Perceptions of Intercultural Social Challenges: Towards Culturally Competent Counselling Practice

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Increasing ethnic and cultural diversity worldwide and especially in Australia requires that psychologists and counsellors cultivate the knowhow to interact and work effectively with clients and stakeholders in cross-cultural contexts. This study aimed to identify and compare themes regarding challenging intercultural social scenarios experienced by supervising, practising and intern psychologists. Transcripts from five focus groups were open-coded on four occasions and the final themes compared with the EXCELL (Excellence in Cultural Experiential Learning and Leadership) program's six key sociocultural competencies (Mak, Westwood, Barker, & Ishiyama, 1998). We found that many challenges reported by psychologists (regardless of their qualifications) were related to difficulties-for psychologists and clients-in executing one or more of key sociocultural competencies: Seeking help or information, participating in a group, making social contact, giving feedback, refusing a request, and expressing disagreement. We also identified barriers to cultural competence in therapeutic relationships, including cultural identity issues, needing to address difficulties in intimate relationships, cultural variation in values/beliefs/social norms, mismatched expectations, psychologists' perceived deficit in intercultural training, and challenges in self-reflection. Based on our findings, we propose a model of culturally competent counselling practice and discuss implications for counsellor and psychologist training, and for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)183-199
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Psychologists and Counsellors in Schools
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


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