Professional development event testimonial by Samantha Thompson

I participated in the Enhancing Cultural Competence for Mental Health Professionals professional development seminar presented by Dr. Sandra Dixon and found the experience to be a great complement to my current education and future career. Although the entire lecture was interesting and undoubtedly useful, a few concepts stood particularly salient to me. Specifically, the discussion surrounding barriers to multicultural counselling as well as the model for culture-infused counselling.

Naming and explicitly describing the barriers to multicultural counselling was a great way to increase personal awareness and reflection. Dr. Dixon went into detail about seven common barriers, but one that I thought was particularly thought-provoking was client cultural transference. Client cultural transference is the process of a client having biases resulting from previous experience with a person of your culture, especially common among clients of a non-dominant culture working with a counsellor of a dominant culture. Dr. Dixon explained that some level of “cultural paranoia”, or skepticism from clients working with a counsellor of a different background, is healthy and expected due to the historical relationship between dominant/non-dominant cultures. However, this paranoia can become problematic when it impedes the therapeutic relationship and client’s progress. The participants and Dr. Dixon had excellent insights into how to navigate this. The consensus was that it is important to acknowledge the past or current mistrust and other barriers in the relationship in a way that would be most productive for the client. This would, ideally, foster a safe environment for the client to express such concerns and improve the therapeutic relationship.

Dr. Dixon countered the boundaries to multicultural counselling with a hopeful and inspiring discussion on ways to incorporate cultural considerations into everyday practice. She offered a simple yet effective model, the Culture Infused Counselling Model, as a way to incorporate anti-racist and culturally competent efforts into one’s counselling practice with intention. This model includes three areas: self-awareness, client cultural awareness, and culturally sensitive working alliance. This model encourages the counsellor to reflect on their own biases/beliefs/practices, to explore how these areas may impact a diverse range of clientele and, in turn, how to improve the working relationship between clients of a non-dominant culture. When I engaged in a personal reflection of practice, I determined it was important that I, a future school psychologist, interrogate the Eurocentric assessment tools and explore alternatives that may be more culturally appropriate for a variety of clients. 

Overall, the experience organized by Build Great Teams was beyond expectation. The team provided ample opportunity for thoughtful questions and interaction with the lecturer. The team also worked hard to gather additional resources in real-time for participants based on the presentation. Build Great Teams will definitely be a consideration when looking for engaging professional development opportunities in the future.