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Broaching the Subjects of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture In Counseling and Clinical Supervision

(Day-Vines, Wood, Grothaus, Craigen, Holman, Dotson-Blake, Douglass 2007).

In your counseling work, did you know that not addressing multi-cultural perspectives could harm the therapeutic relationship and interfere with your client’s growth? How comfortable are you with discussing race differences in session with your clients?

As a White European American that grew up in a small Northern town in Minnesota, my experiences with race in America may be quite different than my supervisees and clients. Depending on our experiences, history, cultures values and ethnicities, our internalized conflicts with race are unique and complex. To be an effective counselor, now more than ever, it is important to understand and work through our own constructs with race.

In the article, Broaching the Subjects of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture During the Counseling Process (Day-Vines, Wood, Grothaus, Craigen, Holman, Dotson-Blake, Douglass 2007), the authors report that counselors have the “opportunity to heal the legacy of silence and shame by providing an environment of emotional safety within the session.”

When basic public-school history is now considered “controversial” because white students might feel shame (what???), as ethical counselors we must embrace our roles in the vehicle for change. This vehicle for acceptance, open and honest conversations--without judgement --must find a way to be infused and integrated into our practices.

The authors of the “Broaching” article as cited above name five different styles of addressing multiculturalism in therapy sessions. Broaching is defined as a constant, genuine discussion and attitude by the therapist to explore and invite open conversations about race.

The five different styles of broaching within the counseling profession are identified as:

1. Avoidant

  • Minimize racial differences, naivete, lack of awareness, defensiveness, do not think it is important to address

2. Isolating

  • Limit discussion to a few sessions and think that this is effective

3. Continuing and incongruent

  • Continuously broaches the topic of race but behavior is not congruent, lack in-depth understanding, think of broaching as just a skill

4. Integrated and congruent

  • Accommodate and accept multiple aspects of identity structure, can distinguish between culture-specific bxs and unhealthy human functioning, routine practice, incorporated as a “professional obligation”

5. Infusing

  • Similar to integrated but it is more of a lifestyle commitment, committed to all forms of promoting equality

As a therapist, which style do you identify with? Would you like to learn how to broach topics of race in a more integrated, congruent, way? Clinical supervision can help. Your supervisor can help you understand your own internalized conflicts about race and discuss them openly.

I admit that broaching the topic of race was uncomfortable for me, especially in my early years of counseling. We are all human and mistakes and misunderstandings will find their way into our sessions. The more we openly discuss, understand, and educate ourselves in the areas of multiculturalism, the more we can help overcome cultural oppression.

Your clinical sessions can be a safe place to openly discuss culture constructs that negatively impact clients on a daily basis. Multiculturalism topics integrated into supervision meetings and groups can be a way to identify your stage of broaching and invite solutions for moving into an infused stage.

If you are interested in receiving clinical supervision or consultation for your work as a therapist in Colorado, we offer both individual and group supervision options for you to choose from. Our clinical supervisors are multiculturally sensitive and aware, and can help you learn how to bring up topics of race, ethnicity and culture in your clinical sessions.

All quotes from the article: Broaching the Subjects of Race, Ethnicity, and Culture During the Counseling Process (Day-Vines, Wood, Grothaus, Craigen, Holman, Dotson-Blake, Douglass 2007)


If you or someone you know are interested in learning more about our Clinical Supervision and Clinical Consultation services with Catalyss Counseling, including our group and individual options, contact us at 303-578-6318.

We help therapists throughout Colorado further their professional growth and connect with others who are as passionate about this work as you are.

Author Biography

Kristen Dammer is an LCSW specializing in women's issues and postpartum depression.

Kristen Dammer believes in addressing the whole health needs of you as a person, and her dedication, creativity, and flexibility as a therapist are her greatest strengths. Her holistic approach to anxiety, grief and trauma helps you feel in control and creates a welcoming environment for you to share your vulnerabilities, fears, and experiences. She is trained in EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) and uses it to treat anxiety and trauma. Follow Catalyss Counseling on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram.

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