Tag Archives: diversity

Breathing New Life into Your Dead, White Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories Course

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Artwork by Rita Sommers-Flanagan**

On April 18 at 1:00p.m. EST, I’ll be doing a Wiley Webinar. This webinar is free, and especially geared toward academics who want to expand their repertoire for teaching counseling and psychotherapy theories. Because this webinar is sponsored by my publisher, John Wiley & Sons, there will be some minor marketing of my textbook, Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice (3rd ed.). However, you can attend this webinar regardless of the textbook you use. My goal is to help open all of us up to how we can integrate new ideas into existing “older” theoretical perspectives.

Here’s the link to register: https://www.wileyplus.com/wiley-webinar-series/#john-sommers-flanagan

And here’s the official blurb for the webinar:

Teaching traditional counseling and psychotherapy theories courses can feel dull and boring. In this webinar session, John Sommers-Flanagan will share pedagogical strategies for integrating culture into theory, and engaging students with here-now activities that bring the dusty old theories to life. This webinar will include specific recommendations for how to integrate culture and feminist ideas into traditional theories. Learning activities will be demonstrated, including: (a) early intercultural memories; (b) sex, feminism, and psychoanalytic defense mechanisms; (c) empowered narrative storytelling; and (d) spiritual and behavioral forms of relaxation. Handouts for each activity will be available later on this blogsite.

Beyond this short description, I also want to acknowledge the obvious. As a living White person who writes about, teaches, and practices theory-based counseling and psychotherapy, I know that my ability to claim expertise in making cultural adaptations is limited. I don’t want to be the expert on this (or most things). The purpose of this webinar is NOT to “tell” anyone exactly what diversity modifications “should” be made when teaching counseling and psychotherapy theories. Instead, my purpose is to talk about and illustrate ways in which new diversity-sensitive ideas might be creatively integrated into old theoretical perspectives. From there . . . the application of these and your own ideas about how to breathe new life into old theories is up to you and your unique personal and professional worldview.

Given this big preceding caveat, the webinar’s learner objectives are to help participants:

  • Identify compatibilities of culture, spirituality, and feminist thought with traditional counseling and psychotherapy theories
  • Implement an intercultural memory activity with large or small groups
  • Implement and discuss diverse sexualities along with psychoanalytic defense mechanisms
  • Implement a multicultural empowered storytelling strategy
  • Implement and debrief spiritual and behavioral integrations to achieve relaxation

Soon (right around 4/18/19) I’ll be posting more information related to this webinar. In the meantime, let me know your thoughts on this topic. As always, I value alternative perspectives and enjoy hearing your reactions to the posts on this blog.

The Psychology of Evidence-Based Haiku and Freedom (#WordsMatter)

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“Words were originally magic.” At least that’s what Freud said.

Freud, Captain America, and most sentient humans and cartoon characters who haven’t sold their souls, would likely agree that restricting words and language constricts human creativity and potential.

The White House is trying to ban the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) from using specific words. Not long ago, a five-year-old I know used the F-word. I put him in time-out. In this case, the CDC will get put in time-out for using the words “evidence-based” or “vulnerable.” Who does that?

It’s hard to find words to describe people who would restrict words, especially the words needed to report scientific findings. Ironically, for this government: Hate speech is fine. Pornography is no problem. Sexist language designed to demean is something you should grab onto and never say you’re sorry about. This is not a government that promotes family values.

Thou shalt not say: “transgender” or “entitlement.”

Who can use words to prohibit words? That’s a narcissistic megalomaniac fantasy.

Government repression of free speech has inspired me to reflect on the power of words. This reflection somehow led me East, into a temporary preoccupation with Haiku. The impulse to create Haiku with forbidden CDC words was irresistible.

Thou shalt not speak truth

Totalitarians shout

No science for you!

Once upon a time, we the people, formed a more perfect union. The purpose of said union was predominately to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For many, happiness happens when freedom includes science and a recognition that the CDC, being a government agency, is funded by me and you and, by design, is all about protecting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This made me think of Dr. Suess.

The White House is not the boss of me.

The White House is not the boss of the CDC.

The White House should not tell

Its citizens to go to hell.

We will free our words and use our actions.

To remove the man and all his factions.

I could understand the White House restricting use of the “F-word” or the “C-word.” But now the CDC isn’t supposed to use the word “diversity?” That’s a perversely impressive expression of totalitarian suppression. However, as with most totalitarian expressions, it misunderestimates (in honor of George W. Bush) a basic Haiku-truth.

Vulnerable white

Presidents must obey all

Science-based facts

There’s a robust psychological principle called reactance. In case you wondered, reactance is evidence-based. Reactance is resistance that naturally occurs when behavioral freedoms are threatened. What usually happens is: (a) Freedoms are threatened, (b) motivational arousal occurs, (c) efforts are made to restore threatened freedoms. This means we push back to affirm or re-affirm, our freedom. In honor of reactance, here’s a two-part 5-7-5 Haiku:

I: An entitled

Totalitarian once

Said: Shut the fuck up

II: Instead, we use words

To resist the regime that

Seeks devolution

Haiku can have spiritual dimensions. It requires slowing down, counting syllables, and ending a story near the beginning. There are several famous Zen Haiku poems. None of which are included here among my amateurish Haiku attempts.

This brings me to this blog’s end, which is also only the beginning of something else. To close, I offer a progressive Christian Haiku prayer for freedom:

Dear Lord Jesus, may

I kneel and say transgender?

Yes, my love, you may.

Counseling Culturally Diverse Youth: Research-Based and Common Sense Tips

This is a rough preview of a section from the 6th edition Clinical Interviewing. As always, your thoughts and feedback are welcome.

Counseling Culturally Diverse Youth: Research-Based and Common Sense Tips

Research on how to practice with culturally diverse youth is especially sparse. To make matters more complex, youth culture is already substantially different from adult culture. This means that if you’re different from young clients on traditional minority variables, you’ll be experiencing a double dose of the cultural divide. These complications led one writer to title an article “A knot in the gut” to describe the palpable transference and countertransference that can arise when working with race, ethnicity, and social class in adolescents (Levy-Warren, 2014).

To help reduce the size of the knot in your gut, we’ve developed a simple research- and common-sense list to guide your work with culturally diverse youth (Bhola & Kapur, 2013; Norton, 2011; Shirk, Karver, & Brown, 2011; Villalba, 2007):

1. Use the interpersonal skills (e.g., empathy, genuineness, respect) that are known to work well with adult minority group members. Keep in mind that interpersonal respect is an especially salient driver in smoothing out intercultural relationships.

2. Find ways to show genuine interest in your young clients, while also focusing on their assets or strengths.

3. Treat the meeting, greeting, and first session with freshness and eagerness. There’s evidence that young clients find less experienced therapists easier to form an alliance with.

4. Use a genuine and clear purpose statement. It should capture your “raison d’etre” (your reason for being in the room). We like a purpose statement that’s direct and has intrinsic limits built in. For example: “My goal is to help you achieve your goals . . . just as long as your goals are legal and healthy.” One nice thing about this purpose statement is that sometimes young clients think the “legal and healthy” limitations are funny.

5. Don’t use a standardized approach to always talking with youth about your cultural differences. Instead, wait for an opening that naturally springs up from your interactions. For example, when a teen says something like, “I don’t think you get what I’m saying” it’s a natural opening to talk about how you probably don’t get what the youth is saying. Then you can discuss some of your differences as well as you’re desire to understand as much as you can. For example: “You’re right. I probably don’t get you very well. It’s obvious that I’m way older than you and I’m not a Native American. But I’d like to understand you better and I hope you’ll be willing to help me understand you better. Then, in the end, you can tell me how much I get you and how much I don’t get you.”

6. Provide clear explanations of your procedure and rationale and then linger on those explanations as needed. If young clients don’t understand the point of what you’re doing, they’re less likely to engage.

7. Be patient with your clients; research with young clients and diverse clients indicate that alliance-building (and trust) takes extra time and won’t necessarily happen during an initial session

8. Be patient with yourself; it may take time for you to feel empathy for young clients who engage in behaviors outside your comfort zone (e.g., cutting)

I hope these ideas can help you make connections with youth from other cultures. The BIG summary is to BE GENUINE and BE RESPECTFUL. Nearly everything else flows from there.

Psychic Communications . . . and Cultural Differences in Mental Status

You may or may not have noticed that I haven’t posted anything on this blog in the past 10 days or so. This is because I’ve been experimenting with my telepathic (psychic) communication abilities. As it turns out, my telepathy skills aren’t as refined as I wish they were and so instead of any specific communications from me, receivers have only experienced warm and fuzzy positive sensations. And so if you experienced anything positive like that over the past ten days, it probably means I was thinking of you and trying to psychically send you some pleasant holiday wishes.

Below please find another installment in my intermittent Mental Status Examination series. This posting includes an activity you can use yourself or with a class to facilitate a discussion (with yourself or among class members) about cultural differences in mental status.

Happy New Year! and Happy Mental Statusing!!

Cultural Differences in Mental Status

Part One: Cultural norms must be considered when evaluating mental status. In the following Table, read through the MSE category, the MSE observation, and then contemplate the “invalid conclusion” along with the “explanation.” The purpose of this activity is to illustrate how cultural background and context can affect the meaning of specific client symptoms.

Category Observation Invalid Conclusion Explanation
Appearance Numerous tattoos and piercings Antisocial tendencies Comes from region or area or subculture where tattoos and piercings are the norm
Behavior/psychomotor activity Eyes downcast Depressive symptom Culturally appropriate eye-contact
Attitude toward examiner Uncooperative and hostile Oppositional-defiant or personality disorder Has had abusive experiences from dominant culture
Affect and mood No affect linked to son’s death Inappropriately constricted affect Expression of emotion about death is unaccepted in client’s culture
Speech and thought Fragmented and nearly incoherent speech Possible psychosis Speaks English as third language and is under extreme stress
Perceptual disturbances Reports visions Psychotic symptom Visions are consistent with Native culture
Orientation and consciousness Inability to recall three objects or do serial sevens Attention deficit or intoxication Misunderstands questions due to language problem
Memory and intelligence Cannot recall past presidents Memory impairment Immigrant status
Reliability, judgment, and insight Lies about personal history Poor reliability Does not trust White interviewer from dominant culture

Part Two: For each category addressed in a traditional MSE, try to think of cultures that would behave very differently but still be within “normal” parameters for their cultural or racial group. Examples include differences in cultural manifestations of grief, stress, humiliation, or trauma. In addition, persons from minority cultures who have recently been displaced may display confusion, fear, distrust, or resistance that is entirely appropriate to their situation.

Work with a partner to generate possible MSE observations, in addition to those listed in Part One of this Multicultural Highlight and using the Table below, that might lead you to an inappropriate and invalid conclusion regarding client mental status.

Category Observation Invalid Conclusion Explanation
       
       
       

This Table is adapted from the text, Clinical Interviewing, by John and Rita Sommers-Flanagan: http://www.amazon.com/Clinical-Interviewing-2012-2013-John-Sommers-Flanagan/dp/1118390113/ref=la_B0030LK6NM_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1357167677&sr=1-1