Contents

The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.
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