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McAulifffe, G (2008)

Thursday, April 24th, 2008 @ 4:32 pm
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Posted in  Book Reviews, Literature

Another book i reviewed for Thresholds journal, titled “Culturaly alert Counseling – a comprehensive introduction”  – it was not at all to my linking, very ‘americanised, we-have-all-answers’ kind of style that i think is actually a bit ‘dangerous’ especially when talking about issues of culture. I disagree with tha categorising of people and the emphasis of ‘we’ and ‘they’ principle when referring to the ‘other’ or ‘less familiar’ .Here it is, will be published soon too:

Garrett McAuliffe & Associates
Culturally Alert Counseling: a Comprehensive Introduction
Sage 2008
ISBN 978-1-4129-1006-4
672 pp

This is a US-based volume about ‘culturally alert counseling’ claiming to be “a beginning text for emerging counsellors and psychotherapists of all kinds”. Culturally alert counselling is defined as ‘a consistent readiness to identify the cultural dimensions of clients’ lives and a subsequent integration of culture into the counselling work’ (p.5). This definition left me wondering whether the acclaimed aims of the book are achievable since the above statement seems to suggest that there is a textbook list of skills that if followed, success is guaranteed.

The editor introduces the book with a beginning chapter that offers description of foundational concepts related to culture and diversity, aiming at enhancing understanding of the rest of the book. The discourse in this section is quite rigorous and well-written. The book addresses the issues related to culture, with the broader use of the term, as it is expressed through six cultural categories – race, ethnicity, social class, gender, sexual orientation, and religion. Also, factors that are central to the subject discussed, such as cultural identity development, social justice, acculturation theories, racism and so on are presented through informative references to literature. Chapters five to eleven refer to specific ethnic groupings that form the US society today. These are followed by chapters on the cultural categories previously mentioned and the book ends with a chapter on implications for practice and outlines for multicultural counselling competencies.

What I found particularly uncomfortable in this book is the emphasis on making a clear distinction of the ‘non-familiar/culturally different’ others; as if there is ‘they’ and ‘us’ in different worlds and requiring specific techniques (for which the authors appear to have all the answers) to communicate with each other. Additionally, there is a lot of ‘labelling’ in the use of language, especially when referring to specific ethnic or other groupings

This is a big volume, accompanied by a 25 page Resource Guide with demonstrations of suggested skills and a DVD with further material for using the book for training purposes. It may appear useful to counselling trainers and supervisors but I would suggest that it is used with care in training or by those interested in the subject, in terms of maintaining a spirit of ‘reflexivity’ and posing questions of awareness rather than claiming that there is a definite, well boxed answer for self and the so-called ‘other’.

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