There are other aspects that are important to discuss in relation to group work. In this chapter, I’ll discuss diversity, ethics, and research on the effectiveness of groups.
Being aware of cultural diversity in the group and leading the group so that every member of the group, regardless of culture, is treated with dignity and respect is important. The ACA code of ethics addresses cultural diversity in several ways. Concerning informed consent in the counseling relationship it states, “Counselors communicate information in ways that are both developmentally and culturally appropriate.” It continues by stating, “In collaboration with clients, counselors consider cultural implications of informed consent procedures and, where possible, counselors adjust their practices accordingly.” In the section on confidentiality and privacy, the code addresses counselors being aware and sensitive to cultural meanings of confidentiality and privacy. Concerning the assessment of clients, the code addresses multicultural issues with this statement, “Counselors select and use with caution assessment techniques normed on populations other than that of the client. Counselors recognize the effects of age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, race, language preference, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status on test administration and interpretation, and they place test results in proper perspective with other relevant factors.
Singh, Merchant, Skudrzyk and Ingene (2012) prepared a document for the Association for Specialists in Group Work on this topic. They define multicultural as “the belief systems and typical daily activities of people from various diverse groups, and denotes that attending to the needs and values of these diverse groups ensures a more vibrant, dynamic, and empowered society overall. Examples of multicultural identities include (but are not limited to): gender identity and expression, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious/spiritual traditions, ability status, migration status, age, and social class.”
Singh, et. al. discuss competence in group performing and processing related to group diversity. Group workers demonstrating multicultural competence will: establish group norms to accept, value and respect cultural differences; attend to differences in acculturation levels; avoid stereotyping and labeling; demonstrate just and fair leadership; address overt and covert cultural conflicts in group; respond to language needs; incorporate traditional and spiritual healing methods that are culturally appropriate; use culturally grounded frameworks and techniques as appropriate; and use culturally-appropriate assessment and evaluation tools.
Corey (2008, p. 35) wrote, “Becoming a diversity-competent group counselor demands self- awareness and an open stance on your part. You need to be willing to modify strategies to fit the needs and situations of the individuals within your group. It is clear that no one “right” technique can be utilized with all group members, irrespective of their cultural background. It is important to realize that it takes time, study, and experience to become an effective multicultural group counselor. It is your responsibility as a group counselor to have a general understanding of your members’ cultural values.”
Gladding (2008, pp. 223-224) points out three ways that group leaders must make modifications from traditional ways of working with groups to become effective multicultural group counselors. First, they must understand what a culture is. Second, they must modify their theories and techniques to be congruent with the beliefs and behaviors of the cultures represented in the group. Finally, multicultural theories and techniques that facilitate change and growth must be developed.
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