Christina M. Bobesky, Ph.D., Program Director

The last several entries have described a student project completed in the first semester of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program at Cazenovia College. In that project, students were asked to analyze their upbringing to identify patterns of behavior and unearth biases. Aspiring counselors, like those in the Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, cannot meet objectives like demonstrating an understanding of the nature of biases without analyzing their own backgrounds, then drawing connections to social and cultural systems. By understanding the dynamics of our upbringing, we can question and challenge our worldviews. Are we stuck in cultural tunnel vision? Are we capable of working with those who are not like us? More than a buzz word, empathy can be observed through class discussions of personal characteristics and concerns between and within diverse groups. Students preparing for the helping professions become cognizant of the vast multicultural differences that shape our families…taking one step closer to the lifelong aspiration of cultural competence.

Several conclusions can be drawn from the information shared by students with regards to working with families. First, community rituals shape our sense of belonging. The need to belong is a strong psychological desire across age groups, racial groups, and socioeconomic statuses. Individuals with a developed psychological sense of community have increased engagement and personal satisfaction. Family professionals should be aware of community centers, faith organizations, social clubs and ethnic organizations within their local communities and the primary or secondary roles these play in the lives of their clients. Second, domestic rituals influence ethnic identity. Parents are the primary transmitters of attitudes and traditions. Level of acculturation is important to assess when working directly with clients who identify with two distinct cultures. As we know from Berry’s (2005) Bidirectional Model, bicultural clients can navigate home and host culture norms in a difference fashion than those who are assimilated (connected to host culture), separated (connected to home culture) or marginalized (connected to neither home nor host cultures). Third, the use of slogans within systems guide desired behaviors and outcomes for families. Children learn through modeling and implementing beliefs put forth by caretakers. Those who are guided by strong familial slogans may feel an increased sense of loyalty and obligation but may also feel an additional sense of betrayal or manipulation if others do not uphold the same tenants. To best serve our clients, it is important to understand the framework by which they take on relationships.

Berry, J. W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of
Intercultural Relations, 29, 667–712. doi:10.1016/j.ijintrel.2005.07.013.