ERIC Identifier: ED399486
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Peavy, R. Vance
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., Canadian Guidance and
Counselling Foundation Ottawa (Ontario).
Career Counseling for Native Youth: What Kind and by Whom?:
One of the most sobering realizations about career counseling with Native
youth is that almost no research has been done on Native career development--we
do not even know to what extent the term "career" is culturally sensible to
Native people. Research conducted by the author and several graduate students
(MacNeill, 1994; Peavy, 1993, 1994) has led to some working formulations about
the concept of career with Native clients.
and cultural identity is a critical issue for Native youth. They are often
caught between two cultural worlds--bicultural personhood is hard to come by for
many and rejected by others.
life path, and career path, of many Native individuals is unbelievably chaotic
and unpredictable, especially for "transitional" individuals. Family
deterioration, deculturation, and racial discrimination produce extremely
turbulent lives with little trace of "career" path.
need for healing, identity authentication, and self-esteem building is so
pressing for some Native clients that career and educational counseling must be
part of an integrated approach which encounters the "whole" person.
oriented approaches to career counseling are inappropriate for many Native
clients. As one person put it, "We do not want you to develop culture-fair tests
for our children--we want you to stop testing them!"
expectations play an important part in many Native cultures. The traditional
family depended for its survival on the sharing and cooperation of all family
members. Praise was seldom given. It was simply expected that each person would
do the very best possible--that excellence would be striven for without praise.
High skill and quality products were their own rewards. There was reluctance to
do something unless the probability of success was high. Appreciation was shown,
not by vocalizing praise, but by asking people to continue doing what they were
already doing. One of the tasks of counselors working with Native youth is to
find ways to tap into the naturally occurring ethic of high expectations and
help Native clients to apply this ethic in school culture and in dominant
While differences exist among Native groups as to the kind of counseling
suitable for their children and youth, there is almost remarkable unanimity,
which goes back decades, concerning the need for, and the nature of, culturally
appropriate counseling for Native youth (National Indian Brotherhood, 1972;
THE KIND OF COUNSELING NATIVE LEADERS AND PARENTS WANT
National Indian Brotherhood (1972) document primarily addressed education for
Native children and youth. A discussion of counseling contained the following
of counseling for Indians by Indians, both on and off reserves.
of more culturally appropriate sensitization and training for non-Native
counselors who counsel Natives.
that existing counseling services for Native youth are not only ineffective, but
in some instances contribute to the failure of Native students in school.
of Native para-professional counselor-aides to increase liaison with families
and Band councils.
school with Native students should provide counseling and guidance services
which ensure that Native students are prepared for the challenge of living and
working after leaving school.
THE KIND OF COUNSELORS AND COUNSELING NATIVE YOUTH
Recent studies of counseling for Native youth in British Columbia
(Peavy, 1994) and the Yukon (MacNeill, 1994) identified characteristics which
Native youth search for in counselors and which contribute to counseling
success, (i.e., the extent to which Native youth describe the counselor as a
safe and helpful person).
counselor should be like a best friend-someone who knows when to speak and when
to stay quiet, someone who has been through rocky times too.
counselor should be personal but non-invasive.
counselor must be perceived as "safe." Word of betrayal of confidence travels
fast through a Native community.
counselor should be accessible on a "drop-in" basis.
should be actively involved in providing a Native presence in the school.
counselor should be known in the community and should know family members by
counselor must be patient, accepting, and humorous.
counselor must be familiar with the many struggles of Native youth. This
includes coping with addictions, grief, homesickness, segregation, suicide,
discrimination, adoption, cross-band rivalries, pregnancy, sexual and physical
abuse, neglect, lack of role-models, and shame and confusion about personal and
counselor need not be Native (although this helps) but must have non-biased
knowledge about Native culture and protocol.
counselor should be informal and treat Native students as having equal status
with other students. As Native students in one discussion said, "We don't want
to be just shoved along through school, nor segregated into special rooms or
seen as having deficits or being slow. ... We want counselors to help ensure
that we take courses needed to go on for further education and to prepare us for
counselor should understand the need of many Native youth to be in a healing
should know about the need of most, but not all, Native youth for spirituality.
As one informant put it: "We have a special relationship with the land, with
ancestors, with our community, and with nature. To achieve harmony is sometimes
more important than anything else."
SUMMARY GUIDELINES FOR COUNSELORS SERVING NATIVE YOUTH
own research and that of others (Heinrich, Corvine, & Thomas; 1990; Epp,
1985) supports guidelines which can help counselors be culturally sensible with
the school, take an informal, personal, friendly, non-invasive, and accessible
in Native community happenings and become acquainted with family members.
on the best in students first, problems next. Move cautiously in the area of
"personality" and feelings.
and respect world-views based on harmony, non-interference, trust, and
career exploration strategies based on doing, not on telling.
work to create a "Native presence" in the school and cultural awareness among
all members of the school culture.
Native community networks and identify Native role-models for the purpose of
helping Native youth with transitions from home to school, school to school,
remote community to urban school, and from school to work experience.
all, practice patience, understanding, acceptance, informality and earn the
trust of both Native youth and their family members.
It is essential for career counselors working
with Native youth to be cognizant of Native communication patterns, which
include non-intrusive listening, story-telling, patience, and respect for family
influences. Native students and their parents want non-biased treatment,
information, and guidance from counselors to ensure both successful navigation
of the school culture and transition to worklife. There is a great deal of
diversity among Native groups. Counselors must not fall into the trap of seeing
all Natives as the same, or as "different in the same ways." A counselor's best
tools are knowledge of Native culture and protocol, a personal, informal, and
accessible counseling style, useful knowledge about the school and work, humor,
patience, respect for world-views-including balance, harmony, spirituality and
non-intrusiveness-and an ability to relate to Native youth on the basis of their
strengths and successes, rather than their failures and deficits.
Epp, E. J. (1985). Key issues in cross-cultural
counseling. Multicultural Education Journal, 3, 35-41.
Heinrich, R., Corvine, J., & Thomas, K. "Counseling Native Americans."
Journal of Counseling and Development, 69, 128-133.
MacNeill, J. (1994). "How Can First Nations Counselors Best Prepare to Work
with First Nations Students?: A Yukon Perspective." Master's Project, University
National Indian Brotherhood. (1972). "Indian Control of Indian Education."
Ottawa, ON: National Indian Brotherhood.
Peavy, R. (1992, September). "Constructivism and the Practice of Storied
Counselling." Paper presented to the IAVEG Congress, Lisbon, Portugal.
Peavy, R. (1993). "Development of Aboriginal Counselling: Brief to Royal
Commission On Aboriginal Peoples." Vancouver, BC: Author.
Peavy, R. (1994) "Counselling for First Nations Students: A Research Report."
Victoria, BC: British Columbia Ministry of Education.