Sociocultural Issues Case Study

8 August 2016

In this assignment I will provide a fictional case study of a counselling client with issues relating to fear and sadness and then consider how their individual problems might be located in the social context in which the clients are embedded. The case study will clearly focus on sociocultural issues, such as culture, race, gender, sexuality, etc. It will look at how useful it can be to recognise how important sociocultural issues can be when considering individual distress. The main focus this assignment will be drawing on with regards to sociocultural issues will be, race, culture and sexuality.

The counselling approach being used will be person centred therapy. The Case Study is based on 32 year old woman who is mixed race and gay. She suffers anxiety around men which is the result of an intimidating, dominant father and verbal abuse from men regarding her sexuality. Case Study Alex is a mixed race 32 year old woman from the North-West of England but is currently living in London. She moved to London when she was 19 with her then boyfriend for a job she had been offered.

Sociocultural Issues Case Study Essay Example

Alex told me she is from a working class background but when she first came to London she was living a very middle class life style which she always felt uncomfortable with. Alex states that after 6 years of living what she calls “that life” she realised she was gay. This resulted in her relationship ending and leaving her job and life behind to embark on her new life in the gay community. Alex said her parents (Father Jamaican, Mother English) are supportive. Neither she nor her parents are religious. Alex came to us via self-referral for help regarding her anxiety issues.

She suffered a controlling, dominant, intimidating father and now suffers verbal and sometimes physical abuse from men, she feels, because she is gay. Her father was intimidating towards everyone in the family especially her mother. As a result of this she adopted the role of her mother’s carer and protector giving her love, reassurance and emotional support that was never returned to her leaving her feeling very scared and vulnerable. Alex states that her fear of men in general is immense and that her true lifestyle which she is now living is increasing that fear as most of the abuse she is subjected to, is from men.

She also states that living in the gay community sometimes makes her feel like a minority within a minority because she is mixed race. She likened it to growing up mixed race and not completely fitting in with whites or blacks and felt rejected by both. Alex made a self-referral to our agency to seek help with her anxiety. The approach used when working with Alex was person centred therapy. Alex actively sought out this approach feeling it is more open minded compared to old traditionalist such as psychoanalytical. Relating sociocultural issues to the client

In society today, there are hierarchies with regard to race, gender (status), sexuality, (dis)ability, age, mental health and class. You are considered “normal” if you are white, male, straight, able bodied, young, mentally healthy and within the middle/upper classes. In light of this, Barker points out that, when we are part of the norm we often don’t even see that aspect of our identity, but when we are in the other group we may be all too aware of it. (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 214) It has been argued by, feminist, multicultural and LGBT af?

rmative therapists that such norms are present in mainstream psychotherapy and counselling. We all know that the main approaches of today all emerged in a western context and were largely founded by straight men. Barker asks: Can counselling theories and practices be usefully applied to people outside these groups, without reinforcing the notion that their members are lesser or problematic in some way? (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 215) In answer to Barkers question, it could be argued that, the psychotherapists and counsellors of today are just that, of today.

We all live in a modern world and know much off the sociocultural aspects that come with it. When we try to treat a client purely as an individual this can result in the loss of the experience of being different. Barker states that traditional therapeutic approaches have been critiqued by multicultural, feminist and lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) af? rmative therapists for their individualist stances. (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 212) It is said that, they regularly fail to see how important culture, gender and sexuality are.

Barker states that today, the majority of counsellors and psychotherapists are white, middleclass, heterosexual women, and this group also makes up the bulk of clients. Given this, how easy is it for other people to access counselling, or to experience it without power differences between counsellor and client being exacerbated in ways that are unhelpful? (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 215) This statement/question throws earlier claims of male superiority within psychotherapy up in the air and also highlights the changes that have come about in modern times with women now dominating the industry.

This argument again supports the fact that as an industry, we are evolving and moving with the times to keep things relevant for our clients so they don’t deem us unhelpful or exacerbating. On the other hand it could also be argued that counselling that is readily available through agencies and therapy centres still have counsellors who operate in a similar ways to the founders of such approaches. LGBT, feminist and multicultural style therapy has not penetrated the mainstream as such yet which is maybe why minority groups such as feminist, multicultural and LGBT clients do not feel their needs are being met.

This is illustrated when lesbian/gay people are questioned about their sexuality, when a straight person probably never would be or when a white person looks in the mirror, they don’t see their whiteness but for black people, that is all they see because they feel it is what makes them different. However it could be argued that because black people choose to focus on the fact that they are black, they could be in fact choosing to feel different. This would lead us to believe that if they did not focus on their skin colour, it would not be an issue for them.

Unfortunately for Alex, her skin colour was a point of focus throughout her life but not just from one side, from both making it twice as more hurtful, lonely and scary for her. Barker cites that in Laudat’s (2005) study, she found many links between being mixed race and having depression. The study found that many of the women who participated struggled with exclusion from both black and white cultures. (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 219) It was found that there was little support or guidance for them growing up, which left them feeling not good enough.

It would also be difficult to talk to anybody about their struggles, even their parents couldn’t fully understand as each one would have been of either race and not know what it was like to be mixed race. As Barker indicated, It is vital that counsellors and psychotherapists re? ect upon the assumptions and beliefs we hold about race, culture, gender, sexuality, (dis)ability, age, class and all other sociocultural issues, so that we can approach counselling with an awareness

of what we bring (based on our background and identity) and how we may view and treat people of similar, or different, backgrounds and identities. (Barker, 2010) (Barker, 2010, p. 212) When a client is the minority within our society, it is imperative that we try to have an understanding of how this has an impact on them as it would be related to their experience of fear and sadness. Describing myself as a counsellor If I was a counsellor working with Alex I would try to make her feel as comfortable as possible in the therapy room.

My first point of call would be to build a rapport and gain her trust, whilst being open minded and non-judgmental. I would suggest two maybe three one to one sessions with Alex to get a clear picture of what is distressing her and then (if Alex was willing) introduce her into one of two group settings. The first group would be made up of other females of minorities and the second a group for anyone consisting of men and women with similar and different issues. The choice would be hers. I would also advise that she could split her contracted time between the two groups, spending 18 months in each.

In our first session, I would make her aware of the type of counselling I would be using, which would be person centred therapy. I believe Alex would benefit from person centred therapy as she expressed that she wanted to steer away from the traditional therapy’s and as Dykes expressed, The humanistic approaches to counselling draw upon the values and ideas of ‘humanistic psychology’, also known as the ‘third force’ in psychology because it emerged as a reaction against the mechanistic, reductionist and determinist theories of the two prevailing psychologies in the mid-twentieth century: behaviourism and psychoanalysis.

(Barker, 2010) p. 103 As a counsellor working with Alex, I would be human and transparent which would enable Alex to see that I am open to grow as a result of my experience with her, which in turn would enable me to help Alex not only relieve her distress but transform for the better. Alex presented to us with issues surrounding her father, her being mixed race and now being gay. To gather insight I would ask Alex to start where she felt she should in regard to telling me about these issues.

My thinking would be that whichever came first could be the most troubling for her right now, although I would keep in mind that in fact the opposite could be true and so I would just have to feel it out with her. Alex outlined her being mixed race as a source of distress because it made her feel she was never good enough to fully belong. Dykes stated that, Rogers argued that human beings have a basic need for approval. (Barker, 2010) chapter 5 p. 109 Alex was denied such a basic human need and so the result is she feels isolated, neglected and misunderstood.

Alex has developed a self-concept that defines her very being in the world. Self-concepts are made up of conditions of worth which are created by parents, past and social experiences. Bem’s (1975) classic research found that ‘androgynous’ people (those who showed both culturally ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits) were more ? exible and ‘psychologically healthy’ than those who stuck rigidly to gender roles. Cited in (Barker, 2010) p. 224 Alex is confused by her feelings about her gender.

She knows she is a woman and has no desire to change that, but since being in the gay community she feels an almost opposite pressure to be less attractive and almost “man like”. She states that she is often mistaken as being a man and is not sure how to feel about this. As a counsellor, I would get a sense that although Alex does not want to be a man she in some way likes being seen as one, which would lead me to believe that she almost feels safer and less threatened when these mistaking’s take place. Alex has short hair and she wears man’s clothes. It is important that therapists work with clients’ own gendered experiences.

There is a long history, to this day, of the psychiatric profession pathologising those who are not cisgendered (Clarke, Ellis, Peel and Riggs, 2009). Cited in (Barker, 2010) p. 224 Conclusion This assignment has produced a fictional cases study of a 32 year old mixed race gay woman and has outlined how those facts have affected her and her life. It was believed that person centred therapy would be best suited because of its lableless approach which for a women who has spent her life being labelled and subjected to negativness because of those labels would be a positive change.

We have looked how sociocultural issues relate to personal issues for people such as Alex and how to be aware of them whilst working with clients that are affected by them. The description of myself as a counsellor showed how I would work with a client like Alex and how being in therapy would aid her. Word Count: 2088 Refrences Barker, M. V. (2010). Understanding counselling and psychotherapy. Milton Keynes: Sage Publications Ltd. Self Reflection I found this assignment very interesting and enjoyed it.

I think it was because it was a more creative assignment which enabled me to use my own thoughts a lot more. Also I think I may have a better understanding of what is expected of my assignment’s regarding writing style and referencing and hope to be told weather im correct in thinking this or not. The most difficult aspect of it was deciding which approach to use. I wanted it to be the best suited for the clients issues but was worried it would be considered my out and out fav which im not decided on yet, it’s a possibility.

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