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The concepts of transference and countertransference can be utilized in multicultural counseling. They serve to frame strong and irrational reactions by both the client and the counselor in terms of cultural conflict and cultural identity development.
In order for the concept of transference to be useful, one must go beyond the traditional analytical framework of the counselor as representative of the primary caretaker to the counselor as representative of a culture. Depending on clients’ form of second-culture acquisition and level of cultural identity development, they will, play out issues significant to cultural differences. For example, minority clients at the conformity stage easily will idealize a counselor from the dominant culture. From a multicultural perspective, it would be wrong to interpret such idealization as having to do with childhood dependency issues. Rather, it is more a function of how these minority clients see themselves in relation to the dominant culture. In a similar vein, a minority client at the resistance stage will transfer anger and depreciation to a counselor from the dominant culture, now seen as an instrument of oppression. Again, within the multicultural perspective, such transference should not be seen as stemming from conflicts with primary caretakers but as the result of this minority client’s stage of development and how the client sees himself or herself in relation to the dominant culture. In short, when working with clients from nondominant cultures, transference issues based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or gender will have more to do with the client’s level of cultural identity development than with primary caretakers.
Much of what was said about transference in cross-cultural counseling can be said about countertransference. When working with clients from nondominant cultures, counselor’s reactions will have more to do with their own level of cultural identity development. Counselors by nature are not exempt from racial/ethnic stereotypes. Thus, when working with nondominant clients who look, behave, and speak differently, counselors must be acutely honest in detecting whether their negative reactions to clients are the result of cultural imperialism. Obviously, the more highly developed a counselor’s cultural identity, the greater the capacity for openness to and enrichment by clients from diverse cultures. An autonomous White counselor should have fewer countertransferential reactions to non-White clients. However, the same cannot be said for a disintegrated or reintegrated White counselor. Earlier mention was made of racial identity relationship types between counselor and client as being either progressive, regressive, parallel, or crossed. Crossed (counselor and client have directly opposite attitudes) and regressive (counselor is at a lower level of cultural identity development) relationships are most prone to countertransferential reactions. ‘What was said in the first part of this chapter about the importance and difficulty of distinguishing counter-transference from counselor reactions that reveal something accurate about the client must be reiterated here. Multicultural counselors should be courageously honest with themselves and their supervisors in admitting racist/sexist attitudes and ethnic/gender stereotypes that might result in negative reactions to culturally diverse clients. If it’s mentionable, it’s manageable. Much easier than the recognition of these mangled parts of ourselves is pathologizing the client. The sensitive multicultural counselor constantly will scrutinize how two diverse cultures (that of the counselor and that of the client) are impacting the counseling relationship and will be sensitive to counseling as a coinvestigation into reality.
Reflection Exercise #1
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 13
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