Setting the stage for culturally responsive counseling: an experimental investigation of White counselors broaching race and racism

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kelly M. King (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
L. DiAnne Borders

Abstract: Through professional advocacy, counselors created a mandate to provide accessible, culturally responsive services to all clients, particularly clients from traditionally underserved racial/ethnic minority groups. Existing research demonstrates the merits of pursuing multicultural competence (MCC) and a disposition of cultural humility, with implications for establishing a positive working alliance, minimizing the occurrence of harmful microaggressions in session, and ultimately boosting client outcomes (Hook, Davis, Owen, Worthington, & Utsey, 2013; Hook et al., 2016; Tao, Owen, Pace, & Imel, 2015). Much less is understood about exactly how counselors can enact culturally responsive practices in session with clients and how counselor educators can prepare trainees in the area of cross-cultural skills. One such skill, perhaps the most behaviorally defined skill within the literature to date, is broaching. Broaching refers to the counselor’s authentic and ongoing consideration of relevant cultural factors in session, often as an invitation to discuss issues of identity and power with the client (Day-Vines et al., 2007). Most researchers have examined conversations about race, racism, and race difference, raising important social justice issues related to White counselors’ relatively infrequent broaching compared with Black counselors (Knox, Burkard, Johnson, Suzuki, & Ponterotto, 2003) and the greater benefit that racial/ethnic minority clients have reported receiving from this intervention (Zhang & Burkard, 2008). There are also established empirical relationships between broaching and strengthening rapport, increasing counselor credibility, and client continuation and satisfaction with services (Fuertes, Mueller, Chauhan, Walker, & Ladany, 2002; Knox et al., 2003; Zhang & Burkard, 2008). Despite the promise of this intervention, counselors in general and White counselors in particular employ broaching at low rates and express hesitance about how exactly to approach these conversations (Jones & Welfare, 2017; Maxie, Arnold, & Stephenson, 2006). Two components of broaching contested in the literature are its goals and focus on similarities and/or differences. Debates about goals of broaching center on whether or not broaching should be focused on content and information gathering or on the relationship and addressing interpersonal dynamics of identity (Cardemil & Battle, 2003; Owen, Tao, Drinane, Hook, Davis, & Kune, 2016). When counselors choose to broach for the relationship there are differing perspectives on whether to emphasize cultural differences alone or a combination of similarities and differences (i.e., bridging and broaching) they share with the client (Fuertes et al., 2002; La Roche & Maxie, 2003). Accordingly, I plan to begin an evidence base for broaching techniques that illuminate when and how White counselors can most effectively broach race and racism with Black clients, with respect to broaching goals and similarities and/or differences, as well as the moderating effect of participant-clients’ race centrality. I made use of an experimental analogue design consisting of four videos of an interaction between a White counselor and Black client set in an intake counseling session depicting variations on the broaching intervention. Participants viewed one of the four possible interactions and provided their evaluation, connecting the relative importance of these broaching components to participant-client interest in continuing services, counselor cultural humility, counselor (missed) opportunities for addressing culture, cross-cultural counseling competence, and the working alliance. Results suggest the following: (a) participants-clients’ race/ethnicity impact ratings of the counselors’ culturally missed opportunities, with White individuals viewing the counselor more favorably on average than Persons of Color; (b) broaching conditions offer a therapeutic benefit above the control condition on culture-centered variables only; (c) cross-cultural counseling competence is the variable most impacted by variations on broaching, such that the relationship conditions are superior to the content focused condition; and finally (d) broaching for the relationship that includes attention to similarities is markedly preferred over the other broaching styles. This project reaffirms the importance of addressing race, racism, and race difference for improving culturally responsive practices and begins to resolve debates about broaching components. I will also discuss implications for guiding counselors in beginning broaching dialogues with clients and preparing counselor trainees for enacting broaching as a skill.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2018
Broaching, Cultural humility, Culturally responsive counseling, Multicultural counseling competence
Minorities $x Counseling of
Cross-cultural counseling
Cultural competence

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