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Understanding Diverse Clients Through Worldview

In addition to understanding diverse clients' systems and social identities, counselors should also understand clients as individuals with their own unique experience of the world (Ibrahim, 1991). The concept of worldview is useful for this purpose (Ibrahim, 1991; Sue & Sue, 2008). Worldview is related to social identity but includes individual, group, and universal dimensions; both cultural upbringing and individual life experiences; and all client conceptions that guide their meaning making, decisions, and behavior (Ibrahim, 1991; Sue & Sue, 2008). Worldview encompasses clients' individual, social, and universal contexts, including dimensions of family, social identity, history, language, biological, ecological, or environmental factors (T. Smith & Kehe, 2004).

Although worldview is complex, models such as Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's (1961) Value Orientation Model may simplify understanding of its important dimensions. This model highlights four dimensions in which counselor and client worldviews may differ significantly: experiencing and valuing time, attitudes toward activity, views of social relationship, and beliefs regarding the essential nature of people. Ibrahim (1991) expanded Kluckhohn and Strodtbeck's work into a theory, developed a measurement instrument called the Scale to Assess Worldviews© (SAWV), and described the categories, listed below, to more specifically express a wide range of worldviews:

• View of human nature: good, bad, or a combination of good and bad.

• View of social relationships: lineal-hierarchical, collateral-mutual, and individualistic.

• View of nature: subjugate and control nature, live in harmony with nature, accept the power and control of nature over people.

• Time orientation: past, present, and future.

• Activity orientation: being, being-in-becoming, and doing.

Ibrahim (1991) also suggested that orientation within this framework must be understood in the context of history of the client's identified group(s), language(s), gender, religion, family history as well as current family life, from both ethnic/cultural and majority culture perspectives, and the neighborhoods in which the client grew up.

Other authors have focused on three other dimensions of worldview: locus of control, locus of responsibility, and collectivism-individualism (Oyserman, Coon, & Kemmelmeier, 2002; Sue & Sue, 2008). Locus of control refers to beliefs about the degree to which a person can influence his or her own life and ranges from internal, where the person can exert control, to external, where external factors control the individual. Locus of responsibility, conversely, describes beliefs about where responsibility for a problem ties, generally in terms of attributing responsibility to either the individual or the system (Sue & Sue, 2008). Most counseling theories that emphasize intrapsychic phenomena demonstrate an individual locus of responsibility, whereas theories that emphasize family, organizational, or societal dynamics demonstrate a systemic locus of responsibility.

In addition to locus of control and locus of responsibility, worldview can be characterized in terms of individualism-collectivism. An individualistic worldview places the individual and her or his goals, uniqueness, and power at the center of importance, whereas a collectivistic worldview places the social (family, community, nation) at the center (Oyserman et al., 2002). A primary concern for autonomy of the individual demonstrates a high level of individualism, whereas attention to the influence of choices on family and community demonstrates a high level of collectivism. Clients whose orientation is primarily collectivistic will have very different priorities and choices during therapy compared with clients who are more individualistic.

Counselors who gain knowledge of their own and their clients' worldviews will more accurately understand diverse clients' experiences, issues, goals, and way of being during the counseling process. Because worldview allows counselors to understand clients in terms of their universal, group, and individual identities (Sue & Sue, 2008), counselors can be both culturally sensitive and client specific, thereby avoiding stereotypic understanding and treatment of clients that may be damaging (Ibrahim, 1991).

 
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