Critical Incidents in Graduate Student Development of Multicultural and Social Justice Competency

Sandra Collins, Nancy Arthur, Candace Brown


In many countries, counselling psychology has increasingly attended to the diverse needs of clients within multicultural societies. In North America, emphasis has been placed on nondominant populations, whose experiences of discrimination, cultural oppression, and social, economic, and political marginalization, have a significant impact on psychosocial wellbeing. Counsellors are expected to engage in social justice action, with or on behalf of clients, to effect change in organizations, communities, or broader social systems. The purpose of this study was to examine how well counsellor education programs in Canada are preparing counsellors for both multicultural counselling and social justice. Most research has focused on curriculum content; less attention has been paid to how that content is taught and the efficacy of those learning processes in facilitating competency. The critical incident technique was used to solicit examples of effective and less effective learning processes from graduate students. The qualitative data was analyzed to isolate, cluster, and relate emergent concepts; a critical lens also highlighted missing constructs. The most common learning contexts were the multicultural counselling course and the applied practicum. Four themes emerged that reflect current research: fostering of self-awareness, application of theory to practice, engagement of affect through experiential exercises, and exposure to diversity. Infusion of multicultural and social justice competency throughout curricula is also widely advocated, but was reflected in only four percent of the critical incidents. Engagement in social justice roles and activities was also missing. Enhancements to both curriculum content and process are required to support the social justice agenda.

DOI: 10.5901/ajis.2013.v2n9p105

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Academic Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies ISSN 2281 3993(Print) ISSN 2281-4612(Online)

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