The Concept of Culture in Counselling
Culture may be defined in a broad and narrow context. The broad definition includes demographic variables ( age, gender), status variables ( social, educational, economic) and affiliations ( formal and informal), as well as ethnographic variables, such as ethnicity, nationality, language. Narrow definition of culture is limited to the terms of ethnicity and nationality, which are important for individual and familial identity, but the concept of culture in Counselling usually goes beyond national and ethnic boundaries. It interprets culture in a broader aspect, it aims to go beyond its more obvious and verifiable symbols toward the more subjective perspectives its members hold. Counselling deals with the subjective aspect of culture, which refers to the internalised feeling, attitudes, opinions and assumptions that members of a particular culture hold, as well as with the objective, which involves visible aspects, that are culturally adopted and determined and can be identified by both persons within and outside a given culture.
There are different perspectives, however, which put stress on various aspects of culture and try to identify its boundaries and its substitutes. Some regard culture as separate entity from demographic factors, some point out acculturation as one of the obstacles, which makes culture difficult to identify, some show how an intimate and meaningful relationship between a counsellor and a culturally different client to be established. In this essay I will be discussing what the different concepts of understanding of culture in Counselling are, by examining different authors and perspectives and evaluating their strengths and weaknesses.
Herskovits ( 1948 cited in Serpell 1978 ) defines culture as the part of the environment, which is created or shaped by human beings. Triandis ( 1972 in Pedersen 1994) focused on the culture ‘in our heads’ , which is composed of the shared experiences and knowledge of a self-perpetuating and continuous human group, which is part and parcel of the personal reality. Triandis, Bontemplo, Leung & Hui (1990 cited in Pedersen 1994) distinguished between demographic, cultural and personal constructs. Cultural constructs they identified as being shared by group of people, who live in the same geographical location at the same time, speak the same dialect and shared the same norms, roles, values and ways to describe experience. Demographic constructs deal with the same topics, but when shared by a particular demographic group within a culture, such as men and women, young and old. Personal constructs belong to another category of individual differences and cannot be meaningfully interpreted with references to the cultural and demographic membership. Each of the three constructs are closely related with the others, but they should be examined independently. Counselling in this case should take into account cultural and demographic differences, but work...