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Career Self-Management and Development of Multicultural Knowledge and Practice: Experience of Professional Counsellors

Posted on:
January 26, 2020


The focus of this research project explores counsellors’ experiences and application of multicultural competencies when working with diverse clients. Using a descriptive qualitative case study approach (Yin, 2009), thirty professional counsellors engaged in semi-structured interviews. They reflected on various factors drawn upon in developing and incorporating a multicultural base of knowledge to inform their practice when working with diverse clients. This research study examines what it means to be a multicultural counsellor, including their perception of challenges and outcome expectations in developing a multicultural framework to situate their practice, and cultivation of professional resilience in their work with diverse clients. The article concludes with a discussion for future work in the area and presents a broadened scope of counsellor career adaptive behaviors implemented in effectively working with diverse clients.

Implications for Practice and Future Directions

This study provides a glimpse into counsellors understanding of helping skills acquired, processes, and outcomes of how multicultural competencies are developed and applied. Additionally, hope-based interventions emerged as a form for maintaining positive momentum in their work with clients. Further exploration of what contributes to restoring hope (life-career dreams), agency and meaning in their lives might be a next step.

The results suggest that the process of creating a personal working definition of multiculturalism when working with clients to inform practice is a consciously active, negotiated, and multifaceted process. Future research could explore decisional coping efficacy of counsellors when faced with taking empathic risks to bridge divides as well as engaging in self-reflection of failed experiences with clients. Due to the limited sample size, some potential limitations exist. The participants also had strong levels of self-efficacy in their work and it is unknown if similar experiences are held by individuals whose self-efficacy appraisals may vary in their work with diverse clients. Notwithstanding these limitations, the present research represents a useful step toward enriching an emerging research area about multicultural competency and the challenges encountered when working with diverse clients.

The overarching themes of the study has potential for helping to advance the research field by providing preliminary ideas from which novice counsellors may be able to draw from in order to increase their own understanding of how to create connections and fill in gaps between multicultural knowledge and practice. Results indicate that a counsellor’s personal worldview will shape their orientation towards the concept of diversity. The majority of counsellors’ view that an emphasis on an inclusive view of multiculturalism that incorporates the client’s intersection of multiple social identities (for example, gender, socioeconomic status, age, and disability) should have equal weight in conceptualization of culture. Over time, counsellors who adopted this point of view suggested that their need for culture-specific theories to inform their practice decreased (Collins & Arthur, 2010; Weinrach & Thomas, 2004).

Results point to the importance of unpacking how counsellors integrate understandings of culture and diversity to address client well-being. Results also indicate that counsellors could benefit from additional personal tools to learn how to become resilient problem-solvers, become better at tolerating ambiguity, and in turn increase their own sense of self-efficacy in their work. Researchers have pointed to the need for counsellors to be more prepared for the emotional challenges they will encounter in their work with diverse clients (Arthur & Collins, 2014; Collins, Arthur, & Wong-Wylie, 2010). With more personal tools available to enhance counsellor’s ability to stay open to their own learning process, practicing counsellors can be encouraged to proactively address their own developmental trajectory and engage in various experiences designed to enhance their creativity, cognitive complexity, and coping strategies.

An important consideration to take into account is how different stakeholders and social agencies in society change over time and impact it has on counsellor’s professional resilience and engagement in creative outreach with diverse clients. In this study, a pivotal turning point for counsellors was exploring the role that volunteering served to complement paid work in their field as a creative adaptive response to addressing their needs for supervision, consultation, and learning best practices within a changing social world.

Additionally, as counsellors develop over time, different life roles may become salient and questions regarding what contributes to people’s preferences for pursuing particular roles (paid work, non-monetary work, private practice, and balancing of different personal life roles) becomes important to revisit for future research (Sterner, 2012; Super, 1990). Another important consideration is how to enhance future infrastructure and norms in the workplace to facilitate professional resilience for counsellors. In this study, what became apparent was that counsellors would revise their theoretical framework over time. In turn, they would also modify their professional goals and would incrementally seek out situations of discrepancy to increase their risk tolerance with working creatively with diverse clients as a component of career self-management. Lent (2016) believed that the choices made in the workplace is a dynamic enterprise and helps to sustain interest development in one’s career.

Results of this study indicate that appraisal of opportunity structures (supports, barriers, and opportunities) found within the workplace and various social systems drawn from to inform one’s practice contributes to strengthening career choice goals and decisions made by counsellors to sustain practice.

Also in this issue:

Canadian Immigrant Youth and the Education-Employment Nexus

Special issue - Student Perspectives, 12(2) January 2020

Journal description

“The Canadian Journal of Family and Youth (CJFY), published once a year is a fully refereed interdisciplinary journal. Responding to the diversification of scholarly interests and regional concerns, the journal will be an outlet for Canadian and comparative scholarship on the changing dynamics of the family and the social situation of youth. Relevant papers might come from any discipline including Criminology, Political Science, Economics, Sociology, English, Philosophy, Business or Science. Scholarly debates on family related themes could refer to such topics as community and other social contexts, family dynamics, life course events, domestic violence, dating, marriage, and divorce but also ethnicity, racism, social class, gender, and ageism. Youth-related themes could include family issues, community, education, paid and volunteer work, youth-directed marketing, sports, delinquency and gangs, and so on.”


Research at a Glance is designed to inform the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) community and other interested parties about recently published, policy-relevant research from government, academic and NGO sources. The views expressed in the documents described do not necessarily reflect those of IRCC.


This research study examines what it means to be a multicultural counsellor, including their perception of challenges and outcome expectations in developing a multicultural framework to situate their practice, and cultivation of professional resilience in their work with diverse clients.