Stay Value Neutral When Counseling Clients
It is important to be value neutral with clients to avoid harm by mixing your own values and beliefs with clients that is potentially damaging to their fragile state. According to module 2 lecture (2011), “One of the most important things that the therapist need to do is deal with and resolve his or her own issues before beginning to practice on therapy on others.” When therapists attempt to help clients resolve issues they are dealing with, it makes it extremely difficult to remain neutral or the therapist might confuse themselves over the role they serve.
Cultural diversity is a major issue when working with clients from other cultures. Many various cultures and ethnic groups have been denied services, or have been treated unfairly either blatantly or out of ignorance from other counseling professionals. According to Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel, Ph.D. (2010):
Attention to multicultural issues is a natural outgrowth of discussions of respect for autonomy, justice, and the obligation to do good for others. At its core, professional ethics is about commitment to reducing the suffering of other people, advocating for social justice, and helping clients flourish, i.e., reaches their full human potential (Fowers & Richardson, 1996; Fowers & Davidov, 2006). One cannot honor that commitment without working to eliminate racism, oppression, and stereotyping, which cause much suffering in modern society and play a significant role in the development and persistence of emotional distress (Carter, 2007).
Knowledge is vital when it comes to understanding cultural diversity. What we do not know about a culture could actually hinder the healing process. What we assume to know can be equally as hurtful. The best path is to ask the client what role their culture plays in their life. Researching behaviors and norms is also important, but generalizations about the group as a whole can be dangerous. We each see our path through our own unique perspective. This misunderstanding can lead to minimizing issues that are vitally important to the well-being of a client. According to Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel, Ph.D. (2010), a professional must have knowledge of the specific culture.
This is especially obvious in the case of Roberta. Ignorance of common cultural phenomena seems to be causing the counselor to badly misdiagnose the problem. Knowledge of the culture is also crucial when clients are torn between following the path typical of their culture and breaking off in a different direction. Knowledge would prevent Calvin’s counselor from minimizing his parents’ role in career decision making or under estimating the difficulty of violating that expectation. (p. 73)
According to Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel, Ph.D. (2010), we must understand when or where to find resources or professionals familiar within the ethnic culture we are working with. Sometimes it is that simple to reach out to a professional of that culture because it could be that our own ignorance is blocking the understanding of what the client is dealing with.
We must be willing to take a smaller role when we invite those professionals into a counseling session. Welfel, (2010) also states “Knowing when and how to engage the rabbi in Daniel’s decision making (assuming, of course, that Daniel agrees) could be a crucial factor in resolving the dilemma. In Roberta’s case, the counselor did not seem to understand the aunt’s role or availability as a resource, nor did she seem to know to contact a healer from the tribe who might shed light on the situation” (p. 73).
It is also noted by Welfel, (2010) that if the client doesn’t speak English or not fluently enough for proper counseling, it is proper protocol to find an interrupter before counseling begins… Therapists must also set aside their personal views such as “arranged marriages”, abortion, and other cultures traditional views of male and female roles (p. 73, 74). According to Welfel, (2010), one example of cultural differences that can be challenging is the case of Chantu.
Chantu is a 16 year old girl who was forced to quit school early to help the family with domestic duties around the house. The school referred her father to mental health counseling in hopes of convincing him to keep his daughter into school. Her father insists that the family needs come first and that she drop school and to support the family with domestic duties. Chantu is from Cambodia and has lived in the United States for nine years and is well adjusted in school.
“She has told the school counselor that she is very distressed about having to quit school, but her father has been firm that no other choice is possible. The girl has started to rebel and seems depressed” (p. 92). Elizabeth Reynolds Welfel, Ph.D. (2010) claims that we as counselors should seek the expert opinions of professionals of Asian cultures for situations like these (p. 92). I would try and maintain value neutral by getting my clients consent to bring in an expert in my clients culture. If I could not maintain value neutral, it is my duty to refer my client to someone more qualified.