Social Justice: Counseling and Competency
Social Justice and competency in counseling are concepts that should work hand and hand. This should particularly be the case as it relates to marginalized populations. Competent Counselors must view their job as advocates who are doing all that they can, within the limits of their professional ethics and boundaries, to provide interventions in relieving their client’s suffering, limitations, and dysfunctions. It is important that professional and competency counselors have a willingness to provide advocacy for their clients and strongly believe that their primary responsibility is to relieve their client’s internalized emotional and psychological misery. In addition, must do their very best to challenge those external forces that contribute to re-enforcing that misery. Competency in Counselors requires one to have the ability to provide advocacy for clients both inside and outside the bonds of their day-to-day practice. According to Cherry (2016) this ability is derived from their comprehension of what is known as ‘Locus of Control’. She explains that Locus of Control is the aspect related to the counselor’s perspective of his or her ability to control the events which has or may influence their lives. This is importance because the experiences they have undergone in life helps shape their attitudes and ultimately their behaviors. Therefore, the counselor life experiences helps him or her shape the way they view and respond to their clients’ needs. If the counselor views his or her life from a perspective of privilege their counseling/client relationship may take on a view such as‘ if only the client changed his or her life; he or she would be successful both socially and/or economically’. However, if the counselor views his or her life from a perspective; whether I was privileged or not privileged, I have a responsibility to promote humans rights and equality for the populations I serve. Therefore, based on the above assumptions, a counselor’s perspective of their life experience may determine whether they increase or decrease the amount of advocacy they are willing to provide to and for their clients. This is not to say that attitudes over time do not change as counselors become more educated or have additional experiences in life. However, counselors whether their perspective of life promotes the concept of multicultural counseling as result of their early life development, educational achievement , or through a culturally sensitive indoctrination process; must understand that the foundation of counseling is competency as well as the ability to meet the challenges of their multicultural individuals. This should not only take place in their regular therapeutic practices, but in the wider ongoing fight for social justice. Counselors who understand this necessity are more willing to provide advocacy and promote self-determination.
Social justice in counseling requires that psychologist and counseling assume social responsibility in the society. Counselors should become advocates for and bridges to the political and social systems of society. They must be willing to challenge legislation that oppress their client population and support legislation that allows for greater diversity and inclusiveness. Too often bills are passed through legislative bodies that have negative effects on health care accessibility for diverse populations and prevent individuals of different races and ethnic orientations from gaining access to meaningful and effective services. Counselors must be willing to assist in developing policies that do not adversely affect their clients by working through their associations and agencies. The should use these organizations to promote wellness, resilient, and prevention. Counselors have a responsibility to assist in the reduction of bias, prejudice, as well as those things that promote intentional and un-intentional oppression and discrimination. Kelman (2010) suggest that there are two ways that psychologist and counselors can effectuate change in societal attitudes affecting diverse populations: 1) they can work as a vehicle to bring about social change; and 2) they can assist in changing the nature of the profession itself by moving the discipline to a “fusion of activism with scholarship” (p.6). Kelman goes on to point out that the helping professions, from a social justice perspective, should represent a “shift from the traditional, individually-focus model to a group multicultural model. Counselors must believe in the concept of the possibility and that the world is humane and incorporate social justice into their work and using that work as tool to endorse advocacy and activism as a method to address the inequalities of social, political, and economic conditions. They must be willing to address those things that impede diverse populations from obtaining academics, careers, and promote personal development in relationship as it relates to their families, and communities (Kelman, 2010). Morris (2014) points out that a counselor should be aware that a client’s culture impacts the way they speak and/or interact with healthcare providers. In addition, how they perceive information as well as their attitudes towards the counseling process itself. Therefore, it is important that counselors present themselves as understanding agents with a willingness to address the needs of their diverse client. Morris (2014) explains, for example, African Americans have an inherit distrust of the healthcare system primarily because the clinics and/or hospitals that they have received services even though they had insurance often appear like waiting in a welfare line i.e., (long waiting times and inadequate service). Therefore counselors should make service delivery agents aware of this problem and attempt to push for greater access, better management of patient appointments, and more effective and meaningful service.
Understanding My Personal Locus of Control in Counseling Practice
As primarily a substance abuse counselor with co-occurring treatment qualifications, I try to use my Locus of Control through using past experiences as a tool to promote social change. In addition, I try not to ever lose an opportunity to reshape my attitudes and behaviors. I recognized that my concept and perspective of counseling, if not for a continual education process and sensitivity training, could become bias, self-serving, and expedient rather than striving to become more empathetic, genuine, and developing greater unconditional positive regard. Most people generally relate to events based on their external and internal emotional reactions, therefore, in order to maintain objective in my views as it relates to those that I serve I must strive never to become judgmental. I must be willing to explore a practice of counseling that provides a multicultural perspective that is derived from a willingness to expand my thinking to become more caring and compassionate for those I counsel.
There is no doubt that counselors must be agents of social change. Stress issues related to diverse populations is very prevalent. Minority especially immigrates are faced with a society that is not always friendly to their ethnic cultural values and traditions. This is a great problem which is often reflected in mental health services. Individuals and groups are being discriminated against as a result their language, dress, color, and physical appearance. Counselors have a duty and responsibility to service as advocates for these populations. They, more than other professionals, see firsthand how stress and anxiety has caused members of these groups develop depression, anxiety as well as emotional deprivation. The result of this situation has often led many individuals in these culturally groups turn to the use of alcohol and other drugs for relief which creates even greater problem for both the individual and society. Counseling Today (2013) points out that the philosophy which endorses counselors as agents of change evolved in the 1960s and over time has become a key element of the counseling practice. Therefore, counselors should continue to enhance this philosophy by making the larger society more awareness of the need for social justice.
Cherry, K. (2016) Locus of Control. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://www.verywell.com
Counseling Today (2013), Advocacy in Action. Retrieved June 2, 2017, from http://CT,Counseling.org.
Das, A. K. & Kemp, S. F. (1997), Between Two Worlds: Counseling South Asian Americans. Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development, 25, 23-34.
Hussain, S. P. (2017) Working with Muslims: Perspectives and Suggestions for Counseling. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from https://www.counseling.org
Kelman, H. (2010, July 17). Becoming a socially responsible psychologist. Presented to the annual conference of Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Boston, MA.
Maloof, P. S., and Sheriff (2013), Muslim refugees in the United States. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from http://www.culturalorientation.net
Morris, B (2014), The Impact of Culture &Ethnicity on Counseling Process: Perspectives of Genetic Counselors from Minority Ethnic Groups. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from http://scholarcommons.sc.edu