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Section 14
5 Psychological Sets for Culturally Different Clients

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In this section, we will discuss psychological sets of culturally different clients, including Alaska Natives. There are five psychological sets of culturally different clients that can be used to understand their receptivity to pressures for change. For example, a client who values rationality might be more receptive to a counseling approach that emphasizes the counselor’s credibility.

Thus from an ethical perspective, understanding a client’s psychological set may facilitate your ability to exert social influence in counseling.

Sound interesting?

Let’s look at these five psychological sets of culturally different clients more closely.

5 Psychological Sets

#1 - Problem Solving Set
The first psychological set of culturally different clients is the Problem-Solving Set. As you may have guessed, culturally different clients in the Problem-Solving Set are concerned about obtaining correct information that has adaptive value in the real world.

Have you noticed your culturally different client accepting or rejecting the information you provide on the basis of its perceived truth or falsity? If so, he or she may be a member of the Problem-Solving Set.

As you are probably aware, culturally different clients may apply a consistency test to compare new facts with information they already possess. Other culturally different clients may apply a corroboration test, actively seeking information from others for comparative purposes. Ethically this affects your counseling relationship with your culturally different client because minorities may have learned that many whites have little expertise when it comes to the lifestyles of minorities.

#2 - Consistency Set
The second psychological set of culturally different clients is the Consistency Set. Culturally different clients in the Consistency Set change opinions, beliefs, and behaviors in such ways as to make their opinions, beliefs, and behaviors consistent with others’ opinions, beliefs, and behaviors. Hence the name "Consistency Set."

I have found that inconsistencies create a dissonance within the culturally different client in the Consistency Set. The culturally different client then will often either discredit or excuse the counselor to resolve the dissonance. Ethically if you are not in touch with your prejudices and biases as a therapist, you may be sending conflicting messages to your culturally different client. Thus it is important to note that the client you are treating that is of a different culture in the Consistency Set is not necessarily a rational being but a rationalizing one.

#3 - Identity Set
In addition to the Problem-Solving Set and the Consistency Set, the third psychological set of culturally different clients is the Identity Set. Culturally different clients in the Identity Set generally desire to be similar to a person or group that they hold in high esteem. Clearly a client who strongly identifies with a particular group is likely to accept the group’s beliefs and conform to behaviors dictated by that group.

Thus, obviously, if race constitutes a strong reference group for a client, a counselor of the same race is likely to be more influential than one who is not.

Do you have a culturally different client with strong identification to his ethnic group who is resistant to your counseling? Is he or she a member of the Identity Set?

#4 - Economic Set
The fourth psychological set of culturally different clients is the Economic Set. For culturally different clients in the Economic Set, perceived rewards and punishments may be influential in counseling. Obviously you, as the therapist control many important resources that may affect your client.

For example, a school counselor may recommend a student for expulsion from school. Less subtly, a therapist may praise one client in front of others in a group session.

Although you may not be a school counselor or in charge of a group session, you may still control other important resources for your client. For this reason your culturally different client may decide to change his or her behavior because you hold greater power. However, as you can see, there may be an ethical problem with the use of rewards and punishments. Although the use of rewards and punishments may assure behavioral compliance, it does not guarantee private acceptance.

#5 - Authority Set
Finally the fifth psychological set of culturally different clients is the Authority Set. As you are aware, some individuals, such as police officers or government officials, are thought to have a particular position that gives them a legitimate right to prescribe attitudes and behaviors. For culturally different clients in the Authority Set, this belief is applied to the counselor.

Your culturally different client in the Authority Set may believe you have a legitimate right to recommend and provide psychological treatment. However, for many minorities and culturally different clients this type of role is perceived to be the instrument of institutionalized racism.

It goes without saying that none of the five sets of Problem-Solving, Consistency, Identity, Economic, and Authority are mutually exclusive. The sets frequently interact. It is possible that you may influence your culturally different client because you are credible, which would influence a client from the Problem-Solving Set, and because you are the therapist, which would influence a client from the Authority Set.

However, if you have difficulty influencing your culturally different client, it may be because he or she cannot identify with you, which is the key influence for a client in the Identity Set. From an ethical perspective, as you can see, your characteristics are important in eliciting types of changes in your culturally different clients.

In this section, we have discussed five psychological sets of culturally different clients. These five sets were the Problem-Solving Set, the Consistency Set, the Identification Set, the Economic Set, and the Authority Set.

In the next section, we will discuss three components of counselor credibility. The three components we will discuss are expertise, trustworthiness, and belief similarity.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Dvorakova, A. (2016). The cultural psychology endeavor to make culture central to psychology: Comment on Hall et al. (2016). American Psychologist, 71(9), 888–889. 

Lonner, W. J. (2015). Half a century of cross-cultural psychology: A grateful coda. American Psychologist, 70(8), 804–814. 

Mohatt, N. V., Fok, C. C. T., Burket, R., Henry, D., & Allen, J. (2011). Assessment of awareness of connectedness as a culturally-based protective factor for Alaska native youth. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(4), 444–455.

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