American Counseling Association (ACA)
The American Counseling Association (ACA) has “20 chartered divisions” within the organization (ACA, 2018, n.p.). One of these chartered divisions is the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD). This association’s intended purpose is to enhance compassion and understanding through programs that promote personal growth in terms of a multicultural aspect; ethnicity, race, culture, etc (ACA. 2018). The AMCD provides a guideline for counselors called, Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies (MSJCC). The purpose of this discussion is to talk about the strengths, weakness, and enhancement recommendations in reference to the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies.
One of the strengths of the MSJCC is the guideline as a whole. Having a guideline to provide a basic tenant of what is expected of a multicultural and social justice counselor is extremely helpful. Another strength is figure one, provided on page 4. This figure provides a visual representation of identities and expected competencies, as well as how the quadrants and intersections of “identities and the dynamics of power, privilege, and oppression that influence the counseling relationship” (AMCD, 2015, p.3).
The guidelines also point out the four areas of competence: self-awareness of the counselor, worldview of the client, therapeutic relationship, and interventions for counseling and advocating for social justice. Each section of competence has four areas of focus: Attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, skills, and action (AMCD, 2015). The guideline goes even more in depth by listing out areas of acknowledgement, development, skills, and actions to accomplish each competency. These thorough guidelines are a strength of the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies.
One of the most important limitation with discussing and moving towards cultural competence is trying to understand a clear definition of what it means to be culturally competent (Sue & Sue, 2016). Another limitation is that the creators of the document all studied at American institutions. While diversity within themselves may exist, there is the potential that this has been written from the view of Americanized culture and individualized values (Wienrach & Thomas, 2004). Another limitation is the counselor is the one who self-evaluates their cultural competence (Rogers-Sirin, et al., n.d.).
Rogers-Sirin, Rogers-Sirin, Melendez, Refano, & Zegarra (n.d.) did a study on cultural competence of counselors. The study helped them to identify what culturally competent meant to the immigrants in the study. This could be a sample way to start testing counselors, not only for multicultural competencies, but also counseling competencies as a whole. By regularly evaluating counselors’ skills through studies, we can not only have a better understanding on what the multicultural client expects from a counselor, we can learn and grow to become more competent overall, as a counselor.
Another recommendation to overcome the limitations of the AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies is to follow this as a guideline only. As counselors, we should not limit ourselves to one standard of competencies. It can take a lifetime, or maybe never, to become truly competent in counseling. There is no way to ever be 100% culturally competent, but we can be always striving to learn more and continuing to expose ourselves to different cultural groups, reading their community literature, and reaching out to them to know as much as we can.
The AMCD Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies are a basic tenant to utilize towards one’s goal of becoming culturally competent and expand on their social justice advocacy goals. However, the strength in this basic tenant is just that, basic. There is more we can do as counselors to become as culturally competent as possible. By agreeing to participate in studies and evaluations on cultural competence, we can help the counseling profession to grow and understand what values matter the most to our clients. While one can never be fully competent with the vast amounts of ever changing cultures, we can try to be our best for our clients from a counseling and culturally competent perspective.
American Counseling Association, (2018). ACA Divisions. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/about-us/divisions-regions-and-branches/divisions
Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies. (2015). Retrieved March 12,2018, from https://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/competencies/multicultural-and-social-justice-counseling-competencies.pdf?sfvrsn=8573422c_20
Rogers-Sirin, L., , , Rogers-Sirin, L., Melendez, F., Refano, C., & Zegarra, Y. (n.d). Immigrant Perceptions of Therapists’ Cultural Competence: A Qualitative Investigation. Professional Psychology-Research And Practice, 46(4), 258-269. Retrieved from Walden Library databases
Weinrach, S. G., & Thomas, K. R. (2004). The AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies: A Critically Flawed Initiative. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 26(1), 81-93. Retrieved from Walden Library databases