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Jones Thomas and Schwarzbaum (2006)

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 @ 4:27 pm
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Posted in  Book Reviews, Literature

I reviewed a very interesting book. Here is the reference: Jones Thomas, A & Schwarzbaum, S. (2006) Culture and Identity: Life Stories for Counselors and Therapists. Sage. This book has informed by thinking a lot and it will soon be published in Thresholds Journal. Here is the review below:

Anita Jones Thomas and Sarah Schwarzbaum
Culture and Identity: Life Stories for Counselors and Therapists
Sage, 2006
ISBN 1-4129-0920-1
324 pp


This is a rigorous as well as easy-to-read book on multicultural counseling, written by two authors that appear deeply immersed in this field.  A few introductory pages contextualise the topic of culture and identity as related to counselling. What follows are four sections in the book, each exploring some cultural variable through related stories, titled as: Race/Ethnicity, Immigration/Acculturation, Religion and Social Class. Each section includes chapters that present different cultural autobiographies, containing their specific contextual and significant characteristics that, though the reflexive accounts of the authors, do trigger the reader’s thinking around the apparent and more subtle issues involved in the topic(s) discussed. As the authors state “we selected these contributions to highlight the effect of cultural factors on values, beliefs, and the development of identity and self-concept” (p. xiv)

Every presentation of those narratives is followed by a section on ‘Content Themes’ and one on ‘Clinical Applications’. The final page of each chapter also has a boxed ‘toolbox’ activity, related to the protagonist of each story with suggested ‘discussion questions’ for further reflection, ‘activities’ (such as a certain visit or exercise) and ‘resources’ (such as readings, videos, films etc), all aiming at providing possible ‘vehicles’ for further understanding of the issues explored from different sources. I found that particularly helpful as it is often acknowledged that dynamics of culture are often invisible or difficult to acknowledge. Also, in that way, the reader is given the opportunity to consider application of multicultural theory concepts in real-life situations and specific clients, thus making the matters arising more comprehensible and applicable for practitioners.

I am also struck by the sensitivity of the authors in terms of their use of language related to culture. Care has been shown in order to avoid any ‘labelling’ as well as to attempt to capture the rich transferential and counter-transferential responses involved in cross-cultural relationships, perceived as “useful data that can guide clinicians in their quest to provide culturally sensitive clinical services” in an ethical and congruent manner.

I would highly recommend this book to practitioners, trainees and counsellor trainers, supervisors, researchers and anybody interested in the subject of identity and culture. It is written with a communicative manner, through a perspective of facilitating a ‘journey of growth’ via vivid stories of everyday living.

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