Cultural competency and cultural sensitivity are key ingredients to working effectively with diverse counseling clientele. Having the ability to work with diverse populations is important because counselors need to be able to meet the needs of those they serve. Despite this, there is a gap in research about how to develop these essential skills. Multicultural counseling is a required course in many counselor graduate training programs.
Even though programs can simulate the real world in the classroom and educational settings, authentic experiential learning constructs an opportunity that equips students for professional settings and careers. Additionally, it is important to expand on multiculturalism beyond one class. This study examines the effects of a six day cultural immersion experience on the cultural competency and sensitivity of graduate mental health counseling students at a university in Wisconsin. The instrument that was utilized for this one-group pretest-posttest design was the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).
The results suggest that the cultural immersion experience had a positive effect on cultural competency and sensitivity for counselors in training. These findings emphasize the need to incorporate experiential learning, such as, cultural immersion experiences into education programs for counselors. The Effects of Cultural Immersion on Cultural Competency and Sensitivity Cultural competency and cultural sensitivity are key ingredients to working effectively with diverse counseling clientele. Despite this, there is a gap in research about how to develop these essential skills.
Self-reports of counseling trainees demonstrate feelings of under preparedness to engage in effective counseling with diverse populations and minorities upon the conclusion of academic programs (Kim & Lyons, 2003; Lee, 2013). This occurs even though multicultural counseling is a required course in many counselor graduate training programs (Sue & Sue, 2012). Although we can simulate the real world in the classroom, authentic experiential learning constructs an opportunity that equips students for professional settings and careers. Additionally, it is important to expand on multiculturalism beyond one class.
Even though there are studies that examine cultural immersion and offer support for its use as an intervention to increase cultural competency and sensitivity, further research is still warranted. Limited data exists, in specific regards, to counselors in training and domestic immersion experiences. This study examines the effects of a cultural immersion experience within a reservation in the United States for mental health graduate counseling students at a university in Wisconsin. The findings of this study emphasize the need to incorporate experiential learning, such as, cultural immersion experiences into education programs for counselors.
Literature Review This literature review will discuss professional identity development and strategies for increasing competency and sensitivity. Some specific strategies for increasing competency and sensitivity that will be discussed are international and domestic immersion. Professional Identity Development Professional identity development is an essential for counselor trainees because it allows counselors trainees to transition from school to work settings with a sense of self-assuredness. In addition, counselors who have a strong profession identity are able to clearly articulate who they are and what they do.
This allows for effective work with clients and collaboration with other helping professions. Despite this Dollarhide, Gibson, and Moss (2013) identified that limited data exists on the professional identity development of counselors. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to examine the professional identity transitions and transformational tasks of doctoral students in counselor education. It was hypothesized that understanding the experiences of participants could result in a testable theory of development (Dollarhide et al. 2013). Dollarhide et al. (2013) interviewed participants at points where major change occurred in doctoral programs. The interviews were semi-structured and took place over the course of a year. The interviews were structured to evoke the participants’ experience with professional identity development. Topics addressed were definition of counselor education and any alterations over time, professional identity development and aspects that influenced it, needs to advance in professional identity, and ranking of counselor educator roles.
Additionally, focus groups were conducted that allowed participants to reflect on the statements of others and expand upon self-reflections. Dollarhide et al. (2013) coded all transcripts and co-constructed themes by consensus. Eighteen women and five men participated in the study. The participants were from two different campuses, one in the Midwest and one in the southeastern United States. In terms of ethnicity, 14 identified as White, eight as African American, and one as multiracial. The average age of the participants was 32 (range = 24-54 years).
Areas of specialty included school counseling, clinical/community counseling, marriage and family counseling, rehabilitation counseling, and pastoral counseling (Dollarhide et al. , 2013). Dollarhide et al. (2013) reported that as students progressed, the students faced numerous challenges in professional identity development. These challenges were identified by the acceptance of responsibility, evolving legitimacy, and the integration of multiple identities. Additionally, the professional identity transformation process of the doctoral counselor education students required external validation, experience, and selfvalidation.
Limitations of the study included a limited sample from two campuses that are high in research activity classifications and data collection methods. Future research should include a larger and more diverse sample population. Furthermore, longitudinal studies would help confirm the hypothesized development of doctoral students in counselor education. Moreover, the findings demonstrate a need for integrative counselor programs that guide students into the profession (Dollarhide et al. , 2013). Additionally, differences in professional identity development can be seen between novice and advanced counselors.
Prosek and Hurt (2014) conducted a study that examined these differences. The study was prompted by a need to increase suggestions for counselor educators and supervisors. Prosek and Hurt (2014) identified 18 programs to represent the Southern, North Central, and Western regions of the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). After this establishment, Prosek and Hurt (2014) sent invitational e-mails to the department chairs/program coordinators to distribute to students.
The e-mail invited students to participate in the study and provided a link to an online survey. The survey included a demographic form and the Professional Identity and Values Scale-Revised (PIVS-R). The PIVS-R is a 32-item measure of counselor identity development. The assessment has two subscales. The subscales are Professional Orientation and Values and Professional Development (Prosek & Hurt, 2014). The participants consisted of 161 graduate students who were enrolled in counseling master’s programs accredited by CACREP.
Demographically, the sample represented limited diversity. The racial identity reported by participants was White (81. 4%), Black/ African American (6. 2%), Latino/Hispanic (4. 3%), multiracial (3. 7%), Asian (2. 5%), and other not specified (1. 9%). Additionally, more than two-thirds of the participants identified as female. The participants also represented novice or advanced counselor trainees. Novice counseling trainees were defined as students in the first or second semester in the counseling program.
Advanced counseling trainees consisted of participants who were enrolled in practicum or internship (Prosek & Hurt, 2014). Prosek and Hurt (2014) used a multivariant analysis of variance (MANOVA). Results of the MANOVA were statistically significant. These results demonstrated that mean differences exist tween novice and advanced counselor trainees in regards to professional orientation and values and stages of professional identity development. Advanced counselor trainees showed greater advancement in the stages of professional development. Limitations include a sample with limited diversity.
Additionally, the survey did not ask students for specific courses or credit hours completed. Further studies could highlight the specific factors of clinical experience that are influential in professional development. Strategies for Increasing Competency and Sensitivity Strategies for increasing competency and sensitivity of individuals employed in helping professions are being explored and expanded upon. Two strategies for increasing competency and sensitivity that will be explored within this paper are international and domestic immersion. International immersion.