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Client Perspectives on Clinician Multicultural Competence in Racially and/or Ethically Cross-Cultural, Strengths-Based Psychotherapy


Multicultural competence and strengths-based approaches are both theoretically foundational elements of contemporary counseling psychology. However, very few studies have examined how these two copestones of the field intersect in practice, despite the promise they both have empirically demonstrated in enhancing treatment. There is a particular dearth of data on the technical aspect of multicultural competence. Those studies that do exist overwhelmingly rely on clinician-side perspectives or solicit client input in delimited quantitative formats.

The purpose of the present study is to better understand client perceptions of multicultural competence in the context of a strengths-based approach to cross-racial/ethnic therapy. Fourteen college students were recruited to participate in an in-person semi-structured interview that asked them to reflect on their positive and negative experiences in therapy with White clinicians, with a focus on the ways that their personal and cultural strengths were or were not incorporated into treatment. Participants were prompted during the interview to reflect on their cultural strengths and provide feedback about their experience of this intervention and their recommendations for how cultural strengths could be effectively explored and utilized in therapy. Participants all identified as a racial and/or ethnic minority and had participated in therapy with a white clinician during the past two years.

Consensual Qualitative Research methodology was used to identify emergent themes in the participant’s responses. Participants reported widely varying experiences regarding the multicultural competence of their White clinicians. Two of the participants reported that cultural strengths had been explored in therapy, and the majority of the remainder indicated that they would have liked to do so. None of the participants indicated that they would prefer not to explore cultural strengths, and the majority expressed a belief that it would be a positive contribution to the therapy experience, particularly with respect to improving client self-knowledge and therapist understanding of client. Feedback regarding phrasing and delivery of the intervention included the importance of acknowledging cultural vulnerabilities alongside strengths and incorporating the exploration of cultural strengths into broader discussions of client culture as a whole.

These findings are important because they may provide new interventional avenues for enhancing the delivery of multiculturally competent strengths-based cross-racial/ethnic psychotherapy. Specifically, the findings contribute further to our understanding of how exploring cultural strengths can benefit clients, and how best to implement interventions that utilize cultural strengths in a multiculturally competent manner.

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