August 22, 2019 at 12:55 pm #5245
The Multicultural Family Counseling and Therapy article has a lot of great material and more than can be processed in the time we have. Much of the material I have learned from other training and experience and I appreciate the refresher. the case studies are helpful in making me aware that though I am sensitive to how cultural influences affect relationships, there is still room to grow.
As I read the case of Elena Martinez, I came to most of the same observations as the author. I believe the counselor did not recognize the cultural elements that were involved. As a pastoral caregiver, being sensitive to family and cultural dynamics, I would begin by having a gathering of Elena and her family, whoever they determined that to be, to gain an understanding of how they relate to one another.
In the case of Esteban and Carmen, to their credit, they sought help. I came to the same conclusion as the author that the counselor brought her stuff into the situation, and it got in the way and shut down Esteban, causing him to stop coming to the therapy sessions. Again, as a pastoral caregiver, I would begin with listening to Esteban and Carmen’s story and help them explore the issues that are affecting their relationship. I would help them work through the cultural elements that are involved and come to a resolution that works for them.
I have more thoughts relating to this article that I am still pondering and will post separately.
August 23, 2019 at 10:12 am #5247
My take away from this is – People react and respond to people and experiences in different ways. Cultural norms impact relationships. Though not an expert in the field, I am familiar with cultural norms and sensitive to their impact on relationships. Key for me is helping people see and understand the impact their cultural norms have on their relationship and how they can live in relationship with each other. My experience has been that people see cultural norms in different ways. Some hold strongly to them. Others move away from them, however on some level they are still influenced by them. For me exploring how an individual relates to their cultural norms is important.
We are all a product of our family and culture. We have learned traits and characteristics that become part of who we are. Two people come together to form a new family. As their lives mesh, communication between the two is important to how they work through their differences to come to resolutions.
August 23, 2019 at 10:18 am #5248
OOPS! I hit the submit button by mistake before I finished. My point is that, people have their cultural norms which enter a relationship consciously of subconsciously. I help people become aware how this enters into a relationship and have the couple learn this for themselves and come up with their own solutions to help the relationship grow. This is different for different people.
August 25, 2019 at 7:24 pm #5254
I appreciated all the assignments for this week, and found them quite helpful. The aspects of culture help the reader to understand that while white Americans have a culture, it is so ubiquitous, we are often naive to what aspects of life are “cultural” and not just “human” or “the way everyone does it.” When we assume the latter, we get ourselves into trouble.
… as did the counselors in Sue’s examples. I read Sue during my counseling training, and was very impressed and humbled by the assumptions I had formerly been making about cultural differences. At the same time, it is easy to get overwhelmed with all the nuances. I despair of not being able to “get it right” with each individual and their culture, and worry that I may make the types of mistakes those MFT counselors made. In addition, I recognize that levels of assimilation and uniquenesses of each individual life experience can create even more nuances. So even if I knew how “most people” from a particular culture may behave, I am still making assumptions if I treat them like “most people” from their culture, rather than assessing individually what their values, beliefs, and priorities are. I teach employees at my hospital that we can’t all be experts on every culture and religion, but we can always be respectful and humble in our approach. Not making assumptions seems the most important place to start.
August 25, 2019 at 7:34 pm #5255
Mike, that’s wonderful that you and the author were so closely aligned with the best approaches to take with these scenarios (the Martinez family and Carmen and Esteban). I’m not sure I would be able to recognize all the potential barriers and differences. While some of the offences fairly shouted out at me (especially the classism), other aspects of the culture were not as readily on my radar when I read through the scenarios.
I also struggled with determining exactly which interventions would be best with Carmen and Esteban. Obviously, the therapist got in the way with her own set of values. The best I came up with was helping both parties identify their values, and helping them identify what values they shared and which values they diverged on, so that they could determine with each other how and how much they were willing to make concessions to make their marriage work. The outcome may or may not have been the same, but I think that approach would at least be a little “cleaner” and more respectful of both parties in the room.
August 25, 2019 at 7:41 pm #5258
I loved the video about the creative way to use one’s difference to one’s advantage! That was very clever.
I also really appreciated the starkness of Table 8.1 in Sue’s chapter, that showed how differently white middle-class America is from many other subgroups (presumably not only in the US, but across the globe). How arrogant it is to assume that we are so “advanced” with our future-focused time orientation, our mastery over our environment, and our individualistic ideals. So important to realize it is not more advanced, just different. The two are not necessarily connected.
I will have an opportunity to put some of these assumptions to the test in October when I am scheduled to do some volunteer work in Costa Rica for three weeks. Nothing like being the stranger in someone else’s culture to wake us up to all of our own assumptions.
August 26, 2019 at 12:59 pm #5260
Melanie, I had a wakeup call about the white culture being so prominent and overpowering of all others. I have taken it for granted and have needed to walk in somebody else’s shoes to become more sensitized in caring for other people. I agree the video clips have been great and have re-sensitized me to be more empathetic toward people who are not like me. For me the focus in on the person as an individual who has a culture etc. Culture influences who the person is, while at the same time, the person may or may not struggle with that.
I agree with what you said with regards to Carmen and Esteban, at some point they need to work at making their relationship work if they want it to. Which is more important – following cultural norms or their marriage? In Genesis God says, “the humans leave their parents and cling to their spouse.” (My interpretation of the verse) When all is said and done, I agree with you, we are to be “more respectful of the parties in the room,” because they have to live with what works for them.
I hope your visit and work in Costa Rica goes well. Our family visited there a few years ago. It opened our eyes, being the ones who were out of place – yes very humbling. I thought the people were more respectful of us being out of place and were very helpful in our adjusting than I have seen white Americans be toward people who are not.
August 26, 2019 at 7:19 pm #5262
Mike, I like your comment “Culture influences who the person is, while at the same time, the person may or may not struggle with that.” I think that is a big part of what I was trying to get at.
I’m also impressed that people cross cultural norms all the time in romantic and marital relationships, and they often find ways to make them work. Even in my marriage, –one person from a (slightly) more privileged background than the other, and one raised in New England while the other was raised in the Southeast–cultural norms can get in the way and make communication and relationships more challenging. But they also can add spice and beauty and depth to a relationship when we are willing to work on them. That’s one of the lessons I have learned from working with and developing connections with truly mixed-culture couples. For example, I have a friend, an African American woman, who is married to an African man. Their cultural distinctions are actually quite pronounced and have been threatening the solidity of their relationship quite a bit. But then another couple who are from different countries and different races are finding great comfort and connection through their differences. I believe so many factors come into play–personality development, feelings of safety and comfortability, openness to change … it isn’t just about the cultural diversity. But if the care professional misses those “big” pieces of the puzzle, there’s not much chance she’s going to hit it right on all the other nuances!
The closer it gets to my trip overseas, the more nervous I find myself feeling. I’m really really looking forward to it, and also really anxious about finding my way and establishing connection in a foreign country. Should be interesting!
August 26, 2019 at 7:56 pm #5264
I too wish you well in Costa Rica!
I love the video. Even though I have been exposed to deaf culture (they taught me ASL) there are still many things I will not understand because I am not deaf. But keeping them in mind helps. When over seas, I have seen the results of “ugly Americans”. One time in Morocco, some Moroccons mentioned their past experience with “nasty” Americans, but then got confused when we as a large (church) group didn’t act like that. Opening eyes can be good or bad, but with proper attitude – can all turn out to be good.
Melanie – great point that we are not so much more advanced than others but just different.
Michael – you picked up on the right idea that we can shut down people without knowing it, especially if we do not try to understand the other. Thus using our curiosity is crucial (seen next section).
Also Melanie, it is easy to be overwhelmed but trying to get it right all the time with every person. I would posit that what is more important is attitude. As someone who is constantly confused with Mexican, I do forgive a patient easier if that patient is humble and trying to be sensitive, vs someone who once told me “I don’t want no damn Mexican in MY HOUSE!” I notice that people excuse my poor use of grammar or vocabulary when I sign or speak (poor) Spanish. For them, at least I am trying and showing an interest to meet someone half way with respect. Respect and trying goes so much further than getting it perfect (at least that is what I am told).
August 28, 2019 at 8:43 am #5276
Melanie, I too struggle with missing “those big pieces.” I do not want to offend somebody and miss the opportunity to provide care for them. I have found a simple introduction with a smile works for me – “Hi, I’m Mike the Chaplain here and I came by to see how you are doing and if I may help you in any way.” From there, I leave myself open to hear their story if they invite me to stay. This is tough when there is a language barrier.
Sometimes I wonder if I am being over conscious to show people I am trying not to be offensive – that I am wanting have a relationship and learn about them. When I have been at gatherings where people from other cultures (people different from me) are the majority, I have felt a genuine care and respect for me “the outsider.” I hope I give people the same feeling. For me, if we begin with treating each other with human decency, the rest will work out.
I agree Jose, “respect goes so much further than getting it perfect”. For me, trying shows a willingness to learn and have a relationship. I have only been to Costa Rica and London out side the U.S. and have found people in both places to be more respectful and gracious than Americans.
August 28, 2019 at 7:20 pm #5285
Michael, your attitude is fantastic! That is what others want. We can all make room for forgiveness for those who are truly willing to learn. And we all should know that we all need to learn all the time. And as a chaplain, we are to be present and open to all people of all faiths, traditions, spiritualities, and cultures. You would have been a great influence and teacher to my former CPE students.
Melanie, you bring in another example of cultural differences that many who even teach on this topic forget: economic/class cultures. The cultural values and thinking are so different between, say, upper middle class and poverty. On another point, Melanie, my wife also comes from the south while I am at least am bi-cultural from the mid-west and Florida. We have been married 30 years now, and just recently we had to have a cultural conversation of what “a couple of minutes” means!
September 3, 2019 at 4:43 pm #5302
BTW – Melanie I was raised in a bi-cultural home. My folks did not get along for years at times. My mother had no interest in getting to understand my father’s Filipino culture. My father had no choice but to understand American culture. I am in a great marriage with a wonderful woman who did the opposite – she took effect and time to try to understand my Filipino (and even Cherokee) backgrounds with acceptance. She even tried to cook Nelaga, a Tagalog Filipno dish (I am of the Tagalong tribe). Attitude and an open mind does wonders. I too have taken some time and open mind to understand my wife’s Southern cultural background. Through this relationship, we have learned to appreciate the other’s culture and become more sensitive to the micro-aggressions against both.
(again my apologies for my lateness – more internet problems)
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