Table of Contents
A surge in a number of couples marrying across the racial lines has led to the alteration of the dynamics of conflicts occurring in various households. As a result, counseling as a profession is beginning to change. Zaker & Boostanipoor (2016) cite the attempt to cope with the uncertainties of the future characterized by the growth in interracial unions as one of the causes of the trend. Unlike several decades ago, scholars point out that now counselors are beginning to embrace holistic approaches. For example, they consider differences in cultural beliefs in solving conflicts affecting people from different backgrounds. Furthermore, the professionals in urban areas are experimenting with new ideologies in order to enhance professional ethics. In the United States, where the trend of interracial marriage is prevalent, scholars are also formulating theoretical concepts in their quest to explain the causes of conflicts among interracial couples and families. According to Ivers, Johnson, Clarke, Newsome, & Berry (2014), differences in cultural perception of gender roles and conceptualization of the role of therapy in social issues are forcing counselors to equip themselves with additional skills, such as language competency. The expectation is that the ability to identify with different cultures could help them identify the role of cultural dynamics in accentuating conflicts in a multicultural setting. In turn, a professional can exploit these skills in a bid to help reduce conflicts attributable to cultural misunderstanding.
Despite the attempts to address the ethical concerns in a multicultural setting, interracial counseling is still posing a challenge. The dynamics of conflicts are different from a misunderstanding in a setup where people share a common ancestry. The lack of a basic framework, especially in situations where a counselor is surcharged with the duty in a society characterized by stereotyping, is another issue. Furthermore, existing literature on the subject provides scanty information about the ways of solving squabbles amid interracial couples (Zaker & Boostanipoor, 2016). For this reason, the current research explores this issue as a great concern of contemporary counselors. The goal is enabling audiences to conceptualize the misunderstanding in a multicultural setup in a bid to determine possible ways of counseling such groups and averting future chaos.
The researcher will deploy a qualitative approach in which numerous scholar publications on the subject will guide the conceptualization of the present scenario. The objective is to present the theoretical framework for guiding the process of interracial counseling in the contemporary times. This information is also intended to help counselors understand the role of culture in their practice and its implications for social challenges affecting people in a multicultural setting.
At the turn of the 21st century, the increase in the number of persons marrying across the race has changed the approaches in the field of psychology in many ways. In counseling, for instance, it has led to the alterations in the methodologies employed in solving problems affecting couples. In the past, ordinary problems such as fights were addressed as interpersonal conflicts amidst individuals of the same culture. Today, they are no longer perceived as interpersonal disagreements. Instead, these issues are viewed with a prejudicial perspective in which racial connotations, among many other broader issues, are linked to the misunderstanding (Ivers et al., 2014). Subsequently, the therapeutic methodologies in traditional counseling are being broadened to incorporate the role of individual perception of another culture in solving such destroying conflicts as drug abuse. There is one more aspect of interracial counseling that makes the discipline unique. Counselors no longer explore sexism from a cultural perspective, but from a broader viewpoint, meaning that the guidelines for the profession in the present are different.
Counseling has also been affected by the establishment of blended families. Counselors are adopting frameworks that not only address the implication of culture for the attitudes and behaviors of couples, but also harmonize the values of humanity. Moreover, numerous multicultural and spiritual concepts, such as acknowledging universal social justice and granting each party a right to uphold and practice their traditions without violating the norms of other parties, are guiding the practice. Reiner & Dobmeier (2014) also emphasize that a strategy which works for one couple does not necessarily provide a solution for another couple in a similar arrangement. Instead, the approach should explore the intricacies of individual perceptions through the prism of culture before devising a solution that accommodates divergent views.
Counseling Interracial Couples and Families
Interracial couples comprise of people in a marriage from two or more racial backgrounds. Interracial families, on the other hand, describe a set up created by interracial couples. In the latter category, the relationship is not direct at times, since one can become a member by relating to one of the couples. According to Blount & Young (2015), the setting is a new trend since no restrictions are placed on people marrying across racial lines. Due to this development, the scholars add that a person pursuing counseling today is mandated to embrace methodologies that accommodate divergent interests of different groups. In cases where different counseling techniques complicate conflicts amid couples of different backgrounds, psychologists recommend the adaptation of a holistic approach that harmonizes the relationships. For example, in a household of an African American and a white American, the counselor has to consider a myriad of factors prior to presenting a solution to conflicts affecting this couple.
Existing literature exploring the situation in the US suggests that the conceptualization of the role of sexuality, among many other factors, is mandatory in facilitating a solution to problems affecting the couples (Arrendo & Toporek, 2004). The work of Blount & Young (2015), for instance, suggests that whenever the couples confront difficult situations, caution is necessary. The exploration of the issue as a multicultural misunderstanding is attributable to differences in views on sexuality. The common assumptions hold most of the times, even in situation where personal misunderstandings contribute to conflict. Therefore, when making a conclusion about the issues relating to conflicts affecting marriages across racial lines, a counselor should acknowledge that the perceptions of culture in marital issues differ. It is equally worthwhile noting that the approach adopted in seeking solution to a problem affecting one group may not necessarily suit the other category. As reiterated by Hanna & Cardona (2013, p. 350), the objective of counseling interracial couples is formulating a workable formula that leads to the satisfaction of both parties.
Challenges in Counseling Interracial Couples
Several factors make counseling interracial couples difficult. For example, a significant majority of the population believe that the perception of people from varying races differs. Hence, it is easier to attribute the conflict between two people to a difference in ideology. However, in reality, the situation is not always as straightforward. Interracial couples, just like other couples, can confront challenges in their marital relationships. However, they should not formulate the dissolution of the union due to cultural incompatibility. In such situation, Strong, DeVault & Sayad (2016) point out that a counselor has the duty of inculcating in people certain beliefs. More specifically, they should despise the notion of inferring to stereotypes in decision-making.
The subsequent challenge that emanates from counseling married people is the cultural inclination of couples to affect the attitude of the spouse towards the counselor. As a result, it becomes difficult to identify a neutral person to steer the process. What is more, people focus much on the aspects of culture that create differences instead of concentrating on the subjects that unite humanity. Arrendo & Toporek (2004) mention that the preconceived notion prior to the establishment of the union in many ways affects the outcome of problem solving in such situations. The scholars conclude that behavior is learned within the context of culture.
Understanding the values that a couple in such arrangement holds dear has become much more complex in the contemporary times that it was in the previous decades. As a matter of fact, some couples lack the adequate knowledge of their own values and thus resort to assumptions as the basis for specific preconceptions. Likewise, some couples use stereotypes when making analogies concerning the conflicts arising from mutual misunderstanding. An additional challenge that manifests itself among interracial couples is based on gender differences (Reiner & Dobmeier, 2014). Unfortunately, it is easy for the couples to be misguided into holding false beliefs. In reality, it is advisable for two people to consult cultural doctrines in trying to seek a solution to an issue or misunderstanding.
Techniques for Counseling Interracial Couples
Leslie & Young (2015) in their article suggest that the application of a combination of techniques is mandatory when dealing with problems affecting interracial couples. According to them, the correct approach presents the opportunity for each party to contribute ab idea to the process. For instance, when dealing with infidelity in marriage, the approach of a counselor should factor in whether there exists a culture that accepts the practice or not. At times one culture can condemn a vice that is considered as a morally acceptable practice in another cultural setting. The subsequent consideration in counseling entails the use of the methodologies accepted by different backgrounds. For example, it is acceptable to refer to religious doctrines in cases where the conflicting parties uphold similar ideologies on the matters religion. However, caution is important in the process, since approaching counseling from a religious perspective could even create more problems.
Numerous theories present hints for conducting counseling as a psychological activity. One of them is the concept of focusing on the antecedents of therapeutic change (Hanna & Cardona, 2013). According to this approach, it is important to acknowledge that one’s identity has implication for the perception of what constitutes best practices in a union. The development of interpersonal skills is mandatory for advancing counseling of couples from different racial backgrounds (Ali, 2009). Additional requirements are the ability to conceptualize cultural values, bias and attitudes of various personalities from an objective perspective. Afterwards, an individual can infuse the ideas in advancing counseling. When engaging individuals, a counselor ought to examine identity developments as individual attributes before exploring the effects of one’s culture on the behavior of the person.
Another important activity in the practice is observing body language as a hint to the preferences of a person. In such a way, a counselor can infuse the ideologies into a theoretical framework for the use in counseling. Bond & Bond (2004) also point out that the ability to listen is a critical requirement for establishing therapeutic strategies that can help solve misunderstandings in a relationship. Approaching this duty with an open mind is also a requirement for counselors dealing with challenges of unknown magnitude.
Steps in Counseling Couples
Upon the identification of a source of conflict between family members, the first step in addressing the issue entails the identification of cultural components that cut across races. After that, a counselor should proceed to categorizing the type of conflict. The common categories are multi-spirituality conflicts, gender conflicts, and financial management perspectives (Leslie & Young, 2015). Stereotyping based on the behavior of a particular group of people also creates conflicts, even though this practice is not usually categorized as a specific concern. The stage that follows is communicating with the conflicting parties as a mean of seeking their suggestions about the ways of solving the conflict. It is critical to approach the process with an open mind. The goal of negotiating effectively should guide the counselor throughout the process. The aim of the expert is to enhance openness in communication between the parties. Afterward, the counselor settles on a therapeutic process that harmonizes the ideals of all parties involved. It is equally important to realize the conceptualization of the preferences of the parties based on personal attributes. Such mutual understanding should guide the process of searching for a positive outcome. The counselor should look at the similarities as well as differences in attitude depicted by the interracial family members in an effort to create a conducive environment. More importantly, it is only a good attitude that provides a foundation for solving interracial conflicts. However, attitude is very hard to promote since interracial couples may not be willing to change or adjust. The counselor should also be flexible, knowledgeable, as well as respectful so as to achieve a successful outcome of interracial counseling of the couples.
The Future of Counseling Interracial Couples
In the future, it will be advisable for the practitioners to approach the process with even more caution. The utilization of traditional techniques alone cannot guarantee an adequate solution due to the cultural dynamics. The harmonization of ideas across cultures will also guide the process as illustrated in the article by Zaker & Boostanipoor (2016). Another upcoming development in counseling is demonstrated by numerous studies facilitating a discovery of one technique that will suit couples from different racial backgrounds. Surely, it is impractical striving to quantify whether some techniques in use today will help in the future or not. However, the existing evidence suggests that the prioritization of the social needs of both parties in a disagreement will guide the process. The issues that affect couples now – such as the misunderstanding of the gender roles, financial decisions, and child upbringing – will still pose challenges in the future. For that reason, a counselor of tomorrow will have to consider the use of blended family perspectives. It is also crucial for the counselor to think of taking part in the conversations of interracial couples so as to raise multicultural awareness among the family members. When the counselor engages in critical conversations, the couples can be at ease in discussing race, discrimination as well as identity. They would not be able or willing to talk about these topics if such mediating platform was not offered.
The world is changing drastically with respect to the social setup, and different people are marrying across racial lines. As a result, such development is posing problems for psychologists conducting counseling. Hence, numerous studies have sought ways for addressing these interracial issues. Unlike before, the contemporary counselors utilize a combination of techniques in the process. Even though there is a lack of a unified methodology that would fit all situations, the acknowledgment of individual beliefs and cultures in influencing perception is guiding the process. Above all, people tend to blame racial differences for any squabbles in a versatile union. As an outcome, counselors ought to possess interpersonal skills and communications competencies that would help them to decipher any problem as a normal misunderstanding. Afterwards, the professionals can exploit their skills in order to inculcate in interracial couples practices that would lead to mutual understanding and patience. As discussed in the current research, this process is critical, since the social as well as technological developments suggest that the number of such unions is likely to increase. Therefore, the suitable approaches to solving the problems of interracial couples entail formulating new custom strategies. They will help avert repetitive crises which make people think that differences in race are the sole cause of misunderstandings in relationships.