10 Multicultural Factors to Consider in Counseling

Multicultural Counseling and the RESPECTFUL Model

People who seek counseling often come from different walks of life and from different backgrounds. The need for multicultural counseling increases as populations grow more diverse. Multicultural counseling is the ability of any professional counselor to approach counseling through the context of the client’s world. In short, the counselor’s own cultural values or bias must not take precedence that of the client. This is an integral part of professional counseling ethics.

Counseling from a multicultural lens is necessary in our diverse world and allows counselors to help people in underserved communities. According to the American Counseling Association, multicultural counseling is an advantage for counselors; counseling from a multicultural lens allows them to gain knowledge, sensitivity, disposition, and personal awareness.


The importance of multicultural counseling will continue to grow as our country grows.

*projected by Pew Research

Multicultural and Social Justice Counseling Competencies

The Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) notes several competencies to achieve in multicultural counseling.

  • Counselor Awareness of Own Cultural Values and Biases: A counselor must be cognizant of any cultural values or bias that they possess and recognize their limits of practice. In order to expand their skills, counselors must acknowledge their own racial and cultural heritage and the effects of oppression, racism, discrimination, and stereotyping. Counselors must also seek out additional learning opportunities to improve their understanding of different cultural populations.
  • Counselor Awareness of Client Worldview: A counselor must recognize that their client’s world view is different than their own. To achieve this understanding, counselors must be aware of their emotional reactions to other racial and ethnic groups, possess knowledge of the population with whom they work, and familiarize themselves with culturally appropriate research. Mental health  and school counselors competent in multicultural counseling recognize that a client’s race and culture influence their personality, decision-making skills, vocational choice, and reasons for or willingness to seek any mental health help.  
  • Culturally Appropriate Intervention Strategies: A counselor with cultural competence respects their client’s religious views, values, beliefs, indigenous practices, and languages. Counselors must understand the characteristics of therapy and its impact on cultural groups. Counselors should also maintain knowledge of family dynamics, hierarchy, bias in assessments, and discriminatory practices that may impact their client. Counseling professionals who are culturally skilled are able to engage in communication – both verbal and nonverbal – that transcends race or nationality and eliminates prejudice.

The Importance of Multicultural Counseling

As the population becomes more diverse , the need for multicultural counseling grows more apparent. As reported in the Journal for Social Action in Counseling and Psychology:

Changing demographics of the United States population demand that counselor education programs provide training experience that facilitate the development of multiculturally competent counselors. The growing population of diverse individuals in the United States will put more pressure on counselors to be culturally competent in their service of delivery.

Younger generations illustrate this diversity. Pew Research indicates that 43 percent of adult millennials are non-white. They also project that by 2055 the US will not have a single ethnic minority; instead, it’ll represent a true melting pot of cultures.


The RESPECTFUL model was developed with one goal in mind: to recognize the multidimensionality of all clients in a comprehensive and integrative way. San Jose State University’s Counselor Education Department shares the RESPECTFUL model that was developed by Michael D’Andrea, Ed.D. and Judy Daniels around 1997 and involves ten different factors that influence an individual’s psychological development as well as their sense of personal well-being.

The ten factors of the RESPECTFUL model are as follows:

  1. Religious-Spiritual Identity: Some clients are affected by their religion through transcendental experiences that extend beyond the ordinary. Others may identify with no religion at all.
  2. Economic Class Background: Class standing and roles influences a client’s development and as such affects their own identification of their strengths and expression of problems throughout therapy or counseling.
  3. Sexual Identity: Sexual identity influences personal development, especially for people who’ve been oppressed because of their sexuality which reduces an individual’s sense of worth.
  4. Psychological Maturity: This type of maturity involves the ability of an individual to respond to a situation or their environment in an appropriate manner based upon their psychological strengths and needs.
  5. Ethnic-Cultural-Racial Identity: Some clients experience “within-group” differences which could influence their psychological development.
  6. Chronological Developmental Challenges: Physical, cognition, and psychological skill development affects how an individual experiences challenges at different points in life.
  7. Trauma and Other Threats to One’s Well-Being: Stressful situations can put individuals at risk for psychological dangers when the ability to cope with them become ineffective.
  8. Family History and Dynamics: Family can play a role in a person’s sense of self, ambition, and prejudices. The modern family is now one with much more diversification, less rigidity, and broadened horizons.
  9. Unique Physical Characteristics: People who possess unique physical characteristics may experience stress of dissatisfaction. It is on part of the counselor to reflect on the internalized negative views of stereotypes.
  10. Location of Residence and Language Differences: Depending upon the climate patterns, geological terrain, and types of occupations available, individuals will possess various strengths and interests. Being aware of stereotypes and biases associated with individuals who speak a different dialect can defer from inaccurate assumptions.

Consideration of the above during the course of a counseling relationship helps the counselor-client relationship stay, as the acronym insinuates, respectful. This model provides counselors with the ability to progress appropriately, ethically, and holistically through each counseling session.

Multicultural counseling involves two main parts: an understanding of the client’s worldview and the recognition of a counselor’s own cultural values and bias. In order to work progressively with diverse clients, a counselor must recognize any previously held ideas that they have established about a population based on their ethnicity, nationality, race, etc. The competencies above help to ensure that individuals of all backgrounds receive the quality of help they deserve.

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