Understanding Diversity and Its Impact on Counselling Relationship

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2323 |

Pages: 5|

12 min read

Published: Jul 3, 2023

Words: 2323|Pages: 5|12 min read

Published: Jul 3, 2023

Table of contents

  1. How Difference and Diversity Might Influence the Counselling Relationship
  2. How My Personal Differences and Sense of Diversity Might Impact the Counselling Relationship
  3. How the Explicit and Implicit Power Dynamics Between the Therapist and the Client Might Manifest in the Relationship
  4. Steps I Need to Enhance Self-Awareness on How Power Imbalances Can Be Managed
  5. How Taking the Position of an Expert Within the Counselling Relationship Would Disempower and Possibly Harm the Client

In this essay on diversity I will explain my understanding of difference and diversity as we are living in multicultural society and every individual should attempt to explore, understand, and accept differences across all dimensions of diversity. Also, I believe that awareness brings empowerment!

'Why Violent Video Games Shouldn't Be Banned'?

Racism is defined by Myers as 'the act of exaggeration of differences that portray minorities as having weaker physical and mental abilities than the vast majority of individuals'. On the other hand, according to APA (American Psychological Association), gender is a term used to describe 'the attitudes, feelings, and behaviours that a given culture associates with a person's biological sex'.

Over generations, travel has opened the door to our vast world, some travellers settle down far from where they were born and often create their own community, and some travellers are passing through. They bring with them a wealth of experiences as each views the world in a differently. This can bring together the most wonderful knowledge from many perspectives across society. Cultural diversity brings about enrichment through shared experiences and we further develop tolerance and understanding between each of our cultures. Within our cultures are many differences. Our beliefs, language and how we view and accept each other all differ within our societies. Differences are also found within our own culture. Our family dynamics will be different within the family units and our behaviour differs between individuals. Some individuals may not identify with their own gender, or their choice of clothing and language and accents between regions may differ from our own or what we view as conventional, and therefore we may regard them as different. Difference is to be celebrated and embraced.

I was recently privileged to work with a family who were of Indian descent, of which I had little knowledge. They helped me to understand some of the differences they experienced within their culture relating to mental health. The wife was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia and was desperate for support. The extended family ignored this, as this brought 'shame-embarrassment' to their family within the community. This had a further impact their engagement with clinical services and consequently led me to respectfully consider their values and how I could offer the support that was needed while in crisis.

How Difference and Diversity Might Influence the Counselling Relationship

Difference and diversity present us with challenges and can create barriers within a therapeutic relationship. We all have unconscious biases and this will mean, at times, we make assumptions about our clients based on their language, culture, background or how they look. These assumptions may be from our own experiences or introjected values and may influence how the therapeutic relationship develops. A client may find that a counsellor from a different background may understand the complexities faced in diverse cultures. The client may appreciate speaking openly with someone completely disconnected to their community and feel their worries and concerns are validated. A client may also find that speaking with a counsellor who is non-judgemental and presents with unconditional positive regard, is an experience they have not yet felt, for the reason that, within their familycommunity, they are not expected to challenge, but accept what you are being toldoffered. Additionally, some clients may find speaking with someone from a different gender, age or culture, helps gain a different perspective and can often shed some light on the feelings they are experiencing.

On the other hand, a client may not connect to the counsellor because of raceethnicity and not feel completely understood. This presents a different challenge and one of which may result in a change of counsellor to suit the client.

My own biases may influence how I develop a relationship with a client, and I am conscious of the idea of transference. This makes it all the more important to continuously visit biases and question or thoughts. Living in a complex society and multicultural society means we can educate and empower those we meet, and it is our responsibility to challenge unfair treatment. At times it feels uncomfortable recognising our own biases and to consider our own self perception of who we really are against the person we would like to be. We cannot allow our own beliefs to impact negatively on the therapeutic relationship.

While different elements of diversity can strongly influence how we see ourselves and the world, we must never assume as therapists how a client identifies themselves: it is always important to work with empathy to enter the client's frame of reference 'that is, to consider fully the client's idiosyncratic way of thinking and behaving (and so feeling)'.

I have identified I have limited knowledge on gender identification, and I lack awareness of the correct language to use. Language changes all the time, words that are common now may not be in several years to come and I am aware I may not always be considering this, until the time comes that I need to. In my job role I have begun working with a young adult. The name was Sammy and when I made an initial call, I heard a female voice. I assumed that Sammy was female, and I apologised for my confusion. Sammy explained to me he began life as female and now identified as male. I respect Sammy's choice and use the pronoun that he prefers.

How My Personal Differences and Sense of Diversity Might Impact the Counselling Relationship

My own thoughts are diversity has many dimensions and it is difficult to give each one the merit it deserves with this essay. I believe gender and race are continuously experiencing change, and I consider these, along with religious beliefs and family dynamics, will have the most impact on my counselling practice. Awareness within these diverse and yet different areas, is growing and changing and I welcome the changes. It feels right to assume at a great pace however, when I look back through history to where we are now, I recognise it is a long slow process and we, as a society, have a long way to go before the changes make a difference.

I live in a predominately white demographic. My everyday life means I rarely experience diverse cultures and the many differences that fall in-between. We don't see many people of colour and I do find this frustrating. Village life does not appear to encourage people of colour. Is this because they would feel unwelcome because of their skin colour?

My own experiences within a strict religious upbringing, left me with a sense of mistrust. I have a mistrust towards some religious communities with strong views who do not welcome diversity. I held mistrust for the leaders of these churches. I felt that many of the Pentecostal churches held strict homophobic views and do not allow any room for change. This religious community instilled in me a fear of men. I was often outraged to hear my own family speak out against same sex marriages and more recently, in such derogatory terms against LGBT and abortion rights. This is Northern Ireland, a country where religion has controlled how people think for many years.

I will be very clear and say I have worked through my own personal issues in therapy and no longer hold such strong views about the community I lived in who I felt had let me down. I have accepted and can manage the trauma induced by events. I make the time to explore my ongoing process of self-reflection and awareness, this combined, strengthens my own values.

So, I question how I would feel, as a counsellor, if a male client, spoke of belonging to one of the Pentecostal churches that I grew to question, and we didn't hold the same beliefs. Firstly, I will not allow myself to be blinded by the client's religion. The client is more than his religion and he has come in the belief that he can fully trust me as his counsellor. I will be present with unconditional positive regard and be within the client's frame of reference. This will be his time within the counselling room.

If I feel any uncomfortable feelings of transference, I will take this to my supervisor and seek support and guidance of how to manage this.

How the Explicit and Implicit Power Dynamics Between the Therapist and the Client Might Manifest in the Relationship

'Implicit' is suggested, though not directly expressed. 'Explicit' is expressed clearly and in detail. Dr. John Norcross, professor of psychology, author of Psychotherapy Relationships That Work, was instrumental in research conducted over 8yrs, to find out what made the therapeutic relationship work, as well as, what happens to make the therapeutic relationship fail. Dr John Norcross on YouTube in Psychlive, stated that we cannot expose a client to any kind of deep therapy until a great therapeutic relationship is established.

When we look at explicit communication, we may find a client is low on motivation to make change. We may hear them say 'I can't change' or 'I can't do that'. Our response, while staying with the client in their frame of reference and demonstrating good empathy, will be 'I understand how difficult this can be for you'. The client will feel empowered knowing they are supported and not being judged.

Working around implicit forms of communication may require the use of immediacy within the relationship. For example, that instinctive feeling we have as a counsellor, as we are fully in the client's frame of reference and 'notice' the client is using defensive language. An 'implicit' form of communication. Use of immediacy in this situation may be 'I notice when you speak to me you sound defensive. I wonder what is going on between us'? This is again empowering the client. The therapist remains in the client's frame of reference and is offering some reflection for the client.

A therapist will use non-defensive language and actions when responding to a client's negativity or hostility. The therapist must be able to detect any possible miscommunication and address this immediately.  A client's perception is what predicts success, they are the best judge of how the therapeutic relationship is developing. A therapist can establish this by using some simple questions. For example, How do you think therapy is going? How are we? What would you like more or less of? Implicit and explicit patterns of relating We can adapt our responses according to the explicit and implicit communication we receive from our client. We learn what works for the client and this is empowering.

Steps I Need to Enhance Self-Awareness on How Power Imbalances Can Be Managed

In all my readings, there is one thing that resonates throughout and that is, 'it's the therapeutic relationship that heals'. All modalities I have explored this far during our training, begin with the core conditions from person centred. When a client enters the counselling room they are coming for help and assistance during a vulnerable time in their lives. They depend on the counsellor's knowledge and experience to support them. Our aim is to balance this level of power between counsellor and client and work to empowering the client. This can begin with the all-important contracting, empowering the client with transparency. The 'I'm ok-You're ok' model within Transactional Analysis highlights why so much emphasis is placed on the contracting process. This offers an equal responsibility to both client and counsellor, making it explicit from the beginning how they can work ‘together’ as equals, to make positive changes.

Within my self-reflection, I can ask myself some of the questions offered by Carl Rogers. How do I look upon others? Do I recognise each person's worth in his own right? Is my philosophy to offer the utmost respect to every individual? Am I willing for my client to choose his own values and goals? Do I respect my client's capacity to self-direction?

Carl Rogers wrote, 'when a counsellor enters the perceptual frame of reference of the client, he frees the client to explore his life and experience, frees the client to perceive in that experience new meanings and goals'.

Dr Irvin Yalom talks about working within the here and now, focussing on the therapeutic relationship. 'As patients, we perceive that person sitting across from us as a powerful and impenetrable figure, yet we’re expected to reveal ourselves up to their scrutiny'.

'The patient and therapist are fellow travellers in therapy-they are both human beings dealing with essential problems of existence and must work cooperatively to solve them'.

How Taking the Position of an Expert Within the Counselling Relationship Would Disempower and Possibly Harm the Client

Carl Rogers believed that 'people are the best experts on their own life and experiences. They become destructive only when a poor self-concept or external constraints override the valuing process'.

A client arrives at the counselling room in their time of need, a time when they feel vulnerable and at their lowest emotionally. To enable and empower the client we help them to understand how they got there before they can understand how to get out. Our use of language can be received as confrontational. 'What is wrong with you' immediately disempowers and lays 'blameshame' on the client. Devaluing their own self-worth.

A counsellor offering advice can so easily be viewed as the 'rescuer' as in the 'Stephen Karpman's Drama Triangle'. The rescuer is known to need 'victims' to 'help' and to keep dependent. My own thoughts on this are the client is not a helpless victim who needs a hero. They are Human beings who have the capacity to manage their own problems and further recognise the path to change. Disempowering a client may result in them feeling undermined and unable to listen and trust their own voice. The counsellor is ignoring what the client's needs are and they may miss out on recognising effective skills and risk ending the relationship with a poor outcome.

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Following my own strong values as a counsellor I will practise the skills set out in Carl Rogers Core conditions, empathy, congruence and unconditional positive regard. By being self-aware I will move to empowering my client, not to rescue.

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Oliver Johnson

Cite this Essay

Understanding Diversity and Its Impact on Counselling Relationship. (2023, July 03). GradesFixer. Retrieved February 21, 2024, from
“Understanding Diversity and Its Impact on Counselling Relationship.” GradesFixer, 03 Jul. 2023,
Understanding Diversity and Its Impact on Counselling Relationship. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 21 Feb. 2024].
Understanding Diversity and Its Impact on Counselling Relationship [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Jul 03 [cited 2024 Feb 21]. Available from:
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