The CRSJ Counselling Model

Sandra Collins

In the e-text, Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology (Collins, 2018), I introduce the culturally responsive and socially just (CRSJ) counselling model. Through the CRSJ counselling model, I provide a conceptual framework for walking learners through how client and counsellor cultural identities, social locations, lived experiences, and sociocultural contexts may impact the counsellor–client relationship, the process of case conceptualization, the co-construction of counselling goals, and the levels of intervention targeted through collaborative change processes. The model invites theoretical and methodological flexibility through in-depth understanding of, and responsiveness to, the unique and contextualized needs, values, and worldviews of each client. Along with microlevel interventions, it includes meso and macrolevel change processes aimed at schools, organizations, and communities and broader social, economic, and political systems respectively.

In that e-text, I elucidate the eighteen core competencies (CC) below by breaking each one down into a corresponding set of learning outcomes and key concepts. These same key concepts are used as the structure of this teaching and learning guide. Domains I through III begin even before the first encounter with a client, carry forward through the entire counseling process, and position the counsellor to embrace cultural responsivity and social justice as a foundation for practice. Domains IV through VI mirror the recursive process of establishing a therapeutic relationship with clients, collaborating in case conceptualization, and engaging in change processes, bearing in mind client cultural identities, social locations, and the context of their lived experiences.


Core Competencies for CRSJ Counselling

Domain I: Acknowledge the Ubiquitous Nature of Culture in Counselling

  • CC1 Cultural Sensitivity: Engage in cultural self-exploration as a foundation for cultural sensitivity towards client cultural identities and relationalities.
  • CC2 Intersectionality: Appreciate and reflect critically on the complexity and intersectionality of cultural identities and relationalities.
  • CC3 Worldviews: Value the diversity of worldviews, and prioritize client beliefs, values, and assumptions.

Domain II: Challenge Social Injustices, and Critique Their Impact on Client–Counsellor Social Locations

  • CC4 Social Injustice: Attend actively to social determinants of health, and evaluate the impact of social injustices on client health and well-being.
  • CC5 Power and Privilege: Assess critically the impact of power and privilege on client–counsellor social locations.
  • CC6 Identity Development: Articulate the relationship between social location and cultural identity development and management.
  • CC7 Cross-Cultural Transitions: Analyze critically the impact of cross-cultural transitions and social injustices on cultural identity and relationality.

Domain III: Embrace Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice as a Foundation for Professional Identity

Domain IV: Centralize Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Relational Practices

Domain V: Collaborate with Clients to Apply a Contextualized, Systemic Lens to Case Conceptualization

Domain VI: Implement and Evaluate Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Change Processes

  • CC16 Microlevel Change: Engage in culturally responsive and socially just change processes at the microlevel (i.e., individuals, couples, and families) in collaboration with clients.
  • CC17 Mesolevel Change: Engage in culturally responsive and socially just change processes at the mesolevel (i.e., schools, organizations, and communities) in collaboration with, or on behalf of, clients.
  • CC18 Macrolevel Change: Engage in social justice action at the macrolevel (i.e., broad social, economic, and political systems) on behalf of clients.

Note. Copyright 2018 by S. Collins.


Tech Tip

Click on any of the domains or core competency headings in the table above to take you to the section of this e-book that provides corresponding learning activities. You can also use the Contents link in the upper left corner of your screen to navigate through the teaching and learning guide.

Development of the CRSJ Counselling Model

Since in the early 1980s, when Sue et al. (1982) published their seminal “Position Paper: Cross-Cultural Counseling Competencies,” there has been a gradual evolution of competencies for multicultural counselling and significant advancements to their original conceptualization. First, the definition of culture has been expanded beyond the earlier focus on ethnicity (Arredondo et al., 1996; Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992) to include Indigeneity, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, religion or spirituality, and social class (Collins, 2018; Collins & Arthur, 2010a, 2010b; Nassar-McMillan, 2014; Ratts, Singh, Nassar-McMillan, Butler, & McCullough, 2015, 2016). Second, the counsellor–client relationship has been recognized a common factor in counselling outcomes (Duncan, 2014; Feinstein, Heiman, & Yager, 2015) and given a position of prominence in models of multicultural counselling competence (Collins & Arthur, 2010a, 2010b; Ratts et al., 2015, 2016). Third, increased appreciation of the influence of sociocultural context on both client presenting concerns and the counselling process has led to a systems perspective on change, as reflected in the “Advocacy Competencies” (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2003; Ratts, DeKruyf, & Chen-Hayes, 2007). Fourth, social justice has emerged as a core value within the profession, and specific competencies for social justice have been integrated in more recent competency frameworks (Collins, 2018; Ratts et al., 2015, 2016). Fifth, there has been a shift away from population-specific conversations (e.g., counselling gay men) toward conceptualizing cultural identities as complex, multiple, intersecting, and contextualized (Collins, 2010; Nassar-McMillan, 2014; Ratts et al., 2016).

There is also an emergent consensus that (a) all counselling is multicultural in nature, because both clients and counsellors are cultural beings; (b) therefore, counsellors must be proactive in engaging in culturally responsive and socially just practice with all clients; and (c) failure to provide culturally responsive and socially just services to all clients reflects a lack of professional competence (Arthur & Collins, 2015, 2016a; Paré, 2013; Ratts & Pedersen, 2014). These expectations place a burden of responsibility on counsellor educators to ensure the competency development of their students. However, there remains a gap in the literature about how to teach these competencies (Collins, Arthur, Brown, & Kennedy, 2015).

With this in mind, I set out to develop a model of culturally responsive and socially just counselling practice with teaching and learning goals specifically in mind. I drew extensively on the professional literature and the history of competency articulation noted above, as well as my previous collaborative research and conceptual model development (Collins & Arthur, 2010a, 2010b; Collins et al., 2015) as a starting place for identifying key concepts related to cultural responsivity and social justice in counselling practice. The CRSJ counselling model above was then refined through an iterative process of thematic analysis of over twenty case studies by colleagues who applied cultural responsivity and social justice in counselling practice with clients from diverse, intersecting, nondominant cultural identities. Some of these case studies are published in Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology; others are published elsewhere. With each new case study, I revisited the key concepts and implemented additions or changes to the emergent CRSJ counselling model (Collins, 2018). The domains and core competencies above are the end result of the deconstruction and reconstruction of these case studies and the professional literature.

Please review the Preface to the Collins (2018) e-text for a more detailed overview of that resource. The e-text contains conceptual, theoretical chapters related to each of the domains in the CRSJ counselling model. I also invited a many of my colleagues to personal reflections, case studies, or short client scenarios to illustrate the principles and practices in the model. The e-text also provides detailed definitions of each concept addressed in this teaching and learning guide and links these concepts to the current professional literature.


Arredondo, P., Toporek, R., Brown, S., Sanchez, J., Locke, D. C., Sanchez, J., & Stadler, H. (1996). Operationalization of the multicultural counseling competencies. Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 24, 42-78.

Arthur, N., & Collins, S. (2015). Culture-infused Counselling and Psychotherapy. In L. Martin, B. Shepard, & R. Lehr (Eds.), Canadian counselling and psychotherapy experience: Ethics-based issues and cases (pp. 277-303). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

Arthur, N., & Collins. S. (2016a). Culture-infused counselling supervision: Applying concepts in clinical supervision practices. In B. Shepard, B. Robinson, & L. Martin (Eds.), Clinical supervision of the Canadian counselling and psychotherapy profession (pp. 353-378). Ottawa, ON: Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association.

Collins, S. (2010). The complexity of identity: Appreciating multiplicity and intersectionality. In N. Arthur & S. Collins (Eds.). Culture-infused counselling (2nd ed., pp. 247-258). Calgary, AB: Counselling Concepts.

Collins, S. (2018). Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology [Epub version]. Victoria, BC: Counselling Concepts. Retrieved from

Collins, S., & Arthur, N. (2010a). Culture-infused counseling: A framework for multicultural competence. In N. Arthur & S. Collins (Eds.). Culture-infused counselling (2nd ed., pp. 45-65). Calgary, AB: Counselling Concepts.

Collins, S., & Arthur, N. (2010b). Culture-infused counseling: A fresh look at a classic framework of multicultural counseling competencies. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 23, 203-216.

Collins, S., Arthur, N., Brown, C., & Kennedy, B. (2015). Student perspectives: Graduate education facilitation of multicultural counseling and social justice competency. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 9, 153-160.

Duncan, B. L. (2014). So you want to be a better therapist. In On becoming a better therapist: Evidence-based practice one client at a time (2nd ed., pp. 3-33). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

Feinstein, R., Heiman, N., & Yager, J. (2015). Common factors affecting psychotherapy outcomes: some implications for teaching psychotherapy. Journal of Psychiatric Practice, 21(3), 180–189.

Lewis, J. A., Arnold, M. S., House, R., & Toporek, R. L. (2003). Advocacy competencies. Retrieved from American Counselling Association website:

Nassar-McMillan, S. C. (2014). A framework for cultural competence, advocacy, and social justice: Applications for global multiculturalism and diversity. International Journal for Education and Vocational Guidance, 14, 103-118.

Paré, D. (2013). The practice of collaborative counseling & psychotherapy: Developing skills in culturally mindful counselling. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Ratts, M. J., DeKruyf, L., & Chen-Hayes, S. F. (2007). The ACA advocacy competencies: A social justice advocacy framework for professional school counsellors. Professional School Counselling, 11(2), 90-97.

Ratts, M. J., & Pedersen, P. B. (2014). Preface. In M. J. Ratts & P. B. Pedersen (Eds.), Counseling for multiculturalism and social justice: Integration, theory, and application (4th ed., pp. ix-xiii). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2015). Multicultural and social justice competencies. Retrieved from Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, Division of American Counselling Association website:

Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2016). Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: Guidelines for the counseling profession. Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 44, 28-48.

Sue, D. W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of Counseling & Development, 70, 477-486. Retrieved from

Sue, D. W., Bernier, J. E., Durran, A., Feinberg, L., Pedersen, P., Smith, E. J., & Vasquez-Nuttall, E. (1982). Position paper: Cross-cultural counseling competencies. The Counseling Psychologist, 10, 45-52.


The CRSJ Counselling Model Copyright © 2018 by Sandra Collins. All Rights Reserved.

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