Multicultural Ethical Psychology

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Abstract: The significance of multicultural counseling is the necessity of addressing ethical issues from current and previous societal changes. A review of literature provides valuable data with respect to multicultural diversity challenging the filed of psychology today. This perspective includes social aspects regarding the implication and changes in relationship to racial, ethnic and linguist differences of multicultural counseling, that is significantly altering cooperate America, and the commitment of the American Psychological Association in meeting this challenge from an ethical perspective. In addition, a review of the APA guidelines, that interprets the goals of the practitioner providing services to a diverse population from an ethical viewpoint (American Psychological Association 2002). Including challenges of understanding other cultural beliefs, values and lifestyles, and ethical practices, which differ from western American culture (Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992)?

Review of Literature

A review of the APA guidelines and ethical principles of cultural diversity, ethnic, racial, and the role of the practitioner in terms of multicultural competency as previously discussed by (Sue et al., 1992) with a rationale and motive of applying several criteria that assists the professional in terms of training, and education purposes of multicultural counseling. This concern is significant in terms of the shift in our society, since diversity is the focus of the need for multicultural understanding and requires changes in the philosophical method of the counseling approach. In order to provide ethical therapeutic intervention, the practitioner's knowledge of other cultural beliefs, values, morals and lifestyle are necessary in providing adequate and ethical services. Certainly, this area challenges the field of psychology since diversity also brings differing behaviors that perhaps viewed as unethical according western norm. Moreover the implications of the professionals own biases, and beliefs that conflict from an ethical perspective.

The apparent need for change previously illustrated in the APA guidelines (1990) definitively represents the purpose that psychologists need to address social issues and their own biases in terms of diversity. Considering culture, race, ethnicity, or linguistic differences in western society is definitely a growing multicultural population. This shift includes addressing competencies from a socioeconomic and mental health profession the adoption and creation of the guidelines plays a significant role in promoting ethical changes in the methodology in which professionals in the field of psychology provide ethical services. In addition to the revisions adopted by the APA Code of Ethics Preamble E, goes on to further emphasize the importance of providers to address the issues of cultural diversity (American Psychological Association 2002). It also represents possible ethical misunderstandings in terms of the customary method of practice geared to the western American culture. This research endeavor hopes to provide the challenges and progress in the area of multicultural service delivery in a diversified western American culture. In addition, to the ethical revisions provided by the American Psychological Association as well as the adoption of these revisions by the American Counseling Association which currently sets the competencies and guidelines of multicultural practices (APA 2002). Although, this is a marked improvement, it does not mean that the guidelines are mandatory since multicultural affiliation does not affect all professionals in the field of psychology. Considering the ethical perspectives and standards of practice mandated by the American Psychological Association (2002) Ethical principles of psychologist and code of conduct, it seems the area of multicultural practice continues in its western ways. Previous research alludes to the Ethical Principles of Psychologist and Code of Conduct (Ethics Code: APA, 2002) that refers to psychologists acknowledging their biases and decreasing biases within the context of their practice. Unfortunately this practice is either not enforced or until recent years where multiculturalism in the United States increased in population (Kakkad, 2005). An example of ethical concern is the underpinnings of the guidelines in terms of multicultural context which concludes as of 2009. The guidelines are not formerly included in the code of ethics then the possibility that some psychologist may utilize this as a loop hole in terms of avoiding multicultural practices is prevalent due to the aspiration perspective.

American Psychological Association's Board of Ethnic Minority Affairs (1990) guidelines whose principles are aspirational in character, suggests moral and ethical behaviors to do no harm implying respecting all persons regardless of race, ethnicity, including religious beliefs. Moreover do psychologists confuse the aspiration aspects of the guidelines with the standard code of ethical conduct, possibly diminishing its value in terms of ethical practices? Is there concern that the guidelines will in some manner dilute the APA Ethics codes (Fisher, 2003)? The preambles definition of the guidelines, are “designed to provide suggestions for the psychologist” (APA Online, p.2). These suggestions imply the relevance of practicing in a diverse society, counseling various ethnic groups, contrary these guidelines are not mandatory nor do they imply ethical consequences for the psychologist, as seen in the ethical codes of conduct.

For year's psychotherapy, assessments, research and testing are geared towards the Euro American culture, typically not geared for the persons of cultural diversity (Sue & Sue, 2008). Sue also suggests the need of “adopting ethical guidelines” (Sue & Sue, 2008, p. 63) to reflect the needs of the cultural diverse populations. Furthermore applying these guidelines to ethical codes of standards, such that further education of psychologists will become more than suggested practices, yet enforceable practices, that is eventually incorporated as a part of “ licensing and credentialing standards” (Sue & Sue, 2008, p. 63).

The relevancy presented in previous literature regarding the necessity of changes from ethical, social, and standard of practices view point considers the implications and vulnerabilities of multicultural counseling from an oppressed and perhaps unintentional harm to persons of cultural differences seeking counseling. Understanding other cultural values, beliefs, and attitudes, in an era where implementing ethical public policy and discrimination play a major role in adaptation of other values and systems. Amalgamation of cultural differences is a focal point of inclusion as psychologists and committees review ethical standards and attitudes (Naylor, 1997). Does previous the literatures imply a significant need for more standards in the area of multiculturalism?

Consider the example, of previous data regarding cultural differences in parenting children that clash with the ethical Western American ethical standards (Knapp & Creek 2007). Case studies of clients and professionals in terms of differing opinions and concerns regarding cultural beliefs and conflicts. Misconceptions regarding cultural practices from a therapeutic perspective, lends to harmful and if given consideration of the ethical code, perhaps unintentional harm to the diverse client. This previous research appears to validate the need for education in the realm of multicultural systems in order to more affectively provided therapeutic intervention while remaining ethically sound. In addition, to the concerns regarding competencies and standards of traditional practices of western psychology in terms of effectively providing intervention for persons of ethnic, and linguist differences (Sue et al., 1992).

During the course of my practice, I encountered an issues with a client and family from Trinidad, granted the language barrier and customs differed. Nevertheless, I tried to gain an understanding of their beliefs, rituals, and in this case parenting styles. On the other hand, providing this family with adequate intervention became vital to the success of treatment goals. The issue of multicultural difference occurred when another worker of the team reported the family to the Department of Human Services for abuse, since the client told this person that the parents spanked him. The parents clearly upset by this report nearly sued the agency, simply because this is how parents from Trinidad, discipline their children, the case was unfounded. Moreover, the other worker did not try to inform himself of cultural differences in parenting styles, which would have been a prime opportunity to engage in cultural differences and gain a better understanding of their belief system.

Another example which represents the need presented in previous literature regarding the need of increasing standards for psychologist is a case of personal disagreement with respect for multicultural counseling. I recently encountered a situation that left me feeling sad that other practitioners simply want to elude the notion of multi cultural counseling. Several months ago I meant with three psychologist of a private practice, who have been in the field for over 20 years. I mentioned their interest in cultural counseling since it is a growing population here in New Hampshire. Their response shocked me; they suggested multicultural counseling is an area they chose not to include in their practice. Of course, I had to ask if clients contacted their agency what response these people got in terms of refusal due to cultural differences. They simply, replied their practice is not designed for cultural differences; clients are referred to the Boston area for counseling (though carefully not mentioning any biases). In addition, they suggested that according to APA they were not qualified or had the expertise to counsel diverse populations and would try to refer to counselors who deal with cultural diversity. Addressing APA (2003) General principle D. as psychologists utilizing reasonable judgment in terms of boundaries and competency along with expertise and limitations are expressed, yet using the lack of expertise in the scenario I presented is concerning and possibly lends to unjust practices therefore perhaps necessitating clearer guidelines and implementation of these guidelines as part of the ethical codes.


Summarizing the orientation of diversity involves individual understanding, experiences, and without biases interacting with diverse cultures. This includes family morals, values, and attitudes towards persons from other cultures are a crucial entity in terms of generational attitudes towards persons of race, color, and religious beliefs. Negativity and judgmental beliefs handed down from generations, is significant to the conflicts that occur in the United States. It becomes paramount that those on advisory boards and committees recognize from an ethical viewpoint and consider the need of additional implementation of ethic codes to address the growing population of diversity. Perhaps at that time further revisions of these guidelines will increase the necessity of ethical practices in the field of psychology, therefore mandating requirements as is in the ethical codes of conduct (APA 2002). If in fact as counselors, psychologists, and mental health workers refuse clients, then the code of ethical practices is really a falsely in terms of doing no harm to clients when in fact the guidelines appear to be a matter of choice. Kakkad, (2005) suggests that ethical challenges in the area of multicultural counseling become the “professional responsibility” (p.306) of the practitioner. Is this statement considered a slippery-slope in terms of expectations and provisions for multicultural therapeutic equality? Granted the field of psychology is experiencing some changes in terms of guidelines, yet applications continue to be the professional's choice. If ethics do not change in the near future to hold accountable the professional discourse regarding multicultural ethical practices, then the profession is diluting the values, of the ethnic society and the purpose4 for which the field stands for, of helping others. Moreover, leaving much to the discretion of the practitioner in terms of cultural diversity does not appear to be with in the moral and ethical practices of doing no harm to any persons seeking counseling.


One recommendation is in clarifying aspirational guidelines, which possibly need to be added to the code of ethics, as part of ethical practices in view of the growing multicultural population in the United States. In addition, further research perhaps through survey methods of psychologist's who implement multiculturalism as part of their ongoing practice. Albeit, surveying private practitioners, mental health workers, and counselors in the New Hampshire area that incorporates multicultural aspects of their counseling practices. Moreover, the expectations and methodology of implementing educational training in the area of multiculturalism include within their practices on all levels in terms of diversity not only of culture, yet within the scope of their practices. Granted language barriers in some instances present with difficulties in terms of communication, not all diverse population are completely without some knowledge of the English language, especially in the United States. Further research is need to address personal biases, and prejudices in terms of self-evaluation in order to become a multicultural practitioner (Hayes, 2008). The reliability of such a survey if implemented to all in the field of psychology in terms of addressing cultural biases in accordance with APA code of ethics and conduct. May provided alarming results in terms of professional ethics in the area of multicultural counseling. Further researches in this area may server as a positive method of improving education, communication as well as provide revisions of the standard APA ethical codes of conduct.


American psychological association. (2002)APA Council of Representatives. Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. [Electronic version]

APA Online (1990) APA guidelines for providers of psychological services to ethnic, linguist, and culturally diverse population [Electronic version]. Retrieved June 13, 2008, from

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APA Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct. (2003) General Prnciple D. Justice. Retrieved July, 27, 2008 from

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Hayes, P. A. (2008). Addressing cultural complexities in practice: Assessment, diagnosis, and therapy (2nd ed.). Washington: American Psychological Association.

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Knapp, S., & Creek, L. V. (2007). When values of different cultures conflict: Ethical decision making in a multicultural context. Professional Psychology, 38(6), 660-666.

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