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Cross-Cultural Considerations

Cross-cultural considerations are inherent in Adler's theory, as demonstrated in his term Gemeinschaftsgefuhl. Adler (1927/1946,1964) saw social connectedness as a well-developed social interest. He was far ahead of his time with the recognition of the destructive influence of some cultural interactions. Adler saw an individual's culture as derived from a person's subjective view of life. Culture, then, is the individual's interpretation of his or her social setting and is a strong indicator of how a person views self, lifestyle, and interactions within a community.

Based on Adler's view of people, counselors have their own interpretation of their culture. As noted by the American Counseling Association (ACA) and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD), counselors should learn and understand their own culture and how culture affects who they are as counselors. Culturally skilled counselors must recognize how culture colors their own attitudes and beliefs, including the many social aspects within a community based on destructive influences of oppression, racism, elitism, and sexism. Counselors must also develop intervention strategies and techniques appropriate to each individual client's needs and his or her culture. Counselors should work toward understanding a client's unique subjective perceptions of the world.

Adler held strong beliefs about the importance of social equity and contributed to the understanding of the marginalization of certain groups (Ferguson, 2001, 2003; Watts & Pietrzak, 2000). Adler believed in the importance of belonging in human existence and an individual's cultural impact on the individual. He believed that all of a person's interactions are calculated to connect the individual to the community and that human striving is motivated by social interest. His theory also included many concepts that can be applied to social justice issues in counseling today. The emphasis on a person's subjective view of his or her world supports respect for an individual's values and cultural perceptions. He believed in equality, civil rights, mutual respect, advancement of social values, and the importance of nurturing feelings of belonging in everyone. Adler's beliefs have as much or more relevance today than during his own time.

As suggested by ACA and AMCD as well as Lee's (2007) book, Counseling for Social Justice, counselors should be aware of social exclusion, a process by which certain individuals and groups (i.e., individuals with disabilities; gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgendered persons; women; ethnic and racial groups) are unable to access the resources, entitlements, and powers (e.g., housing, employment, health care, social engagement, and government participation) that are available to others in society and that are key to social interest. These exclusions are unnecessarily and inappropriately imposed on people and limit a person or individuals from full participation in society and the world. As noted throughout this chapter, many would agree that Adler's theory is well matched with social justice issues for marginalized or diverse individuals or groups of individuals. Adlerian counselors should seek to develop an awareness of social equality for marginalized groups, as well as all humans, with the sense that everyone has an equal right to be valued and respected. For counselors, this is a development welcomed and much needed at a time when abuse of power over many diverse and marginalized groups continues to occur. In addition, with the rise of social justice issues, cultural awareness, and sensitivity in counseling, ACA and AMCD require that counselors move beyond the traditional theory orientation, as suggested by Adler, and also focus on education, prevention, and advocacy. ACA and AMCD note that counselors should be committed to advocating for clients by offering counseling services to disenfranchised and marginalized groups, thereby promoting social justice for clients through community outreach.

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