The term monocultural is used in several fields to refer to a single homogeneous culture that de-emphasizes diversity. In the United States, a Western or White hegemonic culture has been emphasized. Under this monocultural perspective, dominant American cultural values, expectations, behaviors, and definitions are presumed to be superior to values of other cultures. Thus, to the degree that minority groups internalize the mono-cultural worldview of the dominant group (i.e., assimilate), those groups come to see themselves through the perspective of the dominant group.
In counseling psychology, the dominant monoculture used to describe the processes of individual and group counseling has been that of a European American perspective. Underlying this Eurocentric ideology is the assumption that people from minority and marginalized groups ought to assimilate their behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, values, language, and perceptions to the dominant’s group culture (i.e., European Americans) in order to attain uniformity and unity. Implied in this paradigm is that there is something inadequate about the minority groups’ culture and behavior.
As a field, counseling psychology was shaped by this Eurocentric paradigm, which assumes that existing Eurocentric theories are generalizable despite differences among groups. In fact, all traditional counseling theories, assessments, diagnoses, and treatments are embedded in the Eurocentric paradigm. Hence, the training of counseling psychologist historically was rooted in this same paradigm. Based on their training and the dominant practices of the field, counseling psychologists were likely to ignore alternate interpretations of reality and culturally grounded healing methods that might be utilized by different cultural or racial groups. This oversight— and the adherence to the Eurocentric ideology—has resulted in the misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and victimization of persons from minority and marginalized groups who have sought psychological help. Furthermore, the inaccuracies and mistruths about minority and marginalized groups perpetrated by the unquestioned use of the Eurocentric paradigm have created a stigma toward psychological help within these communities, resulting in their under-utilization of psychological services (even in the face of great need).
Monocultural views have been challenged for their exclusionary principles by those who want to include and value the experiences of human diversity. Specifically, the ideology of multiculturalism shifts the perspective to illuminating the experiences and voices of all human beings by focusing on issues of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, age, gender, education, religion, disability, and socioeconomic status. Multiculturalism challenges the implicit assumptions of Eurocentric bias embedded in dominant monoculture. Hegemony and assimilation are rejected; instead, the various cultures, traditions, and values of different groups in the United States are celebrated and valued.
For years, multiculturalists have affirmed the need to diversify psychology. Issues of justice, fairness, and ethical practice, for instance, have been at the backdrop of multicultural counseling. Most importantly, multicultural counseling advocates use culturally appropriate and sensitive theories, assessment, and treatment modalities in hopes of increased utilization of psychological services and positive counseling outcomes for persons from minority and marginalized groups. Currently, the progressive development of multicultural competence is becoming the model to guide practitioners, researchers, and educators and is changing the face of the counseling psychology field. Several efforts—including the creation of multicultural guidelines for education, teaching, research, and practice for psychologists and the infusion of multicultural courses into programs and departments—reflect the transformation of psychology. The field has expanded its view of what it means to be a competent practitioner in today’s heterogeneous American society. In making the necessary transition from a mono-cultural to a multicultural paradigm, the field recognizes the need to improve training, research, and practice.
- Constantine, M. G., & Sue, D. W. (2005). Strategies for building multicultural competence in mental health and educational settings. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
- Kramer, E. M. (2003). The emerging monoculture: Assimilation and the “model minority.” Westport, CT: Praeger.
- Mio, J. S., Barker-Hackett, L., & Tumambing, J. (2005). Multicultural psychology: Understanding diversity in America. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
- Schlesinger, A. (1998). The disuniting of America: Reflections on a multicultural society. New York: W. W. Norton.