Exploring relationships between self-identity complexity, other-identity complexity, and multicultural counseling competence in counselors

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Myra E. Martin-Adkins (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site: http://library.uncg.edu/
Kelly Wester

Abstract: As society grows more diverse, future counselors will be seeing clients with complex concerns around issues of identity, belonging, and acceptance. In order to effectively serve the United States population, it is imperative to provide future counselors with adequate conceptualization tools in order to meet their clients' needs. Theoretical links exist between the importance of understanding one's own identity and culture prior to conceptualizing the culture or identity of another (Graham & Gibson, 1996; P. Hays, 2008; Lee, 2006; Sodowsky, Taffe, Gutkin, & Wise, 1994). Empirical support of these conceptual links, however, is lacking. Although models exist for exploring multicultural considerations in clients (D'Andrea & Daniels, 2001; P. Hays, 2008; Sue, 2001), current models for examining individual identity, cultural differences, and diversity in counseling clients are limiting in that they offer little in instructions of how to deal with multiple, often intersecting or contradicting identities within one individual client. The counseling profession would benefit from a conceptual framework that assists clinicians in assessing a client's identities, but one which also allows practitioners to determine the intersection of these identities and how the client perceives these combinations. Drawing from other disciplines, one such theory that provides the perspective and understanding of the combinations and overlap of multiple identities is Social Identity Complexity (Roccas & Brewer, 2002). Developing out of theories of Cognitive Complexity (Bieri, 1955; Tetlock, 1983), Social Identity Complexity (Roccas & Brewer, 2002) offers a theoretical framework through which counselors may better be able to recognize the complexities in themselves (Self-Identity Complexity) in order to then recognize it in others (Other-Identity Complexity). Social Identity Complexity is defined as: "a new theoretical construct that refers to an individual's subjective representation of the interrelationships among his or her multiple group identities" (Roccas & Brewer, 2002, pp. 88-89). The present study explored potential relationships between levels of Self-Identity Complexity, Other-Identity Complexity, and Multicultural Counseling Competence in counseling students, practitioners, and counselor educators. Additionally, the study provides a conceptual framework for exploring Multicultural Counseling considerations in order to give practitioners a way to identify and assess the interactions of multiple, complex identities in themselves as well as how to address complexity in client identities. Overall, in a sample of 100 counseling students, practitioners, and counselor educators, significant relationships were found between Self-Identity Complexity and Other-Identity Complexity, but not between those two constructs and Multicultural Counseling Competence. A lack of connection between the ability to consider one's own identity and the identity of others with one's multicultural counseling competence has implications for counseling theory, practice, and future research. The importance of considering intersections of identity did not appear to be present in current measures of multicultural counseling competence, despite increasing diversity in clients' identities and presenting concerns. Future research is needed to continue exploring potential measures of the ability to conceptualize intersections of identity in self and others.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2013
Counselors, Identity Complexity, Multicultural Counseling Competence
Identity (Psychology)
Cross-cultural counseling

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