Domain III: Embrace Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice as a Foundation for Professional Identity
The ninth competency in the CRSJ counselling model (Collins, 2018) invites learners to openly embrace a values-based positioning, personally and professionally. Some learners struggle when conflicts arise between professional, social justice values and personal values. Resolving these conflicts first requires recognition of the social construction of values, which challenges often closely held truth claims (Paré, 2013). Learners at all levels may also find the feminist theory assertions that the personal is political and the professional is political challenging. However, if we recognize the existence of persistent and ubiquitous cultural oppression in society, it becomes unreasonable and unethical to assume a value-neutral stance, which by default, supports an unfair and unjust status quo. Mizock and Konjit (2016) spoke of a politicized identity in which social change is embraced and embodied professionally. In the CRSJ counselling model, adopting a scholar-practitioner-advocate-leader framework (Shullman, 2017) supports this shift in professional identity in support of cultural responsivity and social justice.
One of the assertions that undergirds the CRSJ counselling model is that all counselling is values-based. We cannot escape our values; however, we can shape, evolve, and selectively express our values in the best interests of our clients. In many cultures, values are transmitted through storytelling. In this exercise, a parable is introduced as a medium to help you to examine how values influence your work as multicultural counsellors. Please read the parable carefully.
Rosemary is a girl of about 21 years of age. For several months she has been engaged to a young man—let’s call him, Geoffrey. The problem she faces is that between her and her betrothed lies a river. No ordinary river, mind you, but a deep, wide river infested with hungry crocodiles.
Rosemary ponders how she can cross the river. She thinks of a man she knows who has a boat. We’ll call him Sinbad. So, she approaches Sinbad, asking him to take her across. He replies, “Yes, I’ll take you across if you spend the night with me.” Shocked at this offer, she turns to another acquaintance, a certain Frederick, and tells him her story. Fredrick responds by saying, “Yes, Rosemary, I understand your problem, but it’s your problem, not mine.” Rosemary decides to return to Sinbad, spends the night with him, and in the morning, he takes her across the river.
Her reunion with Geoffrey is warm. But on the evening before they are to be married, Rosemary feels compelled to tell Geoffrey how she succeeded in getting across the river. Geoffrey responds by saying, “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last woman on earth.”
Finally, at her wits’ end, Rosemary turns to our last character, Armondo. Armondo listens to her story and says, “Well, Rosemary, I don’t love you, but I will marry you.”
And that’s all we know of the story.
Note. Versions of this story are widely available on the Internet; however, this version was adapted from “A manual of structured experiences for cross-cultural learning” by W. H. Weeks, P. B. Pedersen, and R. W. Brislin (Eds.), 1979, Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
Use this Parable template to list the characters, starting with the name of the character whose behaviour you approve of the most through to the character whose behaviour you approve of the least. Then, add 2–3 words each to describe the behaviours, attributes, and values that you associate with each character and that led you to assign your rankings. The parable is deliberately vague, so try not to self-censor. The point is to act upon your own assumptions and cultural lenses.
Then, engage together in debriefing this activity. You may choose any of the following prompts as a starting point for dialogue.
- What have you learned from reading about the reactions of other students to the characters?
- How might ethnicity, as represented by individual’s names, have played into perceptions of the characters? What are the implications for your own assumptions and biases?
- What values may be related to gendered behaviour, particularly given that the main character is female and the other characters in the story are male? What if the roles of Rosemary and Geoffrey were switched?
- What might have happened if the names and genders of the characters were changed or gender-neutral language was used? How might this change your impressions of the characters?
- What insights does this exercise provide you into your own values? What are the implications for counselling practice?
Towards the end of the discussion, identify the overriding lesson that you consider to be the most important for CRSJ counselling? Try phrasing it by starting with the following: “For me, the moral of the story is . . . ”
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Like all organizations, counselling agencies are driven by either overt or covert values. These values influence leadership, structure, policies, and procedures. Explicitly articulating organizational values supports consensus-building related to organizational cultural and beliefs. The purpose of an organizational values system is to support ethical decision-making and to enhance agreed upon organizational outcomes.
Work with your partner to create a list of organizational values that would be suitable for a community-based, not-for-profit counselling agency. Review your list to see which values support ethical, culturally responsive, and socially just decision-making and behaviour at all levels of the organization. Draft a brief values statement that might be used by a counselling organization as a guideline for their practitioners to avoid both overt, covert, or unintentional systemic/cultural oppression.
Continue your dialogue by brainstorming a list of potential scenarios within the organization for which this values statement might be helpful. Identify any potential pitfalls to implementing it and suggestions for overcoming such barriers.
There is an emergent consensus that it is the responsibility of each counsellor to align their personal values and beliefs with the values of the professions of counselling and counselling psychology. As a counsellor or psychologist, you are joining and, in a sense, becoming an emissary of the professions. It is important, therefore, to analyze critically values conflicts between counsellor values and professional values. Deep engagement with the latter creates a foundation for ethical, culturally responsive, and socially just practice. This is challenging personal and professional work that needs to be done before, or outside of, your direct interactions with clients. Consider the following quotation:
As a profession, we do not mandate personal values, but we can articulate and expect professional values that orient one to being able to wrestle deeply with any personal values that preclude performing professional duties (which include serving the needs of oppressed groups and clients different from oneself). Inflexible and rigidly held values of racism or sexism, of viewing gay and lesbian individuals as sick and immoral, or any other oppressive attitude are not in line with professional standards and ethics and will interfere with the fulfillment of professional behaviors. Our trainees must be required to learn to perform required professional duties. One of these required duties is to provide ethical and quality services to all individuals, including members of groups that are marginalized in society and that have less social, political, and/or economic power. This notion is a foundation of the Values Statement. (Mintz et al., 2009, p. 670)
Mintz and colleagues focused on one specific area of potential personal–professional values tension; however, there are lots of other possibilities. For example, you might struggle with the professional value of advocacy on behalf of clients because it doesn’t align with your view of yourself as a counsellor or psychologist. Complete the Professional Values Principles activity. Then, consider the following questions for reflection. Choose the ones that are most meaningful for you.
- Where might my personal values diverge from those of the counselling profession?
- How much do I position my values as absolute truths as opposed to social constructions that reflect my culture and context?
- What rationalizations might I incline toward to justify holding onto or prioritizing my personal values?
- What do I risk, personally or interpersonally, by being willing to loosen my grip on long-standing personal values or assumptions?
- Where my values diverge from the values of the profession, is there a higher-order value that I can grab onto to bridge the gap I perceive?
- How willing am I to engage in continued competency development through supervision, consultation, or training to address places where I remain misaligned with the profession?
- What are the potential benefits of approaching values assessment and negotiation with humility and openness to change, instead of rigidity and certainty?
- What supports might I need to put in place, or what barriers might I need to remove, to delve deeply into these complex issues?
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Collins, S. (2018). Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology [Epub version]. Victoria, BC: Counselling Concepts. Retrieved from http://www.counsellingconcepts.ca
Mintz, L. B., Jackson, A. P., Neville, H. A., Illfelder-Kaye, J., Winterowd, C. L., & Loewey, M. I. (2009). The need for a counseling psychology model training values statement addressing diversity. The Counseling Psychologist, 37, 644-675. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011000009331931
Mizock, L., & Konjit, K. V. (2016). Evaluating the ally role: Contributions, limitations, and the activist position in counseling and psychology. Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology, 8(1), 17-33. Retrieved from http://jsacp.tumblr.com/
Paré, D. (2013). The practice of collaborative counseling & psychotherapy: Developing skills in culturally mindful counselling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Shullman, S. L. (2017). Leadership and counseling psychology: Dilemmas, ambiguities, and possibilities. The Counseling Psychologist, 45, 910-926. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011000017744644