Steve is an experienced licensed professional counselor working in a community clinic. He is by nature outgoing, has friends from many walks of life, and feels confident about his many
Steve is an experienced licensed professional counselor working in a community clinic. He is by nature outgoing, has friends from many walks of life, and feels confident about his many years of practice with diverse clientele. He recently completed a protracted divorce from his wife of seven years and has no children. A fourth-generation Japanese American, Steve was raised in an uppermiddle-class area of the West Coast. When he glanced at the intake form completed by Riza (the female client described at the start of this chapter), Steve immediately felt concerned about how a recent immigrant from the Philippines might react to him, given that the Japanese occupation of the Philippines in the 1940s must have affected the client’s parents and extended family. In session, Riza haltingly described her difficulties in adjusting to life in the United States. Steve observed that Riza had adopted a coping strategy of avoidance of contact with most Americans after several poignantly negative experiences in which she went away feeling incompetent, despite her high level of occupational qualifications. Riza maintained close contact with friends and family members in the Philippines via the Internet, but she did not socialize with anyone outside her immediate family after work hours. Steve observed that Riza’s strongest emotional reactions occurred when she spoke about her husband. She described circumstances that were very similar to those Steve had experienced in his marriage, but when asked whether she had considered divorce, Riza strongly affirmed her commitment to her husband and his family. Steve was at first surprised that many of Riza’s decisions stemmed from her sincere faith in Catholicism. He fought against his initial reaction to judge Riza’s daily devotions and prayers, and he directed conversations back to what he believed were the central issues for Riza: her social isolation, passivity, and excessive guilt, which seemed to be the primary causes of her depressed moods. Even after specific questioning about those issues, Riza seemed to be holding something back. Steve then raised the issue of their different ethnic backgrounds as part of checking Riza’s perceptions about how things had gone during their initial session together. Riza acknowledged that her maternal grandfather had died during the Japanese occupation, but she said that her family seldom recounted the past and she understood that neither Steve nor his family had any connection to her own past. In fact, she believed that her being assigned to work with Steve was a spiritual metaphor: Having a counselor of Japanese ancestry meant that God brought them together to prove that all things can be healed. After the session, Steve recognized that his personal beliefs about taking the initiative in social settings and about family roles and divorce had made it difficult for him to follow up on Riza’s perspectives. After consultation with a Filipino colleague, Steve started to gain appreciation for the cultural contexts influencing Riza’s actions. After becoming more familiar with Catholicism and Filipino culture, list a series of culturally sensitive adaptations that might enable Steve to work effectively with Riza. Try particularly to point out those adaptations as they apply to your specific field of study (i.e. teachers – classroom adaptations, library media – adaptations within your role).
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