Is there a danger in assuming that one will always able to understand a client's unique challenges and lifestyles enough to "walk in the clients' shoes"?
Let me give you an example. My metropolitan area(Mpls./St. Paul) has the largest Somali and East African immigrant population in the country, so many in the human services professions are well versed in the history, political nuances, and culture of this community. That said, it would also be fair to say, that few in the human services profession have lived through decades of civil war,torture and brutality, or displacement to several refugee camps throughout various areas of the world, all of which is part of the living history, and therefore the living culture, of most of the clients with whom one might work from this population. While learning as much as one can about this culture can definitely increase sensitivity on the part of the therapist, can one outside of the clients' experience ever reach the level of empathy required to even come close to holding the clients' shoes, much less "walk" in them? Is there a danger in believing that we can? Is empathy a necessary part of professional competence?
For a counselor to be effective in working with clients of diverse cultures, it is necessary for them to be skilled in cultural self-awareness and also be sensitive to their own culture as well as the cultures of the clients. They need to be aware that culture, a person's experiences, their unique challenges, lifestyles, values, attitudes, and thoughts can influence their psychological processes. The more a psychologist learns about the various cultures in the area in which they live and work, the more competent they will become at understanding the client's needs as well as increase their competence in preparing successful strategies for treatment. If at any time, a counselor feels that they may be limited in their expertise of multicultural competency, and seek training or education, seek consultation from other professionals, refer to a more qualified individual, or use a combination of the resources to help their client. They can; however, work to increase their knowledge and understanding of the various cultures and continually educate themselves on learning more about these cultures through training experiences (1).
It is important for a counselor to understand their own culture and how the client's culture can interact with one another. Use their own cultural beliefs to express the importance of their culture ...
Discusses why it is important to have empathy when working in a therapy setting.