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Cross-Cultural Considerations

Accepting individuals means accepting, understanding, and respecting their culture. It is the context of their world that concurrently shapes individuals' experiences of self and being. The existential issues span all cultures and are experienced interpersonally and intrapersonally. Hoffman (2009) illustrated that existential counseling has been successfully applied to a broad number of ethnic and minority populations (e.g., African American, Latino, Chinese, Native American, gay and lesbian, a variety of religious backgrounds, and children). Brown and Graham (2009) indicated that it is easy to see existential issues when international students come to grips with issues of selfhood at the time that they are immersed in a new country and culture. Culture becomes the vehicle by which an individual's sense of self and being are experienced.

Although it is not critical that counselor and client come from the same cultural background, culture must be addressed in the counseling sessions because cultural sensitivity and knowledge are vital. As culture provides a framework, existentialism continues to become more applicable and needed within society. Berguno (2008) stated that even the war on terrorism becomes a struggle with individualization and freedom, when one views the lack of personal choice that brought each person into the conflict. Hannush (2007) described cultures as varying in their focus. Some cultures encourage freedom, independence, and separation, whereas others emphasize limitation, interdependence, and connection. However, through open, authentic encounters, people can develop cross-cultural understanding. Henriksen (2006) indicated that "helping clients gain historical cultural awareness can help them gain insight into their cultural influences experienced by clients, resulting in a clearer understanding of existence" (p. 176). Likewise, race (Meissner, Brigham, & Butz, 2005) appears to affect people's phenomenological perceptions of themselves and others. Culture can become a means of escape and a way to distance when one is faced with fear of differences, meaninglessness, freedom, isolation, and death.

Other existentialists believe that connecting with others individually and within one's culture helps individuals to heal from their isolation (Maslow, 1954). Henriksen (2006) and Hannush (2007) described existential counseling or psychotherapy as uniquely able to address the cultural dynamics in relationships. When people begin acknowledging and accepting who they are in their cultural context, they can start to connect with others and then, again, with themselves.

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