Multicultural Therapy Over Time
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Multicultural Therapy Over Time, Melba J. T. Vasquez demonstrates this important and influential model, one that has recently infused a number of approaches to psychotherapy. Multicultural therapy takes into consideration racial and ethnic diversity as well as diversity in spirituality, sexual orientation, disabilities, and class, and the potential cultural bias of practitioners. Although there is no single multicultural therapy, multicultural theory has influenced many approaches to be more sensitive to the history of the oppressed and marginalized, acculturation issues, and the politics of power.
Dr. Vasquez demonstrates her own approach, which contains three elements:
- cultural sensitivity (an awareness and appreciation of human cultural diversity)
- cultural knowledge (including factual information about cultural variation)
- cultural empathy (the ability to connect emotionally with the patient's cultural perspective)
In this approach, one must make decisions about when and how a person's problems relate to or are mediated by cultural factors, as not every problem is necessarily related to or best treated by emphasizing culture.
In this DVD, Dr. Vasquez works with a 27-year old woman whose husband has been abusive physically and emotionally. The client is Native American, but was adopted by a White European American family when she was an infant; however, she is highly interested in her birth family and Native heritage. The client wishes to end her marriage, but she feels trapped in her current situation because she has only a high school diploma and few skills. Dr. Vasquez works with the client over the course of six sessions to help increase her sense of empowerment so that she is able to take control of her life.
Dr. Vasquez's work with the client in this video illustrates multicultural therapy in that it focuses on the client's environmental experience in regard to how society and members of society respond to her appearance as a Native person, to her gender as a woman, and to her as an individual with minimal education, credentials, or financial status (i.e., class).
The primary goals of therapy include emphasizing her strengths and resilience and helping empower her by supporting and encouraging daily steps that contribute to her sense of success and accomplishment. These include exploring her Native heritage, maintaining a viable job and income, and seeking additional opportunities to develop more skills.
Viewers may note that this approach is similar to feminist approaches. A related goal is to maintain a general stance of care, respect, authenticity, compassion, and genuineness. Although this specific way of relating varies according to client characteristics, therapist characteristics, and nature of the problem, it is important to develop a strong alliance based on trust.
Melba Vasquez, PhD, ABPP, is a psychologist in independent practice in Austin, Texas. She publishes widely in the areas of ethics in psychotherapy, ethnic minority psychology, psychology of women, and training and supervision. She is coauthor, with Ken Pope, of Ethics in Psychotherapy & Counseling: A Practical Guide (2007, 3rd edition) and How to Survive and Thrive as a Therapist: Information, Ideas and Resources for Psychologists in Practice (2005).
She has served as president of the Texas Psychological Association, and president of Divisions 35 (Society of Psychology of Women) and 17 (Society of Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (APA) and as member of the APA Board of Directors. She is a fellow of the APA and holds the diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology. She is a cofounder of APA Division 45 (Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues), and of the National Multicultural Conference and Summit.
- Ponterotto, J. G., Casas, J. M., Suzuki, L. A., & Alexander, C. M. (2001). Handbook on multicultural counseling III. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
- Tseng, W. S., & Streltzer, J. (Eds.). (2004). Cultural competence in clinical psychiatry (Core competencies in psychotherapy). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
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