By: Jodie Lewis, M.Ed., CRC, LPC, NCC
If counselors are not aware of their own biases and beliefs, they can unknowing impose harm to clients. Ethnocentric monoculturalism is when a person believes that one group, specifically the white group is superior to other races and the lifestyle of this superior group should be imposed upon all other races or cultures (Sue & Sue, 2013). This thought or belief creates ambivalence for the minority group and can significantly impact the client’s psychological well-being. Ethnocentric monoculturalism has five components, they are: (1) belief in superiority, (2) belief in the inferiority of others, (3) power to impose standards, (4) manifestation in institutions, and (5) the invisible veil (considered to be a worldview beyond our consciousness that is believed to affect all people as products of cultural conditioning).
Ethnocentrism is when a person judges another culture by the values and standards of their own culture. To some extent, every group is ethnocentric in that they have a positive feeling towards their own group. Minorities can also think their way is superior, be biased, and have stereotypes, yet they do not have the power to oppress (Sue & Sue, 2013). Ethnocentric monoculturalism differs from ethnocentrism in that majority groups do hold power to oppress.
How does this relate to counseling? Ethnocentric monoculturalism is manifested in theories of counseling and psychotherapy primarily because many said theories are based on counseling, predominantly the white middle class. Unfortunately, when counselors are not aware of ethnocentric monoculturalism, then counseling and psychotherapy can be used as tools to force oppression and acculturation as if racial/ethnic clients are expected to conform to a eurocentric way of thinking in order to be considered healthy (Sue & Sue, 2013). On the other hand, when a counselor uses skills and strategies that are appropriate to the values of the culturally diverse client, the counselor is more credible which in turn creates trust and rapport in the counseling relationship. With this awareness and insight, counselors are less likely to be in danger of contributing to cultural oppression. Additionally, counselors must continue to ongoingly seek to understand their own biases, values, and beliefs, in doing so, ethnocentric monoculturalism and ethnocentrism will not affect the dynamics of the counseling relationship between the client and counselor.
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Sue, D. W. & Sue, D. (2013). Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice (sixth edition). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.