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Practicing multiculturalism: affirming diversity in counseling and psychology.

Smith, T. B. (Ed.) Boston: Pearson 2004, ISBN 0-205-33640-X, pp. 341, $64.60.

The editor presents this text as a change agent in the field of multiculturalism. More specifically, this text is about enhancing the efficacy of prevention and treatment initiatives, as well as an invitation to readers to practice multiculturalism in counseling and therapy. The text brings together the works of multiple authors, discussing a variety of issues pertinent to multiculturalism. The text's focus on the internalization of multicultural principles is aided through discussion of values and assumptions; multicultural scenarios; and power, privilege, and contextual factors that impact multicultural practice.

The text is divided into four parts, consisting of sixteen chapters and a glossary. Part I includes chapters on practicing multiculturalism and the multicultural context of mental health. Within these chapters the authors present information on the rational of multicultural practice, the aim of multiculturalism, addressing power and culture, multicultural competencies, and ingredients of successful multicultural practice. Other information examines the historical context of culture and mental health; multicultural mental health theory; multicultural counseling skills; multiculturalism as the fourth force in the psychological forces of psychodynamism, behaviorism, and humanism; and multicultural issues and controversies.

Part II presents multicultural skill development. Information is presented on awareness and identity as foundational principles of multicultural practice, intercultural communication as contexts for mindful achievement, working from within as contextual mental health and organizational competence, and a contextual approach to assessment. Part III focuses on considerations for multicultural practice with specific populations. Attention is given to children of color and their families, African Americans, Latino/Latina clients, Asian Americans, Native Americans, Arab Americans, immigrant and international students, religious and spiritual diversity, and classism. Part IV is the conclusion, providing an understanding of individuals in their context as a relational perspective of multicultural counseling and psychotherapy.

This text offers several distinct advantages. One advantage is that this book presents information that may generalize from one situation to another and from one individual to another. In other words, the information draws on similarities across domains while simultaneously exploring distinct differences among populations. A second advantage is that the book emphasizes the essential skill of addressing each individual contextually. A third advantage of this text is that it attempts to integrate multiple aspects of diversity (gender, sexual orientation, family dynamics, acculturation, and age) within each chapter. Finally, the contributors of this text believe that due to the various forms of diversity the value of the book is in the creation of dialogue, which creates a space for mutual understanding and ultimately for mutual enrichment. The value of this book is not so much in the information it presents as in the process that it potentially facilitates.

The editors admit that a limitation of this book is the tension between describing characteristics of a particular group and the tendency to stereotype individual group members. Thus, several chapters emphasize the necessity of accurate contextual understanding of individuals (rather than seeing only contexts--race, gender, sexual orientation, age, and so forth) in order to enhance effective counseling and therapy and prevent obscuring the individual; which may prevent accurate contextual understanding. Another disadvantage is that this text, similar to most books on multiculturalism, omits addressing rural populations. Finally, this book would be strengthened with the addition of a chapter dedicated to persons with disabilities and the influence of culture, or at least the infusion of individuals with disabilities throughout the text.

The text is well organized, user friendly, has high readability, and makes good use of tables, figures, and diagrams. Coverage of multicultural organizational development and activism provides an excellent background for the reader to gain an understanding of the importance of the role of multiculturalism in counseling and therapy. In general, the text encourages critical examination of issues related to race, power, positionalities, and privilege in relation to diversity.

I recommend this book for those in rehabilitation counseling, social work, behavior science, and psychology. It can serve as a primary text or as a supplement to another book and readings. The book has value for both instructors and students in the self-evaluation process and gaining understanding of diversity in counseling by helping the reader internalize the principles of multiculturalism. Contributors of this text emphasize that we live in an increasingly multicultural world in which positionalities all interact continuously and require an understanding beyond simplistic generalizations. Clearly, the challenge is to establish mutually beneficial relationships that go beyond the superficial and view differences as opportunities. This book is useful in actualizing multicultural competence and proficiency.

Debra A. Harley, Ph.D.

Department of Special Education & Rehabilitation Counseling

University of Kentucky
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Author:Harley, Debra A.
Publication:The Journal of Rehabilitation
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 2005
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