Cultural Bubbles at the
American Red Cross
“Multicultural counselors [and other helping professional] and supervisors
can walk in other’s shoes without tripping. They can see the world through
other cultural perspectives, without losing themselves.
Each of us live in a cultural bubble; a multicultural competent
counselor [or other helping professional] and supervisor
can enter another cultural bubble without bursting it.
Upon arriving at the American Red Cross headquarters in Orlando, Florida, on August 27, I was reminded of the importance of being a multicultural and social justice competent professional counselor and volunteer. Additionally, I was reminded of the importance of effective training and providing a framework to implement multicultural and social justice competencies for other helping professionals and volunteers. The Multicultural and Social Justice Competencies along with the Association of Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) Multicultural Counseling Competencies outline three areas in which professional counselors [and other helping professionals] should be skilled at doing in their work.
I. Counselors should be aware of their own cultural values and biases:
It was important for me to be aware of my biases towards the American Red Cross and my concerns regarding where the money goes and the lack of racial and ethnic diverse disaster mental health counselors. First, I have always heard that the majority of the donations given to the Red Cross are spent on administrative costs. However, after researching and seeing with my own eyes, 90% of the donations are invested in humanitarian services and programs including responses to disasters. Also, I saw extensive amounts of products and supplies that were donated and was part of an outreach collaboration between bulk distribution and mental health. We distributed directly to individuals and families within communities in Homestead and Florida City (other communities within the Miami-Dade and Keys areas also received a distribution of products and supplies).
II. Professional counselors should possess knowledge of the client’s worldview that includes, but not limited to:
- Culturally skilled counselors possess specific knowledge and information about the particular group with which they are working. They are aware of the life experiences, cultural heritage, and historical background of their culturally different clients. This particular competency is strongly linked to the “minority identity development models” available in the literature.
- Culturally skilled counselors understand and have knowledge about sociopolitical influences that impinge upon the life of racial and ethnic minorities. Immigration issues, poverty, racism, stereotyping, and powerlessness may impact self-esteem and self-concept in the counseling process.
I have been fortunate enough while on this deployment to interact with a diversity of volunteers, individuals and families impacted by Hurricane Irma that includes an intersection of race, ethnicity, gender, age, SES, language, geographical location. For example, I have worked with other volunteers from Connecticut, Minnesota, Oregon, Boston, New York (Brooklyn), Florida (Miami), and have met another disaster mental health counselor from Pittsburgh (see below)! Additionally, for the past two days, I have provided emotional and relational support to individuals and families from Florida (i.e. Homestead, Keys, Florida City, Miami), Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Haiti. Finally, I have provided emotional support to undocumented immigrants. Thank you to Margarita M. Martinez, M.Ed., for providing AMCD with disaster, immigration, and DACA resources via
- The Alliance of Mental Health Advocate: https://amhadvocate.wixsite.com/amha
- the Immigrant Legal Resource Center: https://www.ilrc.org, and
- DACA Renewal Fee http://lc4daca.org.
These resources were very helpful while out in the community.
III. Professional counselors utilize culturally appropriate intervention strategies that includes, but not limited to:
- Culturally skilled counselors are able to engage in a variety of verbal and nonverbal helping responses. They are able to send and receive both verbal and nonverbal messages accurately and appropriately. They are not tied down to only one method or approach to helping, but recognize that helping styles and approaches may be culture bound. When they sense that their helping style is limited and potentially inappropriate, they can anticipate and modify it.
- Culturally skilled counselors take responsibility for interacting in the language requested by the client and, if not feasible, make appropriate referrals. A serious problem arises when the linguistic skills of the counselor do not match the language of the client. This being the case, counselors should (a) seek a translator with cultural knowledge and appropriate professional background or (b) refer to a knowledgeable and competent bilingual counselor.
I could have kicked myself for not continuing my Spanish language education!! Hablo poco español. Although it helped some, I was definitely in need of an interpreter during my community outreach in which Dania and Daniela were great supports (and I inherited two prospective new mentees)! We were able to work as a team to provide support, provide psychoeducation, and most importantly, connect with the adults and children. Although I had a language barrier with some of the individuals, I was able to use my non-verbal language and skills to connect and develop a counseling [therapeutic] relationship. I was able to enter another cultural bubble without bursting it! And just for future reference, I am going back to school to learn/strengthen my knowledge of Spanish!
IV. Multicultural and social justice competent counselors intervene with, and on behalf, of clients at various levels including the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and institutional levels to name a few. At these three levels, professional counselors:
- Assess the degree to which historical events, current issues, and power,
- privilege and oppression contribute to the presenting problems expressed by
- privileged and marginalized clients.
- Work in communities to better understand the attitudes, beliefs, prejudices, and biases held by privileged and marginalized clients.
- Assist privileged and marginalized clients with developing self-advocacy skills that promote multiculturalism and social justice.
- Employs advocacy to address the historical events and persons that shape and influence privileged and marginalized client’s developmental history.
- Examines the relationships privileged and marginalized clients have with family, friends, and peers that may be sources of support or non-support.
- Assist privileged and marginalized clients understand that the relationships they have with others may be influenced by their privileged and marginalized status.
- Connect privileged and marginalized clients with supportive individuals within social institutions (e.g., schools, businesses, church, etc.) who are able to help alter inequities influencing marginalized clients.
- Collaborate with social institutions to address issues of power, privilege, and oppression impacting privilege and marginalized clients.
As part of my community outreach the past two days, I have had to assist individuals and families with understanding the level of institutional support (i.e., federal (FEMA), state (Government of Florida), local (Homeless Trust)). Additionally, within all the communities visited, I was amazed to see such close relationships many of the individuals had with each other, with their friends, and peers that allowed for a source of support. It was my hope that pointing out and identifying these relationships allowed for the individuals to recognize the support that they had with and for each other. Finally, all of my Hurricane Irma volunteer experiences were framed around my own understanding of how the historical and current events have shaped their presenting issues.
The past two days have reminded me that becoming a multicultural and social justice competent counselor, supervisor and religious leader is a process rather than a destination. “Counselors who are multicultural and social justice competent are in a constant state of developing attitudes and beliefs, knowledge, skills and action (AKSA) that allow them to effectively work with clients from a multicultural and social justice framework.” Additionally, this experience with the American Red Cross has reminded me that each of us live in a cultural bubble; a multicultural competent counselor [or other helping professional] and supervisor can enter another cultural bubble without bursting it.