ERIC Identifier: ED372346
Publication Date: 1994-04-00
Author: Fong, Margaret L.
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC.
Multicultural Issues in Supervision. ERIC Digest.
Perhaps two of the most important changes within counseling and counselor
education in the past twenty years have been (a) recognition of the need for a
multicultural perspective in all aspects of counseling and education and (b) the
evolution of supervision models and practices. Recently, these changes
culminated in two sets of competency and standards statements that will most
certainly guide counselor preparation and evaluation of counselor practice. The
Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development (AMCD) approved a
document outlining multicultural counseling competencies and standards (Sue,
Arredondo, & McDavis, l992) and the Association for Counselor Education and
Supervision (ACES, 1990) adopted comprehensive standards for eleven aspects of
counseling supervision. Now counselors are recognizing the need to consider
multicultural issues in supervision and methods of multicultural supervision.
The multicultural perspective will become essential as we move into the
twenty-first century. It is projected that by the year 2010 twelve of our most
populous states, containing about half of the nation's young people, will have
significant minority populations (Hodgkinson, l992). Thus, the supervision triad
of client, counselor, and supervisor will most likely contain persons of
differing racial-ethnic backgrounds who are confronting problems and concerns in
a diverse social environment.
Controversy surrounds the inclusiveness or exclusiveness of the term
multicultural so, for clarity, multicultural in this paper will be defined as in
the AMCD Standards (Sue et al., 1992), referring to visible racial-ethnic
groups, African-Americans, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanics and
Latinos, and Whites. Currently, very little descriptive and even less research
literature on multicultural supervision is available (Leong & Wagner, in
press). This paper will summarize two different aspects of multicultural
supervision: the inclusion of multicultural issues during supervision and the
multicultural supervisory relationship.
MULTICULTURAL ISSUES IN SUPERVISION
Bernard and Goodyear
(1992) advocated that the supervisor is responsible for assuring that
multicultural issues receive attention in supervision. Generally, whenever the
client is a minority group member, and sometimes when either the supervisee or
supervisor is a minority person, supervisors will recognize the relevance of
addressing cultural concerns. However, all counseling and supervision contacts
have cultural, racial-ethnic aspects which shape core assumptions, attitudes,
and values of the persons involved and which may enhance or impede counselor
effectiveness. Majority cultural patterns and the culture of counseling and
psychotherapy are often accepted by the supervisor and counselor without
thought, what Bernard and Goodyear (1992) label the "myth of sameness" (p. 195).
Recent work on white racial identity (Rowe, Bennett, & Atkinson, l994) has
underscored the need for majority counselors to develop an awareness of being
White and what that implies in relation to those who do not share White group
membership. Thus, regardless of apparent "sameness", at some point in all
supervision, and preferably early in the process, multicultural issues must be
Logical extensions of this view of multicultural supervision are models that
advocate supervision as a method to assist multicultural counselor development.
As reviewed by Leong and Wagner (in press), these models propose that
supervisees move in stages from minimal racial-ethnic awareness, to awareness of
discrepancies between cultures and within self, and then to development of a
multicultural identity. The supervisor's role is to promote supervisee growth by
challenging cultural assumptions, encouraging emotional expression, and
validating conflict of attitudes and values. These multicultural models lack
empirical support, but seem to integrate well with developmental models of
supervision (Bernard & Goodyear, l992) and direct the supervisor to assess
the multicultural awareness level of each supervisee.
A number of supervision techniques have been proposed to insure that the
cultural dimension is addressed, though none have research support (Bernard
& Goodyear, l992; Leong & Wagner, in press). Planned discussion of
culture and the culture of counseling; exploration of supervisee and supervisor
cultural backgrounds; required use of videotape (which provides visual recording
of nonverbal cultural components); modeling by the supervisor; inclusion of
cultural considerations on all intake, case management, and other written
supervision reports; and experiential exercises are methods that can be used in
individual and group supervision.
MULTICULTURAL SUPERVISORY RELATIONSHIP
While the above
section dealt with the multicultural "content" of supervision, the multicultural
supervisory relationship is the "process" of supervision. ACES counseling
supervision standard 4 (1990) addresses the knowledge and skills related to the
supervisory relationship. Only one substandard of nine (Standard 4.1) directly
addresses multicultural issues, noting the "supervisor demonstrates knowledge of
individual differences with respect to gender, race, ethnicity, culture, and age
and understands the importance of these characteristics in supervisory
relationships" (p. 30). The second half of Standard 4.1 is the difficult piece,
as there is a paucity of empirical knowledge about the dynamics and experiences
of the multicultural supervisory relationship. Leong and Wagner (in press),
critiqued the four studies published to date and concluded: (1) race can have a
profound influence on the supervisory process, particularly in terms of
trainee's expectations for supervisor empathy, respect, and congruence, (2) race
can influence a trainee's perception of supervisor liking, and (3) there are
some circumstances under which race does not seem to influence supervision.(p.
These conclusions point to the critical importance of the initial sessions in
the multicultural supervisory relationship. Cultural differences in worldview
and communication styles may particularly affect supervisee perceptions of the
supervisor as supportive and empathic. Such perceptions have been associated
with satisfaction in multicultural supervision (Leong & Wagner, in press).
Early discussion of supervisor and supervisee racial-ethnic backgrounds and
expectations about supervision may help establish a base for the development of
trust and empathy.
Another critical dimension of the multicultural supervisory relationship is
the management of power. The supervisor is viewed as having expertise and has
the responsibility of evaluating the supervisee, both contributing to an
unavoidable power differential in the relationship. In situations of a minority
supervisee and a White supervisor or a White supervisee and a minority
supervisor, both participants may attribute power to majority group membership.
This additional perceived power differential and past experiences with power
abuses by Whites may make trust formation difficult and result in cautious,
guarded communication. This, in turn, may result in the opposite of the personal
self-disclosure and openness to feedback required in supervision.
Early and recurring discussion of supervisor and supervisee expectations of
performance, orientation as to how to best use supervision, and clear statements
of evaluation criteria are methods to promote fairness and share the evaluative
power. Such discussions should be coupled with exploration of how expectations
of performance and perceptions of fairness in evaluation may be altered by each
person's cultural background. The supervisor will need to continue to consider
the influence of minority experiences of oppression and prejudice on perceptions
of power throughout the supervision process.
While there is some convergence of opinion, the
identified issues and suggestions for interventions in multicultural supervision
are currently based on personal experiences rather than empirical study. A
consistent theme in the literature is the critical role of the supervisor: in
promoting cultural awareness; in identifying cultural influences on client
behavior, on counselor-client interactions, and on the supervisory relationship;
and in providing culture-sensitive support and challenge to the supervisee. This
is a daunting responsibility! As all supervision is some form of multicultural
supervision, supervisors will need to be proficient in the multicultural
competencies identified by Sue et al. (1992). All supervisors-in-training should
work with supervisees from racial-ethnic groups other than their own and receive
supervision of multicultural supervision. Likewise, experienced supervisors will
need to seek continuing education, consultation, and focused supervision of
supervision with a multicultural emphasis to meet gaps in experience and
Association for Counselor Education and
Supervision. (1990). Standards for counseling supervisors. Journal of Counseling
and Development, 69, 30-32.
Bernard, J. M., & Goodyear, R. K. (1992) Fundamentals of clinical
supervision. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon.
Hodgkinson, H. L. (1992). A demographic look at tomorrow. Washington D.C.:
Institute for Educational Leadership.
Leong, F. T. & Wagner, N. M. (in press). Cross-cultural supervision: What
do we know? What do we need to know? Counselor Education and Supervision.
Rowe, W., Bennett, S. K., & Atkinson, D. R. (1994). White racial identity
models: A critique and alternative proposal. The Counseling Psychologist, 22,
Sue, D. W., Arredondo, P., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural
counseling competencies and standards: A call to the profession. Journal of
Counseling and Development, 70, 477-486.