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Cross-cultural / Migrant counselling

Updated: Dec 11, 2020

As a migrant myself and an advocate of Diversity and Inclusion, I wanted to shed some light on knowledge gained from cross-cultural counseling and it's apparent need and importance in the multicultural atmosphere we live in today. Why we need it more than ever to understand and built ourselves up.


So, what is Culture?

Triandis (1980: 1) defined culture from the aspect of anthropology in an all-embracing umbrella term as “the total attainments and activities of any specific period and group of humans” (Palmer & Laungani, 1999, p.39).


The term culture encapsulates a distinctly human form of adaptation and organization, with each culture having its own structure and pattern that includes beliefs, values, laws, ways of communications forming a gestalt (Palmer & Laungani, 1999). From the perspective of sociologists, Kroeber and Kluckhohn explained that the core of culture contains traditional ideas and their attached value (Palmer & Laungani, 1999). Culture has been an obscure as well as a confounding subject and it's understanding has often been very imperative in my understanding for my identity. I completely adhere to the notion, as Geertz articulated that “there is no such thing as human nature independent of culture” (Jenks, 2005).


Pollock and Van Reken (2009) stated that “Third culture kid is a person who has spent a significant part of his or her developmental years outside the parents’ culture. He or she builds relationships to all of the cultures, while not having full ownership in any. Although elements from each culture may be assimilated into his or her life experience, the sense of belonging is in relationship to others of similar background”


Keys issues for people from culturally diverse background living in 1st World countries


Originating with the Greeks and adopted world over, east and west, one of the central concerns in political theory has been stability and progression towards a good and just society. The sequence that just societies roughly follow such as Australia is social order, cohesion, harmony, and justice (Jupp, Nieuwenhuysen & Dawson, 2007). Underrepresentation of ethnic variety alienates and undermines their contributions and compromises their presence in the society.


Fear, ignorance, or aversion to embrace the changes in prevailing members of a multicultural society can bring about a sense of self-uncertainty. Grant and Hogg (2012) explains that “self-uncertainty reduction is proposed as a fundamental motivation for group identification and thus social identity processes” (p.73). Thus in absence of an environment of inclusion and acceptance from the larger society, individuals get pushed into a cultural ghetto. In this process of social categorization, self and others are perceived in terms of group prototypes with fuzzy sets of attitudes and behaviors that define a group, differentiate it from other groups, and prescribe how group members should think, feel and act (Turner et al., 1987).


Another issue of social exclusion created through racial prejudices. “Racial prejudices are often important in marking some ethnic groups as outside ‘normal’ society, the present widespread attitude towards Muslims being an obvious example. This makes it difficult for individuals with those characteristics to secure equitable treatment based on their own abilities.


The self-esteem of a culturally diverse individual suffers when viewed as different or less than an equal. As an indicator of “microaggression” (Sue, 2010), the immediate surrounding of a culturally or racially diverse individual focuses on the “Otherness of other” (Sell, 2013) creating an uncomfortable environment. Sell (2013) further suggests that “meeting someone is impossible as long as we remain who we are, subjecting oneself to the otherness of the other necessitates allowing oneself to be changed by this other” (p. 31).


Emotionalism as a culture of relation-centered society where work is a by-product of relationships. In Piaget's theory of cognitive development, the purpose of children's thinking is to help them adapt to the environment in increasingly efficient ways (Fox, 2006). As a child, I deciphered language as one of the most identifiable variants which I comprehended as a point of difference from a young age. Learning the national language (Hindi) and the internationally accepted language (English) in school, eased my journey of feeling accepted and assimilated. A child speaks one language (mother tongue) and learns a different one to correspond with society. This is although an expansion of language skill but the sheer necessity of it to feel normal, ought to create a sense of 'not enough' or imbalance. Jans and Zee (2012) observe that “a dominant assumption in social science is that shared similarities are the foundation for social categorization and identification.


The racial identity continuum consisting of the five stages of conformity, dissonance, immersion, internalization, and lastly integrative awareness (Helm, 1994). In my journey, I have moved from the stage of de-emphasizing my racial-cultural heritage to a refocusing on it. The process of finding a balance has required consistent therapeutic work and self-awareness between losing, seeking, and finding my cultural identity and continues to be a part of my journey. At present, I have found myself having resolved to a large extent, the stage of dissonance so I can integrate with considerably less fear and accept distinctive identities and enjoy the benefits of multiculturalism.


As a migrant parent or child, if this topsy-turvy experience into finding balance is your goal, then know that counseling is available and it is the most effective, sustainable way to embrace the identity that will help you live with complete freedom and a strong sense of self-belief and confidence.


I wish to pass that on to every child and parent as a mother and a counsellor. Metaphorically, the experience is like 'claiming your wings'.



References:

Grant, & Hogg. (2012). Self-uncertainty, social identity prominence, and group identification. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,48(2), 538-542.


Jupp, James, Nieuwenhuysen, J. P, & Dawson, Emma. (2007). Social cohesion in Australia. Port Melbourne, Vic.: Cambridge University Press.


Palmer, S., & Laungani, P. (1999). Counselling in a multicultural society. London ; Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.


Sell, C. (2013). Defending the otherness of the other: Del Loewenthal Post-Existentialism and the Psychological Therapies. Psychodynamic Practice,19(4), 416-423.


Turner, J.C., Hogg, M.A., Oakes.P., Reicher.S.,& Wetherell, A. (1987). Rediscovering the social group: A self-categorization theory ( ). Oxford, England: Blackwell.



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