1. – The first memory goes back to my childhood. It was in a shop, there were many people, and I saw for the first time a Muslim family. They were speaking the unknown language and acting differently as well (the woman was fully covered from head to toes). I was staring at them, while they were shopping, and I felt stressed and confused. I did not like them, as they did not fit, they were too different.
- Once as a kid I also got into a company of very rich kids. I felt different, as they could afford things that an average teenager like me could never even dream of. I was sad, angry at the unfair life and ashamed of myself.
- While growing up, I kept on feeling different sometimes. My parents did not seem to understand me, nobody actually did. It seemed my opinions, plans, and decisions were different from everybody else’s.
- Being a Dominican, I often find myself meeting people from other cultures, who think I am weird or unusual. Coming from a different background and culture, I sometimes feel sense of alienation when among other nations or ethnics.
- For me, if a client sees me as different from myself or in general experiences “being different” from others, it jeopardizes the whole process of treatment, as the client may not trust me, get hostile, protective or instead feel inferior to me, as it would seem that I am in the position of power. Not knowing the culture of the client would make some of the usual methods useless.
2. – I think there is a significant power difference between the helper and the client, at least in the usual setting. The helper usually takes the leading part, as the wise and knowing instructor, while the clients give in to being led. The helper is in charge of making the goals and evaluating the progress.
- I feel more empowered as people come for help and I feel like I have all the tools to help them. They need my help to feel better, and that is what I do. Mostly people trust the helper as an oracle, as the helper is specially educated and trained to help.
- It is advisable (especially in a cross-cultural work) “to take a down position” and let the clients feel that they are in power, let them explain something to me, tell them I do not know their culture and would be grateful if they helped me to understand it. In such a way, clients feel like experts and the power balance sets in to create a healthy environment for the therapy.
- It is difficult to work with clients, whose powerlessness turns into the striving for power and they try to put all the other people down instead. Then therapy is a constant fight of controlling the person’s violence, hostility and aggression. Such clients are not treating the helper as having any power to help, they believe they know better for themselves and take some usual comments as an offence. It is difficult to work like that, as it makes you feel like a failure in your profession sometimes.
- Both White and of-color therapists face difficulties in their role of helpers. However, White therapists seem to be more often grown up with stereotyping and, therefore, they are more prone to undertake the powerful position with the client as an all-knowing and vital helper. Of-color therapists, on the other hand, might either fall a victim of stereotypes themselves and not be trusted by the clients of other cultures, or vice versa find it easier to win over the client’s trust, as they themselves are somehow different from other and it makes them relate with the client easier than a White therapist.