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Cultural Diversity & Ethical Boundaries: Coping with the Challenges
Ethics continuing education social worker CEUs

Section 10
Cultural Competancy - Ethics : Narrative Approaches to Multicultural Counseling

Ethics CEU Question 10 | Ethics CEU Answer Booklet | Table of Contents
Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

It is critical for students of counseling and psychology to work through their own issues of race, ethnicity, and gender because these areas affect clients entering the counseling relationship. Because one or twc Multicultural Talk Cultural Diversity social work continuing educationcourses in multicultural counseling are often the only training in diversity’ issues students obtain, it is important to address students’ sense of their own identity in terms of race and gender. Narra­tive approaches to teaching multicultural counseling can make this happen.

What is a narrative? The concept of narrative comes from postmodern phi­losophy, specifically from hermeneutic philosophies (e.g., Gadamer, 1960) and social constructionism (e.g., Gergen, 1985). Both Gadamer and Gergen ar­‘gued that language creates’ meaning, creates reality, or both. From this view­point, there is no objective reality that can be known outside of the sphere of social activity and discourse. Anderson (1997) explained that hermeneutics is not a way to arrive at a true meaning or to find the cause of something. In­stead, "truth is constructed through the interaction of the participants and it is contextual. ,As such, interpreting, understanding, and seeking truth are never-ending" (Anderson, 1997, p. 39). Similarly, Slife and Williams (1995) pointed out that "the social, constructionist proposes. . . a way of knowing that does not occur within an individual at all. It occurs in the relations among indi­viduals as they converse and negotiate and share their world with one another" (p. 82). In other words, we cannot necessarily know what is true or even real outside, our own understanding of it, our own worldview, our own meanings that are embedded in who we are.

A narrative, in this approach, "is a dynamic process that constitutes both the way that we organize the events and experiences of our lives to make sense of them and the, way we participate in creating the things we make sense of, including ourselves" (Anderson, 1997, p. 212). Narratives are the ways indi­viduals understand their experiences and their identities, the ways they con­struct meaning in ongoing relationships. Bruner (1990) referred to narratives as the way that individuals use language to frame their experiences and memories. Narratives are used to help us understand reality and to understand self.

Narrative approaches in gender and ethnic studies
Postmodern philosophy is used frequently in current approaches to gender and ethnic studies in a variety of fields, including sociology, history, anthro­pology, and literary studies. Researchers in these fields often argue that the official truth about historical events and about ther people has been told through the narrative of the dominant social group, the people in power. Thus, there is another truth that can be heard or seen by listening to the narratives of people who have historically not been heard.

In the field of the psychology of women, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1985) wrote that "conceptions of knowledge and truth that are accepted and articulated today have been shaped throughout history by the male domi­nated majority culture" (p. 5). Gilligan (1982) andJordon, Kaplan, Miller, Sliver, and Surrey (1991) used the metaphor of voice to argue that if we listen to the stories that women tell about themselves, they seem to have a sense of self that is different, more connected, than the models that standard psychological theories have presented. These researchers use the voices of women, to create theories that capture a truth that is different than the one, psychology has previously reported.

In the field of history, Scott (1988) argued that history could not be under­stood apart from the way it is culturally constructed, which is especially im­portant in the understanding and interpretation of gender and gender roles. In fact, she suggested that gender is both culturally and historically constructed. Dirks, Eley, and Ortner (1994) wrote that feminist and other forms of theory written by and about underrepresented populations contain a kind of vivid­ness and urgency when discussing power and cultural constructionism. In these contexts, neither the pervasiveness of power nor the constructedness of identity seems an abstract academic question. Power and cultural con­struction are personally important for women an4 people of color because they are often the dues being created by the dominant voice, a voice that is not theirs.

In her research about ethnic minorities in the United, States, Garza—Falcon (1998) wrote that the histpry of Mexican Americans in the twentieth century had been, until recently, seen only through the perspective of Anglo histori­ans who offered, to their "audience a cheering nationalism that was tainte4 with notions of Aryan supremacy" (p. 2). She argued that another perspective could be recovered through narratives from Mexican Americans living at that time However, she also pointed out that narratives challenging the prevailing view of those in the power structure are, on an ongoing basis, "being erased from normal channels of documentation and communication" (pp 3—4)

The field of anthropology has long included the issue of narrative, analyzing texts for ethnographic authority. However, although they acknowledge that the categories of the cultures they study are culturally and historically con­structed, they often do not apply this fact to their own, interpretations. Dirks, Eley, and Ortner (1994) wrote that anthropologists have tended to "grant them­selves a privileged position, in which their own categories are not subjected to this argument. But. . . their categories are as much products of their culture, their historical moment, and their forms of power as everyone else’s" (p. 37).
- Kerl, Stella B.; Using Narrative Approaches to Teach Multicultural Counseling ; Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development; April 2002, Vol. 30.
The article above contains foundational information. Articles below contain optional updates.

Personal Reflection Exercise #4
The preceding section contained information about narrative approaches to multicultural counseling.  Write three case study examples regarding how you might use the content of this section in your practice.

According to Bruner, what are narratives (reference in the article by Kerl, Stella B.; Using Narrative Approaches to Teach Multicultural Counseling)? Record the letter of the correct answer the Ethics CEU Answer Booklet.

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