The three competencies of multicultural counseling are an awareness of one’s own assumptions, values, and biases; knowledge of the worldviews of culturally diverse groups and individuals; and skills to determine and apply culturally appropriate intervention strategies. I can think of no better way to approach the subject of treating transgendered students than to share a story that that highlights the first cultural competency. This story was candidly told to me by the Co-Owner & Clinical Director of Evoke Therapy Programs, Dr. Brad Reedy.
“You were really wild, you were like one of the worst students to have ever walked these halls!” This is a quote from one of my old high school teachers who said this to my youngest brother on his first day of work. My brother was hired to teach social studies at the high school we both attended. It’s important to note that he was a straight-A student, the salutatorian of his class, and a model of good behavior; a legacy much different from the one I left behind. Since we look a like, she thought she was speaking to me! When my brother tried to explain to her that she was getting us confused, she thought he was lying to her and avoiding the situation; a response that would have been typical for the person she knew 15 years ago. This awkward confrontation lasted several minutes until she finally stomped away, convinced that my brother was lying, and I was up to my same old tricks of manipulation and defiance. When I heard this story I started laughing hysterically at the thought that I could still rattle her cage and mess with her even when I was thousands of miles away, completely removed from the situation. It warmed my big defiant heart!
My first encounter with a client outside of therapy was a scenario that had played out in my mind many different ways, most seemed to be characterized by feelings of awkwardness and discomfort. I had heard of a lot of strange stories of counselors and field instructors running into their clients and I was not looking forward to it. As a counselor, the ethics state that if I come in contact with a client outside of therapy I cannot smile, wave, or do anything that would indicate a connection to that individual. The initiation of contact or acknowledgement of familiarity has to come from the client. If a conversation were to take place it is also my responsibility to avoid any language that would reveal the nature of our relationship and protect client confidentiality. In other words, it’s a tricky situation that could play out a million different ways and there are a lot of aspects that are out of my control. I think my uneasiness and fear related to the situation is understandable. Luckily, my first experience was a positive one.