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BEN C. H. KUO, Ph.D.

University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Address for correspondence:

Ben C. H. Kuo, Ph.D., Certified Psychologist

Associate Professor

Department of Psychology

University of Windsor,

401 Sunset Ave., Chrysler Hall South,

Windsor, Ontario,

Canada, N9B 3P4

Tel: (519) 253 3000 ext. 2238

Fax: (519) 973 7021

E mail Address:


With rapid globalization and increasing migration of people around the world, the issues concerning culture in the lives of groups and individuals are becoming more critical than ever. Within the academic and professional discipline of psychology, psychotherapy, and counseling, cultural and multicultural issues are gaining increasing attention at the research, teaching, training and practice fronts (Pedersen, 1997; Sue & Sue, 2008). While ‘culture’ is a much talk about topic even among mental health practitioners including counselors, the concept of ‘culture’ and its connection to the enterprise of counseling and psychological services are not always straightforward or clear in the mind of many counseling professionals.


Culture has been described as the ‘air we breathe’ or the ‘lens we wear’ to see the world. Consequently, culture’s influences on what we think and do and how we perceive others and the world are pervasive, deep-seated but yet frequently taken for granted. This is because these influences often lie outside of our conscious awareness and they only become more apparent to us when we are in a different cultural environment, such as traveling to a different country or region or encountering clients whose cultural values and language are different from ours. As such, without training or being reminded counselors may easily take for granted the extent to which we are shaped uniquely by our own sets of cultural values, beliefs, and characteristics, and the fact that these cultural elements may bear both direct and indirect impacts on the way we interact with others, including our clients.


Despite the above caveats, many counselors, therapists, psychologist remain unclear about “What is really culture?” and/or “How exactly does culture impact the counseling process and therapeutic relationship?” and/or “What can a counselor do to increase his or her cultural sensitivity and responsiveness in counseling work?” . Therefore, the broad intent of the current article is to introduce counselors to the basic concepts related to culture and multiculturalism, and the relevance of cultural concepts to counseling and helping relationship. More specifically, this article will: a) define and explain ‘culture’ as pertinent to the counseling enterprise and practice; b) introduce the notion and the content of multicultural counseling; c) define and describe multicultural counseling competencies; and d) offer concrete steps and strategies for counselors who are seeking further professional development and growth in becoming culturally-informed practitioners. Thus, it is the aim of this article to inform counselors about how to identify and discern culture and its elements in themselves, in clients, and in counseling process, so that counselors can anticipate and respond effectively should cultural issues arise in the client-counselor relationship. The Multicultural Context of Taiwan


Before moving on to the discussion of culture and multicultural counseling, it is necessary to first situate these subject matters within the cultural context of Taiwan. The issues of cultural diversification and interethnic group relationships are becoming increasingly important within the Taiwanese society. In terms of demographics, the population of Taiwan is comprised of highly heterogeneous, ethnically-diverse, cultural groupings. According to one estimate, the total population in Taiwan is made up of approximately 70% Hoklo/Min-Nan Taiwanese, 15 % of Hakka people, 12% Mainland Chinese, and 2% Aboriginal people (Wikipedia, 2010). Even among aboriginals in Taiwan, there are at least 13 recognized tribal groups with significant cultural differences among them.


Further, in recent decades there have also been an increase in the number of women from Southeast Asia and China marrying Taiwanese men, known as ‘Foreign brides’ (‘外籍新娘’). According to the Ministry of Interior in Taiwan, in 2008 there were a total of 116,846 immigrant women (i.e., ‘foreign spouses’) from Southeast Asian countries living in Taiwan (Ministry of Interior, 2008 a & b). The number comprised of 62% from Vietnam (78,462), 20% from Indonesia (25,821), 5% from Thailand (6,230), 4.5% from Philippine (5,763), and 3.6% from Cambodia (4,570) (Ministry of Interior, 2008 a & b). The resulting effect of these cross-national marriages has led to a new generation of immigrant children known as “New Children of Taiwan” (i.e., ‘新移民之子’ or ‘新台灣之子’). The emerging and rapidly growing cohorts of these children of immigrant mothers have populated the school systems in Taiwan in recent years.


In view of these demographic changes and the rise in ethnic identity and consciousness among the residents of Taiwan, Taiwan is undoubtedly becoming ever more diverse and pluralistic as a society – it is a cultural ‘melting pot’ consisted of diverse ethnicities, languages/dialects, values, religious beliefs, regionalism, and socioeconmonic statuses. Consequently, concerns such as cultural adaptation of newcomers in Taiwan, integration of these newcomers and their children into the fabric of the Taiwan society, intergroup relations and conflicts, ethnic-political identification of members of various cultural groups are becoming pressing and sometime highly contentious issues. These matters hold implications for social, educational, and political policies and institutions in Taiwan.


Likewise, cultural diversity also has far-reaching implications for the provision of psychological and mental health services in Taiwan. Mental health practitioners in Taiwan, including counselors, social workers, community workers, psychologists, and psychiatrists, are being confronted with increasing number of demographically diverse clients/patients whom they must work with. Many mental health professionals have to respond to the needs of clients whose linguistic, cultural, religious, and socioeconomic backgrounds are drastically different from those of their own. Culturally insensitive or inadequate counseling and mental health services can easily lead to barriers that prevent ethnic and culturally diverse clients from seeking much- needed help (Kuo, 2004). Hence, addressing cultural issues in counseling and throughout the mental health systems in Taiwan is both timely and imperative. Some recent researchers have pointed that it will become increasingly necessary and advantageous for counselors, psychologists, and other mental health professionals in Taiwan to develop culturally competent clinical and counseling skill sets in order to respond to increasing cultural and diversity issues in helping relationship (Kuo, Hsu, & Lai, in press).
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