Allen Ivey

Both of Allen Ivey’s parents were born in near poverty during a time when there was no social safety net. Ivey’s father’s parents had emigrated from Kernow (also known as Cornwall), Great Britain, to the United States and Canada at the turn of the century. Ivey’s grandfather died when his father was 9, leaving his grandmother as the sole provider for the family. On his English mother’s side, his grandfather lost his inherited local paper due to compulsive gambling. His mother grew up without money for shoes and for required books for school. From his parents’ painful childhood experiences, Ivey gained a sense of economic oppression and injustice. Ivey considers himself bicultural, growing up and navigating through his English and Cornish roots, which were not always compatible in their messages with respect to education and achievement.

Ivey grew up in a small house attached to the family store in rural Mt. Vernon, Washington. He attended a two-room school that was a mile away until he was the only person in the eighth grade. In the school environment, Ivey experienced anti-Semitic prejudice even though he had no knowledge about Jews at the time. He did not share these stories of oppression with his parents. Ivey learned to hate oppression in all forms from his rural childhood. He felt fortunate that his parents’ value system of standing up alone for righteousness provided him with a foundation for understanding and supporting multicultural issues.

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Education and Professional Career

Ivey graduated from Stanford University in 1955 and received a Fulbright Scholarship to study social work for a year in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. His experience in Denmark played a paramount role in developing his contextual approach to counseling. Ivey then attended Harvard University and received his Ed.D. in 1959. During 2 of his 3 years of study at Harvard, he was also working full-time as director of student activities and guidance instructor at Boston University.

At the age of 25, he founded the counseling center at Bucknell University and served as director of counseling. Ivey then assumed the role of director of the counseling center at Colorado State University from 1963 to 1968. In 1966, Ivey received a small grant from the Charles F. Kettering Foundation to identify specific single skills of counseling. This seed would later turn into the articulation of micro skills. Ivey began teaching at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 1968, where he served as a professor for more than 30 years. He authored over 35 books and over 200 articles, chapters, and monographs. His worked has been translated into 18 languages. In addition to his scholarly work, Ivey founded and is the president of Microtraining Associates, an independent, educational publishing firm. Microtraining Associates has paved the way in producing videos and books related to skills training and multicultural development.

Ivey has been and still is heavily involved and active in the professional community. He served as president of the Division of Counseling Psychology (now Society for Counseling Psychology) of the American Psychological Association (APA). He is a fellow of APA and a diplomate of the American Board of Professional Psychology. In addition, he is a fellow of APA’s Society for the Study of Ethnic and Minority

Psychology. Ivey also serves on the Board of Directors of the National Institute for Multicultural Competence. Ivey is a lifetime member of the American Counseling Association and he received their Professional Development award in 1992.



Ivey established a structured approach to training therapists in discrete helping skills (micro skills) including attending behavior, open invitation to talk, reflection and summarization, paraphrasing, and interpretation. Instead of focusing only on internal variables, such as self-actualization, therapists can help clients focus on external variables that may disrupt development. The early recognition of the need to explore the cultural environment led to the realization that appropriate attending and micro skills differ from one cultural context to another.

Ivey’s motivation and determination for combining his interests in skills training and cultural diversity were inspired by feedback from cross-cultural therapists and his personal values. Other cross-cultural therapists have reported that the same skills did not have the same impact on clients from different cultural backgrounds. Ivey realized that some attending behaviors may damage rapport with clients from another background because of the different cultural meanings of specific attending behaviors. This led to the concept of culture-centered skills. The fundamental key to the development of culture-centered skills is to examine a specific culture, identify concrete skills that may be used with this group, and develop a helping theory that can be tested in application.

Ivey has also infused culture into skills training. His classic text, Intentional Interviewing and Counseling, consistently incorporates the theme of developing cultural skills. The sixth edition suggested that the purpose of counseling is to foster client development in a multicultural society. Intentional interviewing requires awareness of racial and ethnic groups that may have patterns of expression and communication different from those of the interviewer.

Developmental Counseling and Therapy

The study of human development has had a significant impact on Ivey’s ideas about culture. Ivey has drawn from Piaget, Erickson, and Freud to apply developmental concepts directly into counseling in developing developmental counseling and therapy (DCT). In 1986, Ivey suggested that development always occurs within a cultural context, which takes into account both the therapist’s and client’s cultural and historical backgrounds. Later, in 1991, Ivey elaborated the cultural emphasis in developmental counseling to underline the notion of multicultural development. He proposed that therapists should facilitate clients’ movement through different stages of cultural identity development. Ivey believes that therapists help clients move through stages related to conformity, dissonance, resistance and immersion, introspection, and synergistic awareness by focusing on culture in counseling. In this developmental approach, Ivey and his colleagues expanded the definition of culture to include race and ethnicity, gender, religion, economic status, nationality, physical capacity, and sexual orientation. Clients are encouraged to share their stories in ways that promote movement through different types of development. This process may result in both expanded awareness and congruent social action.

Multicultural Counseling

Ivey’s prolific work in operationally defining the relationship between multiculturalism and traditional theories of counseling has been influential. Ivey and colleagues concluded that most counseling theories were based on White, middle-class culture, and Ivey questioned the generalizability of these theories to other cultural contexts. Ivey’s book was the first theories text to address multicultural issues directly, and it was published before culture became a popular topic in the literature. Since then, the multicultural perspective has been refined in subsequent editions of the text. According to Ivey, D’Andrea, Ivey, and Simek-Morgan, multiculturalism can be described as a meta-theory creating a framework that illustrates how different theories of counseling and psychotherapy represent different worldviews. Each theory was developed within a specific cultural context and represents the biases of that culture in trying to understand clients and facilitating change. As a result, counseling encourages therapists to view the individual in the context as well as to comprehend psychological theories within their own cultural context.

Because of Ivey’s pioneering work, the centrality of culture has been widely accepted in the counseling literature. Ivey’s legacy will continually impact the field of counseling psychology for generations to come.


  1. Daniels, T., & Ivey, A. (2007). Microcounseling: Making skills training work in a multicultural world. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
  2. Ivey, A. (1971). Microcounseling: Innovations in interviewing. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
  3. Ivey, A. (2000/1986). Developmental therapy: Theory into practice. North Amherst, MA: Microtraining.
  4. Ivey, A., & Authier, J. (1978). Microcounseling: Innovations in interviewing, counseling, psychotherapy, and psychoeducation. Springfield, IL: Charles C Thomas.
  5. Ivey, A., D’Andrea, M., Ivey, M., & Simek-Morgan, L. (2002). Theories of counseling and psychotherapy: A multicultural perspective (5th ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  6. Ivey, A., Gluckstern, N., & Ivey, M. (2005). Basic attending skills (Book and videotapes). Framingham, MA: Microtraining Associates.
  7. Ivey, A., & Ivey, M. (2003). Intentional interviewing and counseling: Facilitating development in a multicultural society (5th ed.). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.
  8. Ivey, A., & Ivey, M. (2006). Microskills and wellness: Strength training for the future. The Japanese Journal of Microcounseling, 1, 2-8.
  9. Ivey, A., Ivey, M., Myers, J., & Sweeney, T. (2005). Developmental counseling and therapy: Promoting wellness over the lifespan. Boston: Lahaska/Houghton-Mifflin.
  10. Ivey, A., Normington, C., Miller, C., Morrill, W., & Haase, R. (1968). Microcounseling and attending behavior: An approach to pre-practicum training. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 16(2). (Separate monograph).
  11. Littrell, J. M. (2001). Allen E. Ivey: Transforming counseling theory and practice. Journal of Counseling and Development, 79, 105-118.

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