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Saturday, March 12, 2011


Although initiated in the 1940s, the movement to internationalize counseling psychology in the United States only began to pick up steam over the past decade. Many messages have been sent articulating the utility of cross-cultural competence, but it has taken some time for these messages to take root. Since 2000, there has been an accelerated interest in international perspectives in U.S. counseling psychology journals, a supportive infrastructure in U.S. professional associations, growing interest in training international students, and increased cross-national communication and collaborations. Moreover, counseling and counseling psychology professions are vigorously growing around the world, with a multiplicity of professional identities, training and credentialing standards, and professional service delivery models in evidence to address a broad range of societal needs.
Overcoming Ethnocentrism
Several authors have suggested that the biggest challenges for U.S. psychologists, including counseling psychologists, is overcoming ethnocentrism (e.g., Cheung, 2000; Gerstein, 2005; Heppner, 2006;Leong & Blustein, 2000; Marsella, 1998; McWhirter, 2000; Norsworthy, 2005; Pedersen & Leong, 1997; Segal, Lonner & Berry, 1998). During the 1980s, some counseling psychologists questioned the value of such international experiences. McWhirter (2000) wrote that “my professional colleagues were supportive and happy for me, but many could not understand why a counseling psychologist would want to take his family to Turkey for anything other than a brief tourist trip, and some even questioned that” .It was not uncommon for the motivations of counseling psychologists interested in international topics to be questioned, with the presumption that they are “only looking for an excuse for foreign travel” (McWhirter, 2000, p. 118). Undoubtedly, such attitudes and beliefs among U.S. counseling psychologist affected the development of the international movement in the counseling profession in the past. When we are unaware of cultural issues, it is difficult to know what we do not know; this lack of awareness significantly restricts understanding, sensitivity, and appropriate responses. Based on the U.S. multicultural literature, exposure may be an important first step in breaking down ethnocentric walls. Qualitative and single-subject methods in conjunction with quantitative designs may be useful for scholars who choose to examine ethnocentrism and ways to reduce its limiting influences (see Morrow, Rakhsha, & Castaneda, 2001, regarding qualitative research designs that can be applied to studying cross-cultural ethnocentrism).

Enhancing Cross-Cultural Competence
Historical analysis of the past 60 years suggests that the U.S. counseling psychology profession has evolved from the notion of “helping” our international colleagues and moved toward building mutually beneficial, egalitarian cross-national collaborative relationships. However, building such relationships is often a complicated and challenging process that is not well understood. As Heppner (2006) noted, “it is all too easy to offend our international colleagues, and at the same time, all too easy for us to become anxious or feel offended as well” (p. 169). Such feelings often inhibit further development of cross-national collaborative relationships. Thus, a key issue for the future of the profession is enhancing cross-cultural competence (Heppner, 2006). Anumber of scholars have written about various aspects of cross-cultural competence (e.g., Heppner, 2006; Leong & Ponterotto, 2003). Marsella and Pedersen (2004) provided a wide array of suggestions for internationalizing the counseling psychology curriculum. At this point, a major challenge for U.S. counseling psychologists is not only overcoming our ethnocentrism, but also deconstructing and thereby understanding the ambiguous construct of cross-cultural competence. Cross-cultural competence is so basic and fundamental to the internationalization movement, but also so ambiguous and overwhelming at the same time. The challenge is not only to define and assess cross-cultural competence (i.e., attitudes, knowledge, awareness, and skills), but also to learnhowto promote it in the next generation of counseling psychologists. Given the dearth of information on this topic, qualitative methodologies and singlesubject methodology may prove useful in promoting model building.

Cultural Sensitivity versus Imposed Etics in Theory Development

A number of cross-cultural psychologists have warned of the dangers associated with the monopoly and hegemony of Western models of science (e.g., Gerstein, 2005; Leong, 2002; Marsella, 1998, 2006; Norsworthy, 2005). An important challenge is to recognize that our theoretical models may work in the United States but not necessarily in other countries. Cross-cultural psychologists have labeled this ethnocentric tendency in scienceimapsosed etics—the assumption that the theories and models that apply to a person’s cultural group are universal and can be easily applied to other cultural groups. There are several approaches to including a cultural context in psychological theories (Heine et al., 2004; Leong, 2002). The first is thueniversalismapproach where culture is considered to bean unimportant and nuisance variable that needs little or no attention. The cultural variable is essentially ignored. This universalism approach serves as the foundation for “imposed etics.” The second is theculture assimilationapproach wherein cultural differences are recognized but minimized based on the “melting pot” assumption that other racial or cultural groups will assimilate to mainstreamAmerican culture (Western European culture). To the extent that these groups assimilate, mainstream psychological theories and models will work equally well with them. In the international realm, this implies that Western models can be transported to other cultures and that globalization will make it relatively easy for these models to be assimilated into other countries. Leong and colleagues (Leong & Lee, 2006; Leong & Serafica, 2001; Leong & Tang, 2002) have proposed another approach, the cultural accommodation model (CAM). This model aims to identify the missing cultural elements in the Western models from a cross-cultural perspective and potential culture-specific variables that can be used to address these cultural lacunae in Western models. This model involves three steps: (1) identifying the cultural gaps or blind spots of existingWestern theories and models that restrict their cultural validity, (2) selecting current culturally specific concepts and models from cross-cultural and ethnic minority psychology to fill in the cultural gaps and modify or accommodate the theory to these cultural groups, and (3) testing the culturally accommodated theory to determine if it has incremental validity beyond the culturally unaccommodated theory. Most important, the CAM model strongly suggested that psychologists as scientists should test the theory or model with demonstrated incremental validity provided by the culture-specific variables (Quintana, Troyano, & Taylor, 2001). Asignificant amount of cross-cultural research is aimed at evaluating the cultural validity ofWestern models when applied to other cultures. In some instances, the Western models of psychology will be found to be culturally valid and more than adequate when directly applied to cultural groups in other countries or regions. In other instances, some of the cultural validity studies will find problems and inadequacies in Western models. It is important to note that although a Western model, or a modified Western model using the CAM or any other approach, might be able to predict or explain a particular phenomenon (e.g., psychological adjustment) in another culture outside the United States, it may not necessarily depict the most important constructs to explain a particular phenomenon in that culture. Although Western-based instruments have been appropriately translated, back-translated, and predict intended outcomes in other cultures, the cultural assumptions inherent in those inventories may not necessarily include the most important psychological constructs pertaining to that phenomenon in a non-Western culture. For example, U.S.-based applied problem solving and coping inventories have been utilized in many cultures around the world. But Heppner et al. (2006) found very different coping factors when Asian values and customs were utilized to create items; these East Asian coping factors depicted other psychological constructs that do not appear in U.S. models. In short, the underlying cultural assumptionsbionththeWestern models as well as the target culture must be adequately addressed in applying any psychological models from one culture to another. Thus, another approach is to first identify constructs and build theoretical models based on the cultural assumptions and customs of that particular culture, and then examine howWestern-based constructs (and their underlying values) that have been particularly useful in the United States might add to a particular cultural model. This approach is more in line with the development of indigenous models to explain psychological phenomena in a particular culture and similar to the derived etic method in cross-cultural psychology research (Berry, 1989 ). In short, identifying the match underlying the assumptions/cultural values of both cultures is a critical step to becoming culturally sensitive in cross-cultural theory development. Just as we cannot assume that a Western theory of counseling is automatically going to work for other cultural groups, we cannot assume that certain culture-specific variables being added in any approach are automatically going to improve the cultural validity of the theory in question Gerstein, & Canel, in press). It is quite conceivable that different versions of a culturally sensitive model will have to be tested before the best set of variables can be found. The major foci andchallenge for counseling psychology cross-cultural research is to develop knowledge bases and to interpret what we have observed in a culturally sensitive and appropriate way.

Supporting and Extending Indigenous Psychologies
Related to the need to avoid imposed etics, there has been a movement in cross-cultural psychology that calls for the support oifndigenous psychologieass a countervailing force to the wholesale exportation ofWestern models of psychology to other parts of the world (Kim & Berry, 1993).Aquote from Durgan and Sinha (1993) in a chapter on indigenous psychology in India captures the essence of the problem quite well: When modern scientific psychology, based on the empirical, mechanistic, and materialistic orientations of the West, was imported into India as part of the general transfer of knowledge, it came in as a ready made intellectual package in the first decade of the cent.u.r.yI.nfact, this transfer in a way constituted an element of the political domination of theWest over the third world countries in the general process of modernization and Westernization . . . . Research conducted was by and large repetitive and replicative in character, the object being to supplement studies done in the West . . . . Thus, the discipline remained at best a pale copy of Western psychology, rightly designated as a Euro-American product with very little concern with social reality as it prevailed in India.
With the increasing internationalization of U.S. counseling psychology, it is incumbent on us not only to examine the cultural relevance of our models of counseling in other countries but also to support the identification, development, and evaluation of indigenous models of helping as potentially equally valid ways of healing. Indeed, many of these indigenous models predateWestern models of counseling and psychotherapy. We also have much to gain by testing the generalizability of the knowledge and theories developed in other countries to U.S. populations. Our international colleagues have developed tremendous knowledge bases through their research and practice spanning hundreds and thousands of years. Ponterotto (Chapter 8, this volume) addresses the potential utility for U.S. counseling psychologists to apply knowledge on thmeulticultural personalitythat has been developed in the Netherlands. Moreover, the culturally related knowledge from other countries has the potential to help us conceptualize novel intervention strategies to address old problems. For example, the collectivistic-based school counseling program (Chao, Wang, & Yang, 2006) in Taiwan has tremendous potential for U.S. school counselors. Our challenge is to identify relevant knowledge bases developed in other countries and test their applicability to solving problems in the United States.
Promoting the Integration of Multicultural and Cross-Cultural Foci

American counseling psychologists need to promote the integration and coexistence of multicultural and cross-cultural foci. In the past, there has been some tension between psychologists engaged in the U.S. multicultural movement and those engaged in cross-national activities. Sometimes the tension seems to result from the belief that a focus on cross-cultural issues will diminish or detract from a focus on multicultural issues, or vice versa. Henderson, Spigner-Littles, and Milhouse (2006) cited the necessity of understanding both indigenous and foreign cultures, “if practitioners are to understand traditional African Americans, Chinese Americans, Japanese Americans, and Mexican Americans, they must first understand traditional African, Chinese, Japanese, and Mexican cultures” (p. vii). A common goal of both foci is to promote the understanding of the role of culture in human behavior, and the absolute necessity of utilizing a cultural context in all aspects of our work as counseling psychologists. An increased sensitivity to the role of culture in understanding human behavior makes us better counseling psychologists. It is incumbent on scholars to demonstrate how multicultural and cross-cultural foci can build on and enrich one another in the service of common goals.Challenge 6: Promoting Cross-National Research Collaborations Time and space have shrunk, making communication and travel across national borders commonplace. At this time, U.S. counseling psychologists often travel to different countries; learn from others’models, worldviews, and experiences; and work collaboratively with international colleagues. It is more than abundantly clear that human beings’ emotions, cognitive functions, motivations, reasoning, problem solving, and many other psychological constructs are learned, displayed, and interpreted in cultural contexts. Cross-cultural research has the potential to greatly enhance the knowledge bases in our specialty. Moreover, as responsible and culturally sensitive researchers, we need to obtain data from more international samples to expand knowledge bases.
It has been almost 30 years since the first call for diverse methodologies (Gelso, 1979), which has had a significant impact on counseling psychology (Heppner, Wampold, & Kivlighan, 2008). We envision another methodological revolution, one that will spark a fundamental change in the way we structure research questions and ideas, as well as conduct and evaluate research. Future researchers will constantly consult and collaborate with their international colleagues to exchange the latest research findings, formulate their research ideas in multinational research teams, collect data from many different countries, and discuss their results across various cultural contexts. Their papers will be reviewed by U.S. and international editors and reviewers. The challenge for the counseling profession is how to promote and conduct meaningful cross-national research and create cross-cultural knowledge bases in counseling psychology. Two strategies to promote cross-cultural knowledge are by composing cross-national research teams and by conducting research on immigrant or international populations in the United States. The different cultural assumptions among members of international research teams can create obstacles and challenges. International research collaboration involves time, energy, and a good deal of relationship development. Research team members with different cultural perspectives may require more cross-cultural problem solving.As with domestic research teams, it is essential to start with networking and relationship building to get to know potential research collaborators. There is a need for more information about what factors promote successful cross-national research. Onestrategy is to identify “best practices” by studying cross-national research teams that have been more and less effective. Another strategy is to study “best practices” in training the next generation of crossnational researchers in our graduate programs. It might also be useful to study successful cross-national researchers to identify effective coping strategies, communication styles, and personality variables.We need to know much more about the factors that promote successful cross-national research teams.
Promoting Culturally Valid Practice around the Globe
Counseling practitioners worldwide often find inspiring new ideas from their foreign peers. Tai Chi and meditation are accepted as being therapeutic by a larger audience in the United States more now than 10 years ago. There is currently an active exchange of practical experiences with cohorts from different countries. There is a growing interest by U.S. researchers in the mental health and career needs in several Asian countries, most notably China. There is also interest in exporting U.S. counseling knowledge, philosophy, and techniques to China. However, we are responsible for ensuring that our knowledge, philosophy, and techniques are culturally relevant in different environments. Practice developments in counseling can greatly facilitate understanding of how culture affects the counseling process and outcomes across different cultures. A major challenge is not only to internationalize U.S. counseling practice, but also to validate, present, and publish research on the utility of cross-cultural practice.

Enhancing and Promoting International Education

There are a number of unaddressed questions about the type of training that is best for international students. Most if not all of theAPA-accredited doctoral programs train students in U.S.-based assessmentmodels, counseling theories, and intervention strategies. Although the multicultural movement has broadened the U.S. training model overall, it remains aWestern model based onWestern values. Some colleagues maintain that international students enrolled in U.S. training programs should be able to counsel effectively in the United States and, indeed, some international graduates do seek employment in the United States. But should the mission of our training programs be bound to U.S. culture alone, or should it include the ability to work in other cultures? Should we have additional or different training goals for students intending to return to their home countries? Are these students expected to attain the same level of skill using Western counseling methods as U.S. students? Should an Asian international student who plans to return to his or her country also learn how to confront a client in ways that include relevant Asian values (e.g., interpersonal harmony)? One challenge facing the counseling profession pertains to the training goals for international students who plan to return to their home countries, or who have different worldviews and interpersonal styles that fit an individualistic culture more or less well. A related challenge pertains to understanding how international students can promote the understanding of cultural differences and sensitivity in our training programs. A recent study found that 90% of counselor educators sampled agreed that the cross-cultural perspectives of international counseling students had positively enriched their program, and 83% agreed that working with international counseling students had positively affected them personally and professionally (Ng, 2006).We believe that we could learn much more from the international students currently enrolled on our campuses . Sometimes the learning in our training programs is perceived as primarily a unidirectional process (from instructor to student) as opposed to a bidirectional process where international students and U.S. students and faculty learn about cross-cultural issues from their interactions and discussions throughout the educational process. Moreover, having good relationships between domestic and international students today means networking with international leaders tomorrow. Promoting meaningful linkages between our domestic and international students may contribute to the internationalization of our profession. Thus, a related challenge for U.S. training programs is to identify ways to benefit maximally from the diverse cross-cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills that currently exist in many counselor training programs. Finally, there is much to gain from U.S. graduate students studying abroad (e.g., see Alexander et al., 2005). There are many ways for students to learn from our international colleagues, such as workshops, brief 2-week immersions, semester- or year-long study abroad experiences, and dual-degree programs. Similar to the reports from Fulbright scholars, students report that their cross-cultural learning experiences are not only stimulating, but also sometimes transforming (e.g., Friedlander et al., 2002). But why are so few counseling psychology graduate students studying abroad? (J. Ponterotto, personal communication, February 22, 2007). Our challenge is to internationalize the training curriculum by developing effective cross-cultural learning opportunities for U.S. students in counseling psychology.

Collaboration among Counseling Organizations
In analyzing the recent history of U.S. counseling psychology, Heppner et al. (2000) concluded, “the profession has now evolved beyond any one organization. Collaboration among Division 17, CCPTP [Council of Counseling Psychology Training Programs], ACCTA [Association of Counseling Center Training Agencies], and other groups has been and will continue to be critically important in the future” . Yet collaboration only among U.S.-based counseling organizations will not be sufficient in the future. Rather, it will be increasingly important to collaborate across counseling organizations around the globe—“there are common elements in the development of counseling psychology across national boundaries, and the voices of counseling psychology leaders from one country can support and lend credence in another country” (Heppner, 2006,). We have much to share and learn from each other’s experiences. The challenge is how to overcome cross-cultural obstacles to promote collaboration among counseling organizations around the world. It is incumbent on counseling leaders to understandthe many benefits of such collaboration and to build the necessary organizational structures to promote global alliances.

1 comment:

Jey Raul said...

Nice post on Counselling psychology. Some useful points are been listed out.