The advocacy project dealt with in this paper focuses on problems of mental health services for culturally diverse disabled community members in Hollywood. To gain some more profound insights into the situation and to prepare better for an interview with Jay L., a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), working in the specified community, I have done a research on background of the problem of counseling the culturally diverse and studied the statistics of ethnic and disabled makeup of the Hollywood population. On the basis of literature and community data research as well as the interview with the above-mentioned LCSW, coupled with applying the knowledge drawn from “Counseling the culturally diverse” by D. Sue (2008), I have arrived at a suggested advocacy plan that could streamline the efficiency of culturally diverse mental health counseling for the disables members of Hollywood community in the aspect of non-verbal communication.
Pederson (1994) suggested an extended explanation of multicultural counseling, which consists of “ethnographic variables such as ethnicity, nationality, religion and language; demographic variables such as age, gender and place of residence; status variables such as social, educational and economic; and affiliations including both formal affiliations to family or organizations and informal affiliations to ideas and a lifestyle” (p. 229).
According to this comprehensive description, every individual has a variety of cultural and personal criteria with each criterion turning out to be appropriate at various places and times. He claims that multiculturalism stresses both the manner people are distinctive from as well as comparable to other individuals (Pederson, 1994). It questions the assumption that dissimilarity is not important as well as another extreme premise that the differences between people can be stereotyped.
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According to Ivey, Ivey and Simek-Morgan (1997), multicultural counseling can be identified as a “metatheoretical approach that recognizes that all helping methods ultimately exist within a cultural context” (p. 134). The study continues to claim that multiculturalism:
- Begins with recognition of distinctions amid clients;
- Emphasizes the significance of cultural and family aspects affecting the manner clients see the world;
- Creates complications for specialists and scientists
- Causes them to reconsider what counseling is and look more closely at cultural and family factors.
According to these explanations, multiculturalism is significant for any client in the United States in need of mental health counseling as well as assistance.
Various studies demonstrate that clients from diverse ethnic communities do not seem to reap sufficient benefits from counseling aid. According to Sue (2008), mental health specialists are perceived in a very critical attitude by multicultural experts: (1) they tend to be unresponsive to the necessities of their culturally distinct clients, do not acknowledge, honor or comprehend cultural distinctions, are conceited and disrespectful, and possess minor comprehension of their prejudices; (2) colored clientele, ladies, lesbians, and gays commonly complain that they feel mistreated, discouraged, and troubled by non-minority staff ; (3) practices of discrimination in mental health care provision are profoundly inlayed in the approaches, whereby services are arranged, and in a way they are provided to minority communities, and are demonstrated in opinionated diagnoses and therapy as well as in the kind of staff responsible for decision-making; (4) specialists in mental health services keep on being trained in courses where factors of ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation are overlooked, and thought to be inadequacies, described in stereotypic manners, or incorporated only in the form of an afterthought (Sue, 2008).
A possible reason for this is that it is an ethnocentric process, determined by the principles of white middle classes. It is a perspective that can push away people representing other cultures. A multicultural concept of counseling questions the supposition that a single model of interviewing is applicable to any kind of client. Moreover, Sue (2008) claims that in good counseling “cultural competence is superordinate to counseling competence” (p. 35). The majority of mental health counseling and assistance professionals could easily admit that every single client is one of a kind, and that personal distinctions must be recognized and highly regarded. On the other hand, the practice, determined by the concepts, explained during the actual professional training, is eventually narrowed down to theories based on actions and it commonly echoes the supposition that a certain interviewing method is applicable throughout an extensive array of clients (Ivey, 1994). Multicultural counseling questions this perspective. Sue (2008) offers a theory of multicultural counseling and therapy (MCT). This can be deemed essential as a consequence of the insufficiencies of existing approaches, impacting present counseling methods. Such approaches are built upon both implicit and explicit presumptions that determine their practical utilization. Therefore, a review or presumptions can be considered as the place to begin from for scholars promoting MCT as an important start line for comprehending a new counseling approach.
Existing concepts of counseling as well as psychiatric therapy improperly identify, discuss, estimate, and handle existing cultural multiplicity. Sue (2008) states that many counselors keep holding strongly to the perception that "good counseling is good counseling" (p. 36). In that way they neglect the importance of culture in their explanations. The issue with conventional explanations of counseling, therapeutic approach, and mental health procedure is that they came to exist from monocultural as well as ethnocentric standards, not including other cultural communities. However, “mental health professionals must realize that ‘good counseling’ uses White Euro-American norms that exclude three quarters of the world’s population. Thus, it is clear to us that the more-superordinate and inclusive concept is that of multicultural counseling competence, not clinical/counseling competence” (Sue, 2008, p. 36).
According to South Florida Regional Planning Council (2010), the main ethnic groups in Hollywood are Whites (47,5%), Hispanics or Latinos (32,6%) and Afro-American (15,4%). As it can be seen from the data, the non-white community, if summed up, appears to be by 1% larger in Hollywood than the white one. According to “Hollywood Social Security Attorney” (n.d.), 21% of the population has a disability, which, to some extent, is higher compared to the national median percentage. This fact partially demonstrates the reality that Hollywood has a relatively significant retired citizenry and the disability levels are likely to be higher amidst older people. Over 76% of the working age handicapped individuals can carry on working in various types of purposeful occupation. Accordingly, the significance of understanding of the best practices of culturally diverse counseling of the disabled population is of significant social importance and professional value. To understand the problems of the local mental health counseling for culturally diverse and disabled population of Hollywood, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, working in Hollywood, was interviewed. The main objective of the interview was to gain insights into the practical side of problems of culturally diverse counseling for the disabled. The basic question of the interview was, “What, in your opinion, is the greatest hindrance to a successful counseling of the culturally diverse disabled population of Hollywood?” The answer that came was least expected by me and led me to an additional research to find some scholarly basis for the specialist`s opinion. According to the viewpoint of the interviewed LCSW, it appears that misunderstanding and unskilled interpretation of the culturally diverse non-verbal communication, as displayed by the disabled clients in Hollywood, was quite often a stumbling block for a successful mental health counseling procedure (Jay, 2012). By non-verbal communication the specialist meant eye contact, touching, posture, and change of tone, which were all meaningful within the cultural perspectives of the specific ethnic group (Jay, 2012).
For example, silence for some may mean unwillingness to talk and for others an invitation for the specialist to continue to build the trusted relationship with a client. Eyes looking down may mean indecisiveness for some and concealing of facts for others. Not knowing how to interpret the non-verbal communication, particularly of the disabled, leads to a low-quality service and even, sometimes, a disregardful attitude from the specialist as thought by clients (Jay, 2012). This circumstance takes on features of oppression. It was sometimes quite misleading for the specialist to interpret the meaning behind the manifestation of non-verbal communication in the case of White, Afro-American, Hispanic, and Asian community disabled members. That these people are disabled and of various cultural backgrounds only adds to that the communication aimed at mental health service provision becomes all the more challenging. I suggest that this problem needs a separate focused approach in an advocacy plan.
Suggested Advocacy plan
Ivey (1994) as well as Ivey et al. (1997) state that culturally fitting nonverbal conduct is fundamental for an efficient counseling. Ivey (1994) maintains that all practicing counselors “begin a lifetime of study of nonverbal communication patterns and their variations” (p. 29). Non-verbal communication provides an example of skills that can be easily examined for bias and modified.
The advocacy would include the following steps:
• Inform the public of the problem by means of an article published in one of the local newspapers after a meeting and discussion of the possible solutions in the format “reporter-specialist-researcher.”
• Publish the article by means of various social networking sites and generate online discussion on the issues of the relationship between the nonverbal communication and culturally diverse counseling.
• Organize a one-time public forum at the community hall for mental health professionals and disabled people of Hollywood on the issues of non-verbal communication. The purpose of the forum would be to provide an opportunity for mental health professionals to share information about the problems they experienced in terms of non-verbal communication. Invite professional communication coaches could suggest their insights and test the offered solutions during a workshop, held at the forum, in the format of small group discussions. The workshops should entail previously invited disabled people from Hollywood community of various ethnic backgrounds.
• Inform the general public of the outcomes of the forum, the questions raised and suggested resolutions by means of the local media and suggest a public initiative of creating a blogging website hollycommunicaid.us, where disabled people could post their anonymous experiences of communicative barriers during the provision of mental health services in Hollywood. The website will serve as a continuous source for professional growth and a practical guide for specialists who want to grow in their understanding of what the disabled people of Hollywood think and feel in reality.
Culture is complicated, yet not disorderly. Diversification is taking place at such a quick rate that mental-health specialists will much more often come into touch with people different from them in their race, culture, and ethnic background. Being familiar with the ethnic and communicative framework of a client's conduct is important to an appropriate evaluation, comprehension, and therapy. The awareness of the peculiarities of various cultures is a critical point in growing one’s multicultural competence. The build-up of appropriate expertise relies upon a well-formulated cultural understanding. The proper utilization of skills in multicultural environments is dependent upon both cultural understanding and appropriate expertise. Multicultural training raises a counselor's arsenal of techniques and expertise. Non-verbal communication workshops, consisting of mental health professionals, communication experts, and culturally diverse disabled community members can improve the efficiency in the provision of mental health services in the Hollywood community. The resolutions of the forum suggested in the advocacy plan may appear to have a considerable scholarly value across a number of professional fields.