Mental health is something that many people across the country need help with. Problems with mental health are not limited to one community or one section of society. The sad truth about these types of conditions is that they can impact anyone, from any background.
With this in mind, key developments in contemporary mental health counseling have been the concepts of diversity and cultural competency. Both of these things are not only crucial for the future of counseling, but also essential for anyone thinking of working as a mental health counselor to understand.
But what are cultural competency and diversity in this industry, and why are they so important?
What are cultural competency and diversity in mental health counseling?
Diversity in this sector relates to people from all backgrounds, cultures and communities being able to get the help they need. It involves the sector making high-quality mental health counseling available to all who require it and accessible to a diverse range of people in society.
Diversity in mental health counseling can also touch on the industry itself being fully inclusive in terms of the people who work in it. This involves both diversity within higher education for aspiring counselors, and diversity within the workforce.
Cultural competency, on the other hand, is more about qualified counselors in the sector dealing with clients in a manner that is appropriate for their culture. As with diversity, cultural competence in mental health counseling can also relate to the profession itself and involve people behaving in a culturally sensitive way around colleagues.
How can mental health counselors learn about cultural competency and diversity?
There is no doubt that both cultural competency and diversity are central to success for any modern-day mental health counselor. Being able to show both of these qualities is something that employers and clients will value.
One of the best ways to go about developing knowledge in these fields is through higher education on an academic course aimed at training mental health counselors. The online Masters Clinical Mental Health Counseling from American International College is a popular choice and a program that helps students pick up the advanced knowledge required.
Why is diversity crucial in the mental health counseling sector?
Diversity is important in the mental health counseling industry because it means that the sector itself represents modern day society and is fit for purpose. A more diverse counseling sector also means that anyone who needs mental health support can access it and there is no discrimination around who is able to get expert help. This leads to not only a fairer counseling sector but also a fairer society overall.
Diversity can prove key in terms of people feeling comfortable with engaging the counseling industry for help. People from across all sections of society are more likely to seek assistance from a diverse industry which they feel a connection with and are welcomed into. Mental health among the deaf community, for example, may get a boost from the counseling industry making more efforts to provide help in ways deaf people can access or having more deaf counselors employed.
Importance of cultural competence in mental health counseling
There are some very good reasons why being culturally sensitive is vital for counselors in this field. To begin with, taking this approach allows them to connect with clients in a way they value, and builds trust with them. It can also avoid counselors causing offense with culturally ignorant behavior. Both of these things can prove key in helping clients open up more to counseling professionals and access more effective support.
Cultural competency is also important for counselors in mental health because it allows them to fully grasp any cultural causes for the issues a client is experiencing. For example, the pressure of being expected to act in a specific way within a certain culture might bring on depression or anxiety. If a counselor understands this properly through being culturally aware, they can more effectively tackle the root of the problem.
Focusing on this key part of counseling is also important for those working in the industry. This is because cultural competency allows counselors to build better bonds with colleagues from across society and a tighter bond to form between teams.
Top strategies for encouraging diversity in mental health counseling
As we have already noted, picking up advanced knowledge around cultural competency and diversity through higher education is the best strategy counselors can follow in this regard. But what other strategies are worth thinking about once qualified?
In terms of promoting diversity in mental health practice, organizations in the sector should always remember to strive for a truly diverse workforce which represents the area they serve. They should also make their facility a kind place to work which is welcoming to professionals from all backgrounds.
Mental health counselors specifically can promote diversity through being open to working with people from a variety of communities and offering the best support to all clients from all backgrounds. They could also engage with underserved local communities to ensure they help a more diverse range of people.
Consider clients’ culture
When it comes to cultural competency, a good strategy for counselors to follow is simply remembering to treat clients as individuals and take their cultural background into account when providing support. This is essential so that counselors can act in a way that is culturally sensitive to the client.
For counseling practices/facilities in general, it is important to not display any signage that could offend a certain community and provide facilities that people from certain backgrounds may value (such as somewhere private to pray for Muslim clients).
Cultural competency and diversity in counseling is key
The above clearly shows not only how vital both these things are in the contemporary mental health counseling sector but also some great tips for promoting them. By focusing on this, professionals in the industry are able to build a fairer, more inclusive, and more culturally sensitive place for all.