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A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence


A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence

A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence

Journal of Humanistic Psychology 53(2) 202 –251

© The Author(s) 2012 Reprints and permission: http://www. sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav

DOI: 10.1177/0022167812458452 http://jhp.sagepub.com

458452 JHP53210.1177/00221678124584 52Journal of Humanistic PsychologyQuinn

1University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA

Corresponding Author: Adam Quinn, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602, USA Email: adamq@u.washington.edu

A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence

Adam Quinn1



This article examines current and historical trends in psychotherapy research and practice with racial/ethnic minority populations. Initially, research on Derald Sue’s multicultural counseling competencies is provided as a foundation to further examine the evidence regarding effective cultural adaptations to mainstream treatment approaches, such as cognitive-behavior therapy and interpersonal psychotherapy. Next, a brief outline of Carl Rogers’s psychotherapy research tradition is presented, with a focus on both past and present evidence suggesting that person-centered therapy may be effective across diagnoses, as well as cultures. Using psychotherapy evidence from both the latter half of the 20th century and the initial decades of the 21st century, cultural adaptations to previously hypothesized person-centered ther- apy mechanisms of change are proposed. In particular, this culturally adapted person-centered approach is suggested to provide a competent and effective treatment system for racial/ethnic minority clients and families. A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence


person-centered, client-centered, Carl Rogers, multicultural counseling competence, Derald Sue, cultural competencies, mechanisms of change, racial/ethnic clients, families, facilitative conditions


Quinn 203

During the final decades of the 20th century, the multicultural (MC) counsel- ing competence movement emerged as a primary topic of concern in the help- ing professions, acquiring the status of a “fourth force” in counseling and psychology (P. B. Pedersen, 1991). In particular, Derald Sue and colleagues’ work (e.g., D. W. Sue, Arredondo, & McDavis, 1992; D. W. Sue et al., 1982; S. Sue, 1977; S. Sue & Zane, 1987) toward developing a cross-cultural coun- seling competencies framework had a substantial impact on theory, research, and policy at the turn of the century. As a result, a wealth of contributions toward the training and practice of the culturally competent counselor have proliferated the field, possibly comparable to the effect that Rogers (1957) and Bordin (1979) had on research and practice in the helping professions. A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence

During the same time period, the stewards of counseling and psychotherapy research evidence (e.g., the American Psychiatric/Psychological Associations) put forth rigorous practice guidelines and validation criteria against which psy- chotherapy efficacy could be measured (e.g., Chambless et al., 1998). However, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Surgeon General’s report (HHS, 2001) later issued a stark analysis of the research studies cited by these mental health organizations. The report concluded that definitive MC research evidence demonstrating psychotherapy’s relevance for minority populations was nonexistent. Since then, however, MC counseling research has emerged suggesting that culturally adapted psychotherapy may be effec- tive compared to both unadapted forms and to no treatment. Therefore, the first section of this article will review Sue and colleagues’ MC competencies, as well as historic and modern MC research trends in general. A Person-Centered Approach to Multicultural Counseling Competence

During the formative years of Carl Rogers’s person-centered therapy (PCT; ca. 1954-1974), evidence that PCT was an effective treatment for racial/ethnic minority clients was absent from the empirical literature. However, in the early 1970s a modest body of research emerged from this tradition, answering certain clinically meaningful questions regarding the effects of psychotherapy with minority clients in community settings. For reasons presented in this article, neither MC nor general PCT research would proceed further. Instead, the Rogerian research tradition receded into the annals of psychotherapy history in the United States. Remarkably, since the 1990s PCT has reemerged demon- strating equivalence to other psychotherapies across a range of Axis I and, potentially, Axis II disorders (e.g., Elliott, Greenberg, & Lietaer, 2004; Quinn, 2011). Moreover, recent MC research studies in both the United States and countries worldwide suggest that PCT is an effective and acceptable treatment for clients from collectivist-oriented cultures-of-origin. Therefore, the latter half of this article provides (a) a brief historical review of the factors contributing to the delay of a person-centered MC research tradition; (b) evidence of this

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