Culturally sensitive psychosocial counseling
Value Based Counseling (VBC) is a short-term psychodynamic intervention with a salutogenic approach that aims to improve the sense of coherence and self-efficacy of clients in the course of a non-directive but carefully structured conversation. VBC is designed for adolescent and adult clients and is based on the idea of human beings being driven by an inherent need for leading a meaningful life. What we consider meaningful depends on our personal values, hence the term ‘value-based’ counseling.
Personal values are usually connected to family values and the values of the society in which a client has been raised. Different cultures put emphasis on different sets of values, but generational conflicts, for example, indicate that none of them are set in stone. The most commonly perceived difference between cultural sets of values is that between individualistic and collectivistic societies. As Value Based Counseling does not dictate values beyond Ipso’s Code of Ethics for counselors as part of its “Do no harm” policy, VBC can be applied wherever and whenever human beings are concerned.
Value Based Counseling avoids pathologizing clinical symptoms underlying intrapsychic or interpersonal conflicts, traumatic experiences, a disruptive social environment, or difficult life transitions such as migration or loss of livelihoods. The counseling approach seeks instead to understand the significance of these symptoms as an expression of unresolved social stress. The approach is based on the experience that we can discover scope for change if we understand our emotional reaction to finding ourselves at an impasse by becoming conscious of the hierarchy of our own values that triggers this emotional reaction as well as of the values of concerned parties. Our human potential for self-development and our pursuit of harnessing this potential can be used to facilitate human self-healing.
Ipso’s research has shown that the success of Value Based Counseling heavily depends on counselors entering a relationship at eye level with their clients. To achieve this, counselors need to be able to change perspective, to be nonjudgmental and to be supportive through empathetic understanding. Building a relationship at eye level in an intercultural setting can be demanding, and the result is likely to be limited because an open mind does not substitute for an in-depth understanding of how a client sees the world though a particular cultural lens. Value Based Counseling follows an intra-cultural rather than intercultural approach and therefore requires Psychosocial Counselors to speak the native language of a client and to have the same cultural background. This approach avoids a range of problems attached to intercultural counseling such as the need for specifically trained translators.
Sharing a language and a specific cultural background goes a long way but is not enough especially in cultural contexts that include strictly defined gender roles and sex segregation in many spheres of life. Experiences of men and women differ substantially in such cases and communication across the gender barrier would require a client to break taboos. Value Based Counseling therefore has a matching system that links female clients with female counselors and male clients with male counselors.
As a result of this policy, Counselors are in a position to quickly connect with their clients in healthy work relationships which allow them to explore deeply personal matters from the first session onwards, and to effect positive change in the lives of clients within an average of three to five sessions.