Key Takeaways

  • The goal of multicultural counseling is to provide culturally sensitive care that recognizes a person’s unique identity, perspective, and treatment needs. 
  • Multicultural counselors are comfortable treating clients from diverse races, ethnicities, genders, socioeconomic backgrounds, and belief systems. 
  • Multicultural counseling can lead to better therapeutic relationships, increased treatment effectiveness, and an opportunity for growth for both clients and therapists. 
When choosing a therapist, it’s important to find someone you can trust with your most vulnerable thoughts and feelings. You want someone who’s knowledgeable about your specific mental health concerns and has experience treating people with similar symptoms. Working with someone who understands how your cultural identity informs your mental health can be just as important.  People bring diverse perspectives and cultural backgrounds to therapy, and factors like race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, and socioeconomic background can influence your mental health. Multicultural counseling is a specific type of counseling that focuses on embracing these differences and examining how our unique cultural backgrounds tie into our mental health. 

Why multicultural counseling matters

Data show that the United States is becoming increasingly diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexuality, and socioeconomic backgrounds. The U.S. Census Bureau says that by 2044, more than half of all Americans will identify as a minority group (any group other than non-Hispanic White). Shifting trends have also been observed with sexual orientation, showing that the percentage of U.S. adults who self-identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or anything other than heterosexual has doubled since 2012. With this change, there’s an increased need for mental health professionals who understand the clients sitting across from them. We know that folks from racial and ethnic minority groups are less likely to receive mental health services than those who identify as non-Hispanic White. And those who do are more likely receive lower quality mental health care. LGBTQ youth also struggle to access mental health services, with more than half of those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning unable to get the care they need within the past year.  Anyone who’s ever tried to access mental healthcare knows that it’s not always easy to find care, but some research suggests that these disparities can be directly linked to a lack of culturally competent care. This is where multicultural counseling can help.  Multicultural counseling recognizes that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for offering equitable, accessible mental healthcare. Therapists who practice multicultural counseling strive to understand cultural differences so that they can best respect and serve each person’s unique mental health needs. 

Three principles of multicultural counseling

Multicultural counseling is designed to help people feel heard, respected, and supported in the therapeutic setting. Even if a therapist doesn’t share a similar background as a client, they’re committed to better understanding their clients’ experiences and how they impact them today.  Multicultural counseling embraces several core principles, including cultural humility, intersectionality, and inclusivity. 

1. Cultural humility

An important component of multicultural counseling is cultural humility, a life-long process of self-reflection that prepares therapists to cultivate deeper, more empathetic, and trustworthy relationships with their clients. Cultural humility inspires therapists to learn about different cultures and perspectives, while also reflecting on their own beliefs, biases, and cultural identities. 

2. Intersectionality 

Intersectionality is a framework for understanding how people’s different identities can intersect and impact them in multiple ways. Therapists consider how factors like ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status influence a person’s experiences in life and, ultimately, their willingness and ability to receive care. An intersectional approach allows therapists to better understand inequalities and avoid making harmful assumptions.

3. Inclusivity

Multicultural counseling is designed to help all people feel seen, heard, and understood in the therapeutic setting. It embraces diverse perspectives and encourages mental health professionals to tailor their counseling approaches for different cultural backgrounds. An inclusive therapist will be mindful of word choices, communication styles, religious differences, and cultural symbols.

Benefits of multicultural counseling

Research suggests that receiving mental health treatment that’s tailored to match your cultural background is more effective than treatment for a generalized population. Here are some of the leading benefits of working with a culturally-sensitive counselor. 
  • Better therapeutic relationships: Multicultural counseling helps therapists build trust with clients from all backgrounds so that they feel safe, secure, and understood in the therapy setting.
  • Opportunity for mutual growth: Multicultural counselors appreciate that cultural humility is a life-long learning process and often encourage clients to share their feedback and experience. It offers clients an opportunity to be the experts on their own culture while the therapists facilitate their mental health journey. 
  • Increased effectiveness: With a foundation of trust and invitation for knowledge, therapists are better positioned to tailor their interventions to each client’s specific needs — ideally leading to better care outcomes. 
  • Reduces barriers to care: Multicultural counseling can help reduce certain barriers that prevent people from accessing the care they need. For some people, the problem is a shortage of local culturally competent mental health providers (that’s where telehealth can help). For other people, barriers to traditional services include language issues, distrust in the healthcare system, and a stigma around mental illness, according to the American Psychiatric Association.

Explore multicultural counseling with Rula

In today’s diverse world, it feels more important than ever to find folks who understand you — starting with your therapist.  That’s why Rula is dedicated to connecting clients with therapists who specialize in you. Our network of over 8,000 therapists represents 39 languages, 18 faiths and religions, and a wide range of backgrounds. Our therapists understand the importance of acknowledging, accepting, and respecting each person’s identity and how it impacts their mental health needs.  Plus, Rula makes it easy to find a licensed therapist who’s in network with your insurance and accepting new clients as soon as this week. 

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