Tag Archives: Multiculturalism & Diversity

Exchanging ideas, forging friendships

By Bethany Bray April 29, 2015

Singapore Web Header_1

Coming on the heels of its successful annual conference and expo in March in Orlando, Florida, the American Counseling Association is turning its attention to another conference in a tropical locale. This one, however, will be across an ocean.

The inaugural American Counseling Association-Asia Pacific Counseling Conference 2015, or ACA-APCC 2015, will be held June 18-19 in Singapore. According to ACA President Robert L. Smith, ACA leadership organized the event to support and collaborate with professional counterparts in Asia. He calls ACA’s international conference a forum for “reciprocal learning.”

“By reaching out internationally, ACA can learn from our neighbors and provide appropriate services and resources where needed,” says Smith, a professor and chair of the Counseling and Educational Psychology Department at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. “My hope is that the conference in Singapore and future [events] across the globe will expand our thinking about counseling, while at the same time bring us all closer together as we provide services to individuals, couples and families.”

Samuel T. Gladding will be among the small contingent of ACA leaders traveling to Singapore next month for ACA-APCC 2015. Gladding, a past president of ACA and a well-known counselor educator, will deliver the conference keynote address, but he says he’s equally eager to learn from the conference’s attendees.

“Often we think of counseling as an American phenomenon. To do so is not only incorrect but also culturally insensitive,” says Gladding, a professor in the Department of Counseling at Wake Forest University. “We, as American counselors, need to expand our knowledge and our sensitivity that others outside of our borders have much to teach us and that we can, in turn, teach them some things too. It is a two-way street. I am anxious to learn more from those who attend the conference as well as to share my knowledge. I hope, and I think, that this conference is the beginning of a movement for the American Counseling Association and American counselors to become more global and aware of counseling around the world and how it is practiced.”

ACA-APCC 2015 will be ACA’s first conference in Singapore. The two-day event will be held at the Suntec Conference Centre in Suntec City. In addition to Gladding and Smith, ACA CEO Richard Yep, ACA President-elect Thelma Duffey and ACA Chief Professional Officer David Kaplan will attend on behalf of ACA.

Jeffrey Po, a counselling psychotherapist in private practice in Singapore, will be leading a session titled “Spiritual Meditative Practices by Offenders: Decreasing the Chances of Relapse.” Abigail Lee, executive director of a private counseling and consulting practice in Singapore, will lead a session titled “Establishing the Sense of Safety for Clients Through the Creative Arts.

Po is founder and past president of the Association of Psychotherapists and Counsellors in PoAndLeeSingapore; Lee is the association’s current vice president.

“Our core faculty, as well as professional counselors and researchers from Asia, will make this a very rich and rewarding experience for all who attend,” Yep says. “As attendees from the U.S. and Asia explore both similarities and differences, we are certain to come away with a better understanding of working cross-culturally.”

ACA members have been involved in cross-cultural experiences, such as teaching or working abroad, for decades, Smith notes. He says the Singapore conference came together this year because the ACA leadership decided the time was right to organize an international conference.

“The ACA-Asia Pacific Counseling Conference in Singapore is our first event in support of the [ACA] Governing Council’s objective to work collaboratively with their colleagues outside of the U.S.,” Yep explains. “By working with our counterparts in Singapore and being culturally respectful of the work being done by counselors in that country, we hope to enhance our relationship with those doing such important work in communities around the world.”

“One of ACA’s initiatives is to support international counseling communities, and by holding this conference, we have an opportunity to learn more about the needs and practices of counselors in the Asia Pacific area,” says Duffey, a professor and chair of the Department of Counseling at the University of Texas at San Antonio. “We also have an opportunity to broaden our own understanding of counseling from an Asian Pacific perspective. I look forward to participating in a forum where counselors from different cultures share theory, methodologies and practical experiences with one another.”

The theme of ACA-APCC 2015 is “Being an Effective and Resilient Counselor.” Gladding says his keynote will focus on the qualities of competent and effective counselors, and how these qualities stretch across cultures. “What do we share in our perspectives about what a counselor should be, and what can we learn from one another that transcends cultures and helps clients?” he asks.

Gladding is hopeful the conference will start a dialogue between American and Asian counselors — a living example of multicultural and cross-cultural counseling. “Such a dialogue can only be beneficial in promoting better understanding of one another and theories that work well with different population groups,” he says. “I think, through this conference, there will be an interchange that will spark ideas that have an opportunity to enrich us all.”

Gladding has previously spent time as a Fulbright specialist in China and has spoken at conferences, led workshops and worked closely with universities in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. He notes that professional counseling is practiced and taught at the university level in more than 40 countries worldwide.

“I know counselors on each side of the world can learn much from each other,” Gladding says. “I write a lot about group work and participate in a lot of groups. What I sometimes think will happen and what actually happens in a group, such as a conference, often catches me by surprise. I am ready to be surprised, and I think everyone involved in the [ACA-APCC 2015] conference is ready too. The unfolding of the stories that come from this event are waiting to happen — and they will.”

Visit the website at aca-apcc2015.org for more information.






Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org

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Behind the book: Counseling for Multiculturalism and Social Justice

By Bethany Bray April 3, 2015

The need for counselors to acknowledge and combine multiculturalism with social justice “cannot be overstated,” according to counselor educators and authors Manivong Ratts and Paul Pedersen.

The two perspectives go hand-in-hand; counselors who don’t fully understand both can unintentionally harm their clients, Ratts and Pedersen write in the new edition of their book, 78088Counseling for Multiculturalism and Social Justice.

“Counselors can choose either to ignore the influence of culture and oppression or to address it head on,” write Ratts and Pedersen in the book’s introduction. “Multiculturalism and social justice are too often classified as secondary or tertiary prevention approaches. It is something that counselors do if they have time for it, or it is something that is superficially added to an already established theory or practice. This attitude and antiquated way of thinking does nothing but hinder the profession and our clients. Some counselors will become so frustrated by their inability to connect with individuals from oppressed groups that they will blame their lack of multicultural and social justice competence on the clients themselves.”

Incorporating multicultural and social justice practices requires a change in perspective and may take counselors outside of their comfort zones. For instance, in some cases, Ratts says counselors can better serve their clients – and understand their cultural context – by getting out of the office and straying from traditional one-on-one interventions.

The American Counseling Association released Ratts and Pedersen’s book, the fourth edition of a title previously known as A Handbook for Developing Multicultural Awareness, in 2014. The revised, updated edition includes chapters on counseling multiracial, LGBTQ, transgender, low-income and minority clients, as well as those with differing spiritual perspectives.


Q+A: Counseling for Multiculturalism and Social Justice

Responses by co-author Manivong Ratts


In the book’s introduction, you make the statement “multiculturalism and social justice go hand in hand.” How so — can you elaborate?

There is a symbiotic relationship that exists between multiculturalism and social justice in that each perspective influences the other. Multiculturalism allows counselors to see issues of oppression, and social justice allows counselors to address issues of oppression impacting clients. I also believe that multiculturalism leads to social justice. Multiculturalism brings attention to the need for counselors to see clients in context of their culture and environment. When this occurs counselors are able to see firsthand how issues of equity contribute to psychological stress. This insight leads counselors to realize the importance of social justice advocacy in addressing the social, political and economic conditions that influence client development.

Social justice advocacy is also enhanced when counselors possess multicultural competence. Multiculturalism allows counselors to tailor social advocacy interventions to align with clients’ cultural background and worldviews. When counselors are able to use multiculturally relevant interventions in their social justice work it leads to ethical and culturally relevant interventions that align with clients’ cultural background.

This book accentuates the very best from the multicultural counseling and social justice counseling perspectives. Identifying the strengths from the multicultural and social justice paradigms increases the potential impact counselors can have on individuals and society.


Why do you feel this is important for counselors to focus on?

It is critical that all counselors ground their practice in multiculturalism and social justice. The myriad of problems clients present today requires that counselors be multiculturally and social justice competent. Both clients and counselors bring to the therapeutic relationship their own cultural values, beliefs and biases. It is important to be attentive to this in order to provide culturally congruent counseling. Further complicating matters is that clients also bring to counseling issues that can either be biologically, psychologically and/or sociologically based. To this end, counselors need to focus on whether it is in a client’s best interest to provide office-based work or out-of-office based work. Using individual counseling to resolve systemic based issues will go only so far. For this reason, counselors need to expand their idea of what is possible by also incorporating social justice advocacy into their work with clients. By social justice advocacy I’m not referring to calling agencies from the comfort of one’s office setting on a client’s behalf. While this is important it doesn’t always get at the root of a client’s problem. Sometimes counselors need to step out of the comfort of one’s office setting and intervene at the community level to alter environmental barriers that are an impediment to client progress. This type of approach means that one week a counselor could be working with a client providing traditional counseling and the next week be working in the community with a client to resolve an systemic issue that is causing the client psychological stress.

Counselors who operate absent of multicultural and social justice risk harming clients and practicing in an unethical manner. For instance, counselors who do not consider issues of multiculturalism with their clients may perceive cultural attitudes and behaviors to stress as deviations instead of a variation of society. In turn, this may lead to misdiagnosing what is cultural as a mental disorder. Similarly, counselors who fail to incorporate social justice in their work will find that what they are able to do is limited. For example, they will find that helping clients gain insight will only go so far in that it doesn’t change the systemic barriers that contribute to client problems. As a result, clients may become frustrated with the counseling they are receiving. This frustration may lead clients to appear unmotivated or to jump from one counselor to the next in search of a counselor who will attend to the root of their problems. When this occurs counselors may perceive this as the client being resistant to change. In other words, blame is placed on the client instead of on the counselor.


Do you feel some counselors have misconceptions about the connection between multiculturalism and social justice, or don’t see a connection at all?

Multiculturalism is about social justice. The work of multicultural counselors and psychologists was really about addressing issues of fairness and equity. However, I don’t think people really separated these two constructs until Counselors for Social Justice (CSJ) was formed as a division of the American Counseling Association (ACA). Many within the multicultural counseling movement believed, and rightfully so, that they were already doing social justice work. So, there were initial questions [about] why an organization such as CSJ was needed. The inception of CSJ has prompted counseling professionals to explore the connections between multiculturalism and social justice in counseling. We see this today in the counseling literature as well as in clinical practice.

Today, I think there is a better understanding of what multiculturalism and social justice entails. However, I’m not sure many really understand what the similarities and distinctions are between these two perspectives in counseling. Being able to understand the overlap and distinctions between multiculturalism and social justice is important in order to further the counseling profession. There is a need to better understand the harmonizing nature between multiculturalism and social justice if we are to address the issues clients bring to counseling. To this end, I believe the next phase in counseling is to connect the multicultural and social justice counseling perspectives into one unifying force. Drawing the very best from the multicultural and social justice perspectives in counseling can empower counselors to be better clinicians for clients and communities. This book attempts to connect multiculturalism and social justice in this way.


From your perspective, what are some ways counselors can incorporate social justice and multiculturalism in their day-to-day work?

In terms of multiculturalism, counselors need to first explore their own cultural values, beliefs and biases. This is a lifelong process that requires self-reflection and carving out time in one’s busy schedule to learn about one’s roots.

Counselors can then explore client’s worldviews and cultural background. This can help counselors to tailor interventions to align with the cultural background and identity of clients. This may require that counselors do things that they are not accustomed to doing and that perhaps their training programs did not adequately prepare for them to do. For example, possessing cross-cultural communication skills can go a long way in developing a strong working alliance with clients. Such skills can help counselors determine how spatial distance, notion of time and eye contact are valued by clients.

With respect to social justice, counselors would do well by assessing whether client problems require individual counseling or advocacy in the community. They can apply social justice into their work with clients by taking the time to explore whether client problems are biologically, psychologically or sociologically based. This approach can help determine whether to intervene on an individual level or to seek changes on a system wide scale. For instance, if clients present with problems that are biologically rooted it can lead to collaboration with medical professionals. If problems are determined to be psychologically based individual counseling may be the best mode of operation. However, if client problems are sociologically based it would mean that services should be focused on altering systemic barriers. This means “counseling sessions” would take place outside the office setting. For instance, a situation could warrant that counselors take a transgender-identified client to the local DMV to explore how to change her gender marker from male to female on her driver’s license. Such advocacy work could strengthen the professional bond between client and counselor. The following week both client and counselor could explore together this experience using individual counseling.

I’m cognizant that it will be difficult to operate from a social justice framework. This approach to counseling is a significant shift in many organizations in which counseling services are primarily office-based. To ask counselors to determine along with clients whether to provide individual counseling or to work in the community setting can cause disruption in organizations that are built around a model where counselors are expected to adhere to traditional counseling practices where clients come to counselors. For some reason this model isn’t seen as controversial in the social work profession. Social workers have embraced community-based work and clinical work. They don’t question whether clinical work should be a part of social work because they realize that working with clients on a clinical level strengthens the work they do on a systems level. Unfortunately, this same belief hasn’t permeated the counseling profession. For example, many counseling professionals still consider advocacy and community-based work to be duties that should be relegated to either social workers or bachelor’s level helping professionals.

Thus, the challenge for today’s helping professional is being able to balance individual counseling with community level advocacy work. Convincing administrators and healthcare organizations that such an approach is in a client’s best interest will be the challenge for many counselors. Most institutions utilize a model where counseling is practiced from an office setting. Unfortunately, this set up does not support counselors who seek to do social justice advocacy work. What this means is that counselors would need to advocate for why social justice advocacy is necessary with peers and administrators.


What do you hope counselors take away from the book?

My hope is that counselors will have a better understanding of the harmonizing nature between multiculturalism and social justice. I also hope that readers will be able take the practical strategies discussed in this book and use them in their work whether they are working in schools, agencies, hospitals or private practice. In addition, we hope that readers will become more multiculturally and social justice competent helping professionals. Developing competence in both areas is critical in order to address the multicultural and equity issues that are often present in counseling.


Do you feel this area is something the field of counseling is improving/making strides in, or is there danger of stagnancy?

I think we have made great strides in the area of multiculturalism and social justice. Yet, there is still much work that needs to be done in this area of counseling. We see the influence of multiculturalism in the new (2014) ACA Code of Ethics. We also see multiculturalism integrated into counseling theories and research practices. These developments have helped to provide counseling professionals with ways to better respond to the cultural needs of clients. The onset of social justice has also sparked the conversation of ways counseling professionals can better respond to systemic barriers impacting client development. These developments are promising and a step in the right direction.

However, the counseling profession continues to be steeped in Eurocentric approaches and counseling services continue to be predominantly office-based. For instance, predominant counseling theories that are intrapsychic-based, such as the psychoanalytic, cognitive-behavioral and existential-humanistic approaches continue to dominate counseling practice. While there have been attempts to integrate multiculturalism into these theories, the primary foundation of these theories continue to reflect Eurocentric beliefs of individualism. For true multiculturalism to take place in counseling, new theories and practices need to take shape that reflects the worldviews and cultural background of the diverse clients we now serve. For instance, every culture uses different healing practices that need to be incorporated into how we serve clients.

Similarly, social justice advocacy continues to be peripheral in the counseling profession. There is pushback from many within the counseling profession who question the relevancy of social justice advocacy in counseling. Part of this stems from the belief that counseling is an office-based profession. This belief leads to a model where clients are expected to come to counselors as opposed to counselors going to where clients reside. Others argue that social justice advocacy is too political. The belief is that counseling is an apolitical process. Therefore, counselors need to be value-neutral in their work with clients. We see this in how counselors continue to be trained in their courses. Unless this changes multiculturalism and social justice will continue to be secondary in the field.


What prompted you to create a fourth edition of this book? What updates or changes will readers see in the new edition?

Unlike most new editions this book was completely re-vamped with a new title. I would say about 80 percent of the book is new content, new chapters and all of the chapters have new titles. This led us to re-title the book from the Handbook of Multicultural Competence to Counseling for Multiculturalism and Social Justice. Given these significant changes I would say this is more so a first edition rather than a fourth edition. However, when we realized this it was too late to change this to make it a new first edition since we were too far into the process. These changes are atypical as most new editions tend to be focused on updated scholarly sources and incorporating new content.

That being said, I was asked by Dr. (Paul) Pedersen to help update his book. It was an honor for me to be asked by Dr. Pedersen given the impact he has, and continues to have, on my professional development. In our initial discussion we discussed the need to update the book to be more in line with the multicultural challenges faced by clients today. As we began to revise the book I felt that there needed to be a more balanced focus on social justice as well. This lead to a re-conceptualization of the book from one that focused solely on developing multicultural competence to one that examines how to integrate multiculturalism and social justice into counseling practice to better serve clients. We felt it was necessary to connect the multicultural and social justice perspectives to provide counselors with knowledge and skills to better address the issues clients experience.


What originally inspired you (and co-author Paul Pedersen) to write this book?

Many people may not realize this when reading the book, but Dr. Pedersen was the person that coined multiculturalism as a fourth force in counseling and psychology. I coined social justice as a fifth force. Having the opportunity to combine these two forces into one complementary approach was something that excited us and what makes this book unique from all other books on multicultural counseling. We believe that combining both perspectives is an area that the field needs to consider because the potential impact that we can have on counselors is promising.




About the authors

Manivong Ratts is an associate professor in the Department of Counseling and School Psychology at Seattle University and is past president of Counselors for Social Justice, a division of ACA.

Paul Pedersen is professor emeritus in the Department of Counseling and Human Services in the School of Education at Syracuse University.




Counseling for Multiculturalism and Social Justice is available from the American Counseling Association bookstore at counseling.org/publications/bookstore or by calling 800-422-2648 x 222.





Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org


Follow Counseling Today on Twitter @ACA_CTonline and on Facebook: facebook.com/CounselingToday

Learning a world away

By Bethany Bray February 17, 2015

Husband-and-wife counselor educators Chris and Hande Briddick recently spent a one-year sabbatical in Turkey, joining the faculty of Bahçeşehir University (BAU).


Chris Briddick, left in blue, and Hande Briddick, partially hidden behind Chris, are pictured with Bahcesehir University faculty at a lunch overlooking the Bosporus, the strait that runs between Asia and Europe.

Although there to teach, the couple says they were in turn taught many things, from the connections forged with colleagues over tea and birthday cake to the thoughtful questions students asked about counseling topics in the classroom.

“How many meaningful, warm and humorous conversations can you have in one year of your life? Turns out it is too many to count,” Chris reflects.

The Briddicks are professors in the South Dakota State University (SDSU) College of Education and Human Sciences. They spent the past academic year teaching at BAU in Istanbul and at a local K-8 school, where they helped develop curriculum and worked with parents and teachers. They also brought their young son, Sinan, who attended a local preschool and learned Turkish over the course of the sabbatical.

Chris is an American Counseling Association member and leader of ACA’s Historical Issues and Counseling Network.

Hande and Chris agree that the experience allowed them to stretch and grow both professionally and personally. Experiencing the counseling profession through the lens of another culture offered an invaluable career highlight.

“The energy level of BAU is very high. It is a very dynamic institution,” says Hande. “BAU is also quite involved in education issues in Turkey. It was wonderful to see how a university can play a

(Left to right) Ilknur Guleryuz, principal of Bahcesehir Preschool Etiler; Hande Sensoy-Briddick; and Naime Demirbas, principal of Bahcesehir Koleji Etiler.

(Left to right) Ilknur Guleryuz, principal of Bahcesehir Preschool Etiler, Hande Briddick and Naime Demirbas, principal of Bahcesehir Koleji Etiler.

significant role in identifying and providing possible solutions to a country’s education system. Being part of a faculty highly involved in these issues was indeed the highlight of my experience there.”

For Chris, an “aha moment” arrived while on a river cruise on the Bosporus, the strait that runs between Asia and Europe, with other scholars as part of the European Educational Research Association conference, which BAU hosted last fall.

“[Hande and I] were working so hard to just get our feet on the ground and to adjust to being in a new setting,” he remembers. “I think it was then [on the cruise] that I realized our experience was not going to be ordinary by any means.”


Counseling Today caught up with the Briddicks to talk about their experience in Turkey and the benefits of work/study abroad. [Click on the photos to see in full size.]


Q+A with Chris and Hande Briddick

How long were you in Turkey, and what type of work were you doing?

Chris: We were in Turkey from July 2013 to July 2014. We served on the faculty of educational sciences at Bahçeşehir University. In addition, we worked with a private kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school (Bahçeşehir Primary School, Etiler Campus) which is associated with the university. We were mainly teaching, consulting and doing a bit of research.

Hande: Similar to our faculty positions here in the States, we taught several courses for their graduate and undergraduate students, did some informal advising, delivered workshops, etc. In addition, the college had a wonderful program called “University Within Schools.” This program allowed the faculty at the college to work closely with Bahçeşehir’s K-12 private schools. Within this program, we were able to spend time in one of Bahçeşehir K-12 schools. We worked closely with the principal and the school’s counselors. We concentrated on developing curriculum and working with students and parents — excellent opportunities for us both personally and professionally.


What made you want to spend your sabbatical in Turkey? How does it connect to your work at SDSU?

Chris: We wanted to do something different for sabbatical, and Turkey offered a great opportunity to experience higher education in a different culture firsthand.

Also, it seemed like a natural extension of [multicultural work] we had already been doing. Hande

Chris Briddick (center, in a black hat) pictured with members of the faculty of Bahcesehir Koleji Etiler at the Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Istanbul.

Chris Briddick (center, in a black hat) pictured with members of the faculty of Bahcesehir Koleji Etiler at the Eyüp Sultan Mosque in Istanbul.

and I have worked with a travel program for seventh- through 12th-grade schoolteachers, funded by the Turkish Cultural Foundation, for several years. I led a study abroad group to Turkey in 2011. We have also worked in support of campus programming related to Turkey and assisted with an excellent library grant to add books on Turkish culture to our university’s library.

Hande: I am from Turkey. I came to the United States in 1994 after receiving a full scholarship from the board of higher education in Turkey (YOK). The scholarship was to complete my master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Kent State University. While writing my dissertation, I accepted a position at South Dakota State University and began working at SDSU in 2002.

Although I love teaching at SDSU, I always dreamed about teaching in Turkey one day. Selçuk Şirin, one of my dear friends and college classmates from my undergraduate days in Turkey, currently works at New York University as an associate professor in applied psychology. He was incredibly helpful in getting us connected with Bahçeşehir University and Bahçeşehir K-12 schools. With his help, we presented our résumés, met with some of the faculty at BAU and were then invited to teach at their university.

To answer your second question, I coordinate the school counseling program here at SDSU. Bahçeşehir University had just opened their school counseling program. It was wonderful to be a part of this new program. In addition, I teach a multicultural counseling course in our department here at SDSU, which I had developed years ago. Consequently, it is not surprising that I am quite attracted to cultural experiences. After 20 years, going back to my home country did prove to be one of the true highlights of my personal and professional life thus far.

Career counseling and guidance are as important in Turkey as it is here in the U.S. I believe that they were interested and excited to hire Chris because of his knowledge, publications and interest in this area.


You spent your time in Turkey teaching. What are some things, in turn, that the students taught you?

Chris: Turkish students have many of the same preoccupations (social media, relationships, culture, music, etc.) as students here in the U.S. Still, I will say my students in Turkey were pretty amazing. I was quite impressed by their global perspective of life in general, including their education, as well as the emphasis on bilingualism.

Hande: It might sound a little cliché but, really, my Turkish students reoriented me to the importance of culture and how it can influence almost everything around us, which includes the way we communicate, the way we dress, the way we establish relationships, the way we teach … Basically, it defines who we are.

It may be too revealing, but in all honesty, my students and colleagues helped me remember who I was when I lived in Turkey years ago. Other international scholars might agree with me in saying that after years of living in a different country, a little bit of who we are is sometimes forgotten. Living in Turkey for a year became an empowering experience for me in this regard. And I owe that to my colleagues there — I consider them my friends now — and to my dear students.


Can you share some highlights or favorite memories from the experience?

Chris: My favorite memories will always be the students, faculty, staff and community colleagues, including our principal and staff at our community school site. They were so committed to education and so driven. I found myself comparing them with our students and colleagues here in the U.S., again realizing the similarities and preoccupations as well as differences. For instance, students in my graduate classes there had the same grit and determination I see in the best graduate students here at home. In a word, brilliant. They were a small group, but I think back fairly often to our discussions and individual conversations. My undergraduate students were much the same way.

And faculty colleagues? How many meaningful, warm, and humorous conversations can you have in one year of your life? Turns out it is too many to count. Getting to spend time in our office or at lunch talking about everything from academics to politics to pop culture to family made for some great moments. Dedicated, kindhearted and highly intellectual individuals, each and every one. One little thing that was indeed memorable was the commitment by our faculty to celebrate birthdays. Every few weeks, work came to a halt and we would all gather around the table in the center of the department and celebrate the birthdays of colleagues with cay (tea), Turkish coffee and cake. It was academic life in balance at its best.

Another memorable moment was when I arrived to give my first final and my students were there early patiently waiting. The classroom erupted into applause. Trust me, it was unwarranted, and I can say without hesitation that has never happened in all my years of teaching. We returned to Istanbul in December 2014 to visit, and we surprised our BAU students who were taking a final that day. When our colleague entered the room, she left the door open and we stepped in. I will never forget the looks on their faces and, frankly, we were a bit overwhelmed with emotion. We had a few minutes to visit before they took their final. It was incredible.

We worked at a private koleji (school) in the community. It was an amazing environment with its own Eko Ev (eco house) and large school garden, both of which served as classrooms at some point for the children. We even had a good selection of farm animals on campus right in the middle of a city of

The Eko Ev (eco house) at Bahçeşehir Primary School, Etiler Campus, in Istanbul.

The Eko Ev (eco house) at Bahçeşehir Primary School, Etiler Campus, in Istanbul.

over 14 million people, so students could better grasp how agriculture impacts their day-to-day lives. Students learned about their history and culture as well as current concepts such as sustainability.

The principal there, Naime Demirbas, was one of the most incredible individuals I have ever met and certainly a visionary leader. One of the highlights of my entire career will be working with her. I cannot count the number of meetings in her office where Hande and I worked side by side with her, watching in amazement how ideas were developed, refined and implemented with such precision and efficiency. One day we had a conversation about the importance of culture and its significance in education. She has a background in history and was quite proactive in making sure her students learned about their culture and history. The next thing I knew, I was being invited along with faculty from the school on a Saturday tour of parts of the city of Istanbul. Not only was it important for students to discover their history and culture, but so too was it important for the faculty, she maintained. Her commitment to the students in the school, the faculty and staff, as well as her progressive, innovative approach to education, will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Hande: It is really hard to choose one or two stories to share, as there are so many of them. I agree with what Chris shared with you. The faculty of educational sciences (at BAU) as well as faculty at Etiler Kolej were very supportive of us as we were making transition from the USA to Turkey and the Turkish [educational] system.

I learned a great deal about the importance of collaboration and professional support. I saw how [it] helped them create an intellectually rich and rewarding academic culture. The productivity within our faculty at BAU was impressive. Each semester they worked together on any number of valuable research projects. In the United States, we tend to place more value on individualism and less on collaboration, which I think results in more competitive academic environments. Both have pros and cons, of course.

BAU and the Bahçeşehir K-12 schools are quite dynamic and open to new ideas. The principal at Bahçeşehir Etiler Campus, Naime Demirbas, and school counselors were very welcoming. They helped us understand their school system and collaborated with us in developing and conducting various small but meaningful projects. For instance, I developed a four-week listening and friendship curriculum and had the privilege to deliver it in classrooms with the school counselors. It was so much fun.

Chris organized a father’s club discussion group for interested fathers with children enrolled in the school. Again, it was very well received. The biggest project that we completed there was a career curriculum for their first- through fourth-graders. The curriculum was published when we were there, but they just started using it in the schools last semester. Knowing that it is being used by Bahçeşehir students is a great pleasure.


Did you find there were major differences in counseling and counselor education between the U.S. and Turkey?

Chris: Yes and no. There is overlap in curriculum, as you might imagine. Interesting contrasts do exist as well. In terms of school counseling, for instance, preparation for entry into that profession is at the bachelor’s level, so university students go into the profession upon graduation. That was different. In addition, gaining admission into counseling programs is highly competitive.

School counseling is offered at the undergraduate level. After completing their four years, which includes an internship, students apply for school counseling positions. There is a significant shortage of school counselors in schools, so the job prospects are very positive. Consequently, many students are eager to enroll in school counseling programs.

Entering university happens through a very competitive national university entrance exam. Students who end up in the program are very academically strong because of the competition. Since it is a

Pictured in the Ekolojik Ev (Eco House) on the Bahcesehir Koleji Eitler campus are (left to right): Hande Briddick; Naime Demirbas, principal of Bacesehir Koleji, Etiler; Dean Jill Thorngren of SDSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences; and Greg Holdeman, spouse of Dean Thorngren.

Pictured in the Ekolojik Ev (Eco House) on the Bahcesehir Koleji Eitler campus are (left to right): Hande Briddick; Naime Demirbas, principal of Bacesehir Koleji, Etiler; Dean Jill Thorngren of SDSU’s College of Education and Human Sciences; and Greg Holdeman, spouse of Dean Thorngren.

four-year degree, students are exposed to a more global perspective. They take courses such as educational psychology, learning theories, exceptional children and families, statistics, current issues in the Turkish education system, etc. I find that when compared with our school counseling programs, they emphasize more education, learning and development rather than mental health issues.


What would you want American counselors to know about your experience?

Chris: Though I have traveled to Turkey numerous times over the years, living there proved to be transformative in ways I am still discovering months down the road. I think any time counselors can find opportunities to work and learn outside their usual environments, it is well worthwhile. Even a short-term experience can be educational beyond imagination. I know the American Counseling Association has made a practice of promoting international travel programs for counselors. I think these should continue.

Hande: I think I would like them to know that international experiences are so valuable that I am ready to do it again. I learned not only about myself but also about American and Turkish culture, if it makes any sense. My Turkish students challenged me in a very different manner. For instance, I did not get the same questions that my students in the USA ask when I teach a topic. I saw a different way of living or existence from what I experience day to day in the U.S. Though I am from Turkey, this experience reminded me of the differences between Turkish culture and the dominant culture here in the U.S. I saw how mental health and wellness were defined differently in terms of what we might think of here.

To summarize, if you would like to challenge yourself in a rather fundamental way, living and working in a different culture is certainly one way to do it.


What advice would you give to counselors who are considering work or study abroad? In your experience, why is it a good thing?

Chris: I would highly recommend it, though I admit it took me a considerable amount of time to re-enter life back home.

Do your homework and consider all options, [both] long and short term. There is a wealth of opportunity for personal growth and learning in these experiences. Sometimes I think a good number of us in the U.S. are quite insular with regard to the rest of the world. Opportunities, large and small, that allow us to share ideas and experience the lives and cultures of others stand to benefit all involved and empower a better understanding of the world that is not so close at hand — a more global perspective, if you will.

Hande: Culture defines everything, including how people will treat you, what you will learn in a class, how you will introduce yourself to your client or students, etc. The challenge is deciphering the culture.

Although I am from Turkey and I had spent my first 23 years in Turkey, it took me at least six months to completely reorient myself to the system there. Here is one example: It is possible that your department chair will ask you at the last minute to teach a class. It is not because they are disorganized but because they are more flexible and would like to accommodate the needs of their students. Of course, you always have the right to say no. If you are going to live in Turkey, you need to be flexible and creative. Some of my colleagues there were a little surprised when I told them that I knew what I would be teaching here in at SDSU about four to six months before the start of the academic year.

It is important to learn about a culture before you visit or stay for an extended period of time. Read books, watch movies and, more importantly, talk with people who are from that culture. It is a good idea to have a short trip to the country before you start living there for a year if at all possible. Experience abroad is invaluable.

From a broader perspective as a person from a culture that highly values interpersonal relationships and family, it has great benefits for other family members. If you have a child, they learn a second or

(Right to left) Hande Sensoy Briddick, Sinan Briddick and Gulseren Sensoy (Hande’s mother) inside the courtyard of Cafer Aga Madrasah which was designed by Mimar Sinan in 1559. The Briddicks named their son after Mimar Sinan, an architect who designed many significant structures in Istanbul.

(Right to left) Hande Sensoy Briddick, Sinan Briddick and Gulseren Sensoy (Hande’s mother) inside the courtyard of Cafer Aga Madrasah, which was designed by Mimar Sinan in 1559. The Briddicks named their son after Mimar Sinan, an architect who designed many significant structures in Istanbul.

third language and make international friends. Being able to live in a different culture challenges them to learn different skills — skills different than those to which they are accustomed, which enhances their resilience. You can end up being much closer as a family. You learn to support each other better and you begin to see each other’s different strengths and appreciate them more.

But I am not trying to say that absolutely everyone should or could work and live abroad. It does have many challenges. If you are up for the challenge and are a little bit — or a lot — inclined toward adventure, then an international experience will likely be an invaluable opportunity for you.




Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org


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Shifting student demographics shine light on need for greater cultural awareness in schools

By Bethany Bray September 29, 2014

This fall marks the first time that there is a statistical “minority majority” in U.S. public schools, with students of color now surpassing the number of white students.

That shift has been happening gradually for a number of years, according to the U.S. Department of Education, which notes that student demographics still vary considerably from state to state and even school to school.

This change in the student population only reinforces the need for school counselors to fully understand, be familiar with and draw upon the culture of their school’s students and the community at large, says Lynn Linde, who chaired the American Counseling Association’s School Counseling Task Force last year.

“Counselors are often the point of contact with parents and the community. They need to be culturally aware and sensitive to the families with whom they work. Different cultures view education backtoschooldifferently,” says Linde, a past president of ACA and the director of clinical experiences in the school counseling program at Loyola University Maryland. “Parents from some cultures view the educators as the experts and leave decisions to them. That does not mean that the parents don’t care, and [it] should not be interpreted as such. Schools have to use multiple approaches to reach out to families and communicate with them. Counselors also need to be sensitive when arranging services for students whose parents may or may not want help. And they may also work with parents who put tremendous pressure on their child to succeed or to engage in activities the parent feels are important but in which the child has little interest.”

The better counselors understand the school’s community and culture, the better they understand what the needs are and how to meet those needs, Linde says.

A minority majority

This fall is projected to be the first time that the overall percentage of white students has dipped below 50 percent in the nation’s public schools. Conversely, enrollment figures for Asian and Hispanic students have greatly increased.

The Pew Research Center, which dissected the Department of Education’s data, explains:

“A steady demographic change over the years has resulted in a decline in the number of whites in classrooms, even as the total number of public school students has increased. In 1997, the U.S. had 46.1 million public school students, of which 63.4 percent were white. While whites will still outnumber any single racial or ethnic group this fall, their overall share of the nation’s 50 million public school students is projected to drop to 49.7 percent.”

Since 1997:

  • The number of white students has declined by 15 percent, falling from 29.2 million to 24.9 million in 2014
  • The number of Hispanic students nearly doubled to 12.9 million
  • The number of Asian students jumped 46 percent to 2.6 million
  • The number of black students has remained relatively steady


Breaking the mold

“As educators, we need to be adapting,” says Carlos Hipolito-Delgado, president of the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, a division of ACA. “We need to understand the kids that are coming in the [school’s] door and provide an experience that is relevant to their life and their culture. Unfortunately, I don’t think there are too many schools that are willing to engage in that work. Unfortunately, we push it off onto the students and force them to adapt.”

The first step in changing that, Hipolito-Delgado believes, is to keep schools from becoming cookie-cutter and generic – in everything from their curriculums to their school mascots.

For example, the posters in school cafeterias and libraries are often the same from school to school and don’t necessarily reflect the culture of the student body, says Hipolito-Delgado, an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver who has a background in school counseling.

A school needs to be both welcoming and tailored to its students, he says. For counselors, this includes knowing the culture, traditions and values of the student community and using those things to connect with students and their families.

Hipolito-Delgado recommends figuring out what metaphors and counseling tools will “speak” to students of a particular culture. “It’s not about being stereotypical but using [students’] culture as a resource,” he says.

For example, familiarity, or working with people who are known and liked, is important in Latino culture, Hipolito-Delgado says. For this reason, counselors working with Latino students may find success with peer-to-peer initiatives.

“I have seen that youth of color are often more comfortable coming initially to a peer,” he says. “Part of this, I think, is the perception that the peer will better understand where they are coming from and will be less likely than an adult to judge them. Also, peers are not seen as agents of authority as a school counselor might be seen.”

Lead by example

Sharon Sevier, chair of the board of directors of the American School Counselor Association, another division of ACA, encourages counselors to seek professional development opportunities to stay abreast of the needs of diverse populations. Talking with students, parents and community leaders about their culture can be a learning opportunity as well, she says.

“The issues of respect and acceptance are ongoing challenges in our society today. Teachers and staff have the responsibility to validate and welcome all voices and to ensure that everyone is heard. As staff, we are the role models for our students. They watch and listen to how we react and interact. We have to live respect for others in the hope that our students will follow our lead and take those actions out into the community,” says Sevier, a high school counselor in suburban St. Louis. She has been a school counselor at every grade level, both in urban and rural settings, during her 30-year career.

“In classrooms, it’s very important to set the expectation that everyone is valued within these walls,” she emphasizes. “Discussion is open to all, and everyone is to be respected. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with everything that is said, but it’s expected that everyone will listen and reflect upon the viewpoints of others. At holiday and celebration times, we must not assume that everyone celebrates in the same way. That’s a perfect time to open a conversation about diversity and give students an opportunity to talk about their own customs and practices.”

Know the full picture

Understanding the culture of the student body should also include awareness of socioeconomic factors such as mobility (how frequently residents move in and out of town), how many students are eligible for free or reduced lunch programs, and how many students speak a language other than English at home, Linde says.

She encourages educators to “think out of the box” to meet the needs of families. It shouldn’t be assumed that every family has a computer and Internet access, that students will have a quiet place at home to do homework or that a parent can leave work in the middle of the day to attend a meeting at the child’s school, she says. In addition, counselors should ensure that any information sent home with students is translated for non-English-speaking families, and translators should be available at school meetings.

Counselors may also need to engage in more outreach and hold school meetings out in the community instead of in the school building, Linde says.

In communities with high mobility rates, counselors may find it useful to set up a year-round mentoring program for new students. Schools in towns with low mobility, in which the majority of new students enter school at the beginning of the year, may be better suited to a fall orientation program, she says.

“Schools that are successful don’t draw the line at what is a family responsibility and what is a school responsibility,” Linde says. “They provide whatever they can so students are successful: school supplies, meals, clothes, access to medical and dental care, counseling, helps for parents and families, etc. … Our old model of teaching and homework may have to change to be responsive to the needs of current and future students.”





Fostering school community with a focus on diversity

Creating a welcoming school environment in which students of all backgrounds feel connected is key as school demographics change. Here are a few ways counselors can help.


Travel the world at lunch

“I was supervising an intern who was placed in a very diverse elementary school,” Lynn Linde says. “The students brought their native foods to school for lunch, and some students were making fun of what other kids were eating. The school, under the leadership of my school counseling intern, instituted a ‘mix it up day,’ where they did a schoolwide program on understanding and accepting diversity and then had to sit at lunch with students they didn’t know. The initiative helped the students understand that what was strange to them might be someone else’s favorite food.”


Seek out community resources

Carlos Hipolito-Delgado suggests that school counselors – especially those starting at a new school – engage in a resource mapping project he learned from counselor Vivian Lee. Work with students to create a map on a large piece of paper. Put the school building in the center of the map, then have students add community resources they know and use, such as local churches, afterschool programs, recreation centers and nonprofit organizations.

Once finished, the school counselor should go and visit each site on the map, introducing themselves to the leaders of the different organizations. Find out what’s important to these community stakeholders, says Hipolito-Delgado, and listen to what they have to say.

“Going into the community and humbly learning about the community is the best way to learn about what [students’ and families’] needs are, what they’re expecting from you and what their students are going to bring into the schoolhouse,” he says.


Get parents involved

Getting parents involved in school activities helps school staff get to know them better and vice versa. Beth Lindsay, an eighth-grade counselor in Fletcher, North Carolina, says parental involvement is a good way to foster community. Her school, Cane Creek Middle School, has initiated a volunteer program in which parents are matched with a particular teacher. A relationship is fostered as parents help with science labs, make copies or do whatever little tasks the teacher needs.

Lindsay and her colleagues, Nicki Neumann and Fran Hensley, led a session titled “Enhance your school climate and nurture a sense of belonging” at the American School Counselor Association conference this past summer.


Read and talk about it

Hensley, a counselor at Glen Arden Elementary School in Fletcher, North Carolina, suggests including the books The Crayon Box That Talked by Shane DeRolf and The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper in classroom discussions about diversity and tolerance.

Fourth-graders at Hensley’s school also interview students who are new to the school, take their photos and a write a brief biography about them, which then gets posted on a “newcomers” bulletin board.

“The children and staff are always amazed to read from what different countries our new students have come,” Hensley says.


Make it fun

An “international club” for students can be an engaging way for students to learn respect for other cultures. At Lindsay’s school, the club is led by a Spanish teacher.

Hensley’s school organized a “holidays around the world” pancake breakfast last winter. Each student was given a passport that was stamped as they traveled to different stations around the school gym that represented different countries, she says. At the Spain station, students from a Spanish immersion class sang holiday carols in Spanish. Student-made ornaments were sold to fund an emergency account for school families who needed help with gasoline and groceries, Hensley says.


Service learning

Neumann, a seventh-grade counselor at Cane Creek Middle School, says her school’s service club activities often include lessons and discussions about diversity.

“I’ve always felt that because [our school] isn’t more diverse, our students need more information and experiences with other cultures to get them ready for the real world,” says Neumann, who coordinates the service club. “Also, I believe our small percentage of students from other cultures need extra support because of this issue.”

Neumann gave these examples of club activities:

  • A teacher whose husband was serving in Afghanistan visited the service club, talked with students and showed slides of her husband’s work with the local population. Afterward, club members wrote letters to U.S. servicemen and women and sent care packages.
  • A different teacher showed photos and spoke about the years she spent working in Guatemala with the Peace Corps. “We discussed what it would be like to grow up in a community without the resources we have,” says Neumann.
  • Another teacher showed photos from a trip to South Africa, and the club collected funds to send to an impoverished school in that country.
  • A parent guest speaker (whose adopted daughter attends Neumann’s school) spoke about
    Cane Creek Middle School

    Students in Cane Creek Middle School’s service club display the blankets they made to send to orphans in China. (Photo courtesy of Nicki Neumann)

    China’s one-child policy and its impact on girls, says Neumann. Afterward, the club made blankets that were sent to China for orphaned baby girls.





Bethany Bray is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Contact her at bbray@counseling.org


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Addressing learners’ emotional reactions to race-based trainings

By Tina R. Paone and Krista M. Malott September 25, 2014

When addressing race-based topics in counselor trainings, have you noticed times when learners’ emotional reactions inhibited their abilities to absorb training material or your ability to instruct? If the answer is yes, know that you are not alone. Race-based trainings are not for the faint of heart — at least not if done well.

As noted by activist Paul Gorski, effective anti-oppression efforts are those that pose a true threat to racism and injustice. They seek to prepare learners for transforming (eradicating) oppression or Paone-and-Malottinequity rather than merely increasing clients’ comfort with oppression. Such efforts propose major changes in both people and systems. These changes can be particularly anxiety-provoking for whites who, largely growing up in racially segregated schools and communities, may be unaware of the presence of racism in self, others and the system.

Consequently, although emotional reactions to race-based topics are quite normal and to be expected, as an instructor, it is difficult to know how to respond in a way that maximizes learning. Indeed, Derald Sue, a scholar and educator on race, has noted that fear of learners’ negative reactions has compelled educators to omit race-based topics from multicultural trainings altogether. Yet an abundance of literature exists to provide guidance in working with such reactions. This article offers a brief summary of some of those suggestions, along with additional tactics that we have applied in various university and community-based trainings.

Emotional reactions

Scholars have cited a range of reactions by white learners to race-based topics. Some examples include shock or hopelessness upon realizing the existence and magnitude of racism and its impacts; anger and frustration at hearing perspectives that contradict personal assumptions of meritocracy; guilt in realizing one’s own racism or racial privileges; fear of revealing racism to peers during trainings; and fear of having to assume responsibility for ending racism, including fear of the repercussions of such actions. Overt actions such as shouting (with expletives), crying, changing subjects repeatedly and direct confrontations are easy to identify as emotional responses to race-based topics. However, we have found that the majority of reactions tend to be subtler. Examples include:

  • Leaving the room repeatedly (to use the restroom, get a drink, etc.)
  • Being continually distracted/preoccupied with non-course elements (food, written materials, personal appearance, various electronics)
  • Being physically disconnected (sitting sideways, sitting outside the learning group, sitting with one’s back toward the instructor)
  • Remaining passive or refusing to speak
  • Having ongoing side conversations with others
  • Regularly being absent or tardy

At times, it can be difficult to know if such reactions stem from the instructional topic or are related to other issues (for example, some students are just naturally preoccupied all the time, need to use the restroom frequently or have personal life stressors fueling such behaviors). When these reactions happen repeatedly, however, particularly during difficult junctures (for example, during potentially “hot” moments in conversations or content), the behavior warrants exploration and a possible intervention. A 2009 study by Nancy Chick, Terri Karis and Cyndi Kernahan identified the importance of addressing such emotional reactions to establish a greater sense of learner safety and remove impediments to learning. Following are several suggestions for both addressing and reducing the likelihood of negative learner reactions.

Instructor self-reflection

When observing that a person’s reaction is impeding his or her learning or is negatively affecting others, instructors may want to first consider their own role in the perceived problem before taking action. Self-reflective questions include:

  • Why do I think the learner is reacting this way? Does the issue rest with the learner, or have I contributed to his or her reaction? For example, have I presented the materials clearly? Have I offended the learner in some way, such as shutting the person down or using a demeaning tone?
  • Am I having my own reactions that need attending to (for example, transference/countertransference)?
  • What has impeded me from acting on any of the above issues, and do I need to attend to that impediment?

Instructors’ negative responses to learners’ reactions can result in the ineffective management of learner emotions and ultimately create a hostile learning environment. Such responses can be diminished by reminding ourselves that emotional reactions to race-based topics are extremely common and do not necessarily indicate resistance, conscious efforts to sabotage the training or an attack on the instructor as an individual. It also helps to remind ourselves that people are trying to do the best that they know how. Learners may logically be attempting to protect themselves from what feels like psychological harm. Indeed, the realization of white persons of the reality and impact of racism in society can be a dramatic turning point in their lives. Scholars have used language such as trauma, dilemma and crisis to correspond with the magnitude of this growth process.

There are myriad ways to attend to learners’ reactions to race-based topics. Regular incorporation of one or more of the following types of interventions may reduce the frequency or impact of emotions as they emerge, as opposed to waiting to respond until a larger crisis presents itself.

Sharing verbally

Researchers have noted that students in race-based courses can alleviate negative affect and increase learning through the identification of similar emotions with others. What follows are various approaches to accomplish this.

Instructor modeling: Instructor modeling can normalize students’ experiences and reduce the immobilizing shame that can impede learning about race-based topics. Modeling includes self-disclosure of one’s own feelings and possible techniques for attending to them. One example of this: “Feelings of shame or frustration come up for me when I catch myself in a microaggression, but I’ve gotten better about just noticing those feelings, letting them pass and then stepping up to make reparations for the mistake made.” (On a side note, this example models a mindful-based response in which the emotion was brought into awareness but explicitly not assigned a judgment. Rather, it was allowed to dissipate and then was replaced with anti-racist action.)

Pair and share: Ask students to turn to a peer and share for three minutes their reactions to a provocative event, assignment or reading. Individuals can be paired in various ways. For example, pair students with someone who is racially similar to them (or someone who seems closest to them in their racial identity development level), pair them with a different individual each time to allow for connection with many members, or pair them with the same person all semester to allow for greater familiarity and comfort in sharing. Ensure that both individuals in each pairing get the chance to share.

Scaling emotion: One way to allow the expression of emotion and to identify similarities across learners’ reactions is through use of solution-focused scaling. In this technique, learners stand and physically scale emotional reactions to instructional content. One end of the continuum could be defined as “feeling overwhelmed with a certain emotion, question or response,” while the other could be “feeling underwhelmed, have few questions or am comfortable with the topic.” Instructors can ask learners to define and explore reactions with the people standing closest to them. Afterward, instructors can ask learners to place themselves along the scale according to where they would like to be and to identify what kind of personal action or peer/group support they need to get there. With groups that find standing difficult due to disabilities, or if the size of the room prohibits such activity, instructors can draw a scale on a board and ask learners to indicate where they fall on that scale. They can then sit with others who indicate similar placement.

Use of group format: The use of small groups, in which learners are seated in a more intimate circle formation, offers an alternative to traditional row seating and can facilitate a greater comfort level for members to share. Trust and cohesion, the cornerstones of group work, are more easily achieved in these smaller settings, thus allowing for greater vulnerability. Learners can be asked to express personal reactions to instructional content in the group on a regular basis or in relation to specific events, topics or heated exchanges.

Write it out

Many articles have discussed the merits of allowing students to process learning and affective reactions through writing. Following are several ways to do this.

When it’s really hot, stop and journal: When emotions are extremely high after a hot moment (for example, someone says something highly offensive or controversial and no one seems to be able to respond coherently), stop and ask learners to journal their thoughts. This also gives the instructor time to consider his or her next step.

The minute paper: Don Locke and Mark Kiselica wrote about this technique in a 1999 article on teaching about race. In calmer moments, perhaps at the end of a session period, ask learners to write for one minute about their reactions regarding what transpired that day in the training.

Weekly journaling: Ongoing journaling is a great way to gauge learning or affective responses for those students who are especially quiet. Journals could be handed in electronically to increase confidentiality, with entries being written from locations that are free of peer influence. Instructors can respond more personally in these journals to normalize learners’ reactions and to offer individualized words of support. In addition, private sharing of learners’ feelings absolves learners of color from feeling responsible for comforting or reassuring their white peers, which is a troubling phenomenon that can happen in racially mixed trainings.

Get creative

Nontraditional, creative means of eliciting and processing learners’ affective responses can offer a safer venue for bringing both conscious and unconscious feelings that may be impeding learning to the surface. Instructors could use films, crafts or movement. The following examples cover techniques that we have used.

Sand tray: Based on sand tray therapy, this process involves learners using miniatures to create a representation in a small tray of sand. When using this in conjunction with a race-based training, the instructor might give directions such as, “Create a sand tray to represent what you are experiencing right now in this training.” Learners can then be asked to interpret their trays with peers while identifying similarities and differences in their experiences. The instructor can also offer additional interpretations of certain unconscious reactions represented in the trays. Used several times across a semester, and optionally captured with photos, the sand trays can be compared over time so that learners can visualize their own growth and the growth of the group.

Photojournaling: Photojournaling combines photography with journaling to express one’s emotions. An instructor might use specific prompts for the assignment, such as, “Photojournal how you felt after learning about racial microaggressions today.” The prompt can also be nondirective or open-ended, such as asking learners to create a photojournal of their overall reaction to the day or training.

Sculptures: Using human sculpturing, as taken from family therapy practice, an instructor would place learners in a physical arrangement in the room to represent emotional reactions that she or he is observing. Conversely, learners could be asked to sculpt themselves or the group as a whole. We have used this activity to sculpt a room of students whose negative reactions brought learning to a complete halt. After placing the students in their sculpture (in this case, learners were placed with their backs to the instructor, and as far across the room from the instructor as possible), the sculpture’s meaning is described, and learners are asked to process and make meaning of the sculpture. They can then place themselves in a new sculpture according to where they would like to be and discuss what will help them get there.

Snowball activity: In this activity, learners write down their emotions on one or several pieces of paper. They then ball up those emotions and have a “snowball fight” (they throw those pieces of paper at one another). To ensure that the written comments will remain anonymous, ask learners to pick up and throw the snowballs several times. Then ask them to select one or several snowballs near them and read them out loud. The group can then discuss the written reactions, noting similar and dissimilar comments, and brainstorm solutions for managing particularly difficult emotions.

When all else fails

If a learner continues to exhibit strong and negatively impactful reactions after the previous Abstract-people-Smallsuggestions have been applied regularly, the instructor will want to be more direct. You could address the learner separately, pulling the individual aside to note your observations, but this should always be done with a tone of care. For example, “I can tell that this topic is really affecting you, and I’m wondering how I can help.” If using a group format, this direct inquiry could be done in the group setting. Member feedback could be elicited concerning how the behavior is affecting the individual’s learning as well as the group process.

Don’t go it alone

Finally, because this is hard work and emotional reactions are to be expected, race-based trainings call for community support. We know instructors who have given up teaching multicultural trainings altogether because of burnout associated with attempting to respond to learners’ reactions.

When struggling to respond effectively to one learner (or to an entire group), consult with a colleague who is engaged in this type of work. Remember that some of the best allies can be found across work settings and disciplines. They can be university or community professionals engaged in any form of anti-oppression work (for example, anti-sexism or anti-poverty) because such endeavors are interrelated. Regular participation in such supportive groups would be ideal. This work cannot, and should not, be done alone.


Knowledge Share articles are developed from sessions presented at American Counseling Association conferences.

Tina R. Paone is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Speech Pathology, Educational Counseling and Leadership at Monmouth University at West Long Branch. Contact her at tpaone@monmouth.edu.

Krista M. Malott is an associate professor in the Department of Education and Counseling at Villanova University.

Letters to the editor: ct@counseling.org