Adjusting to Disabilities

Adjusting to disabilities is different for those born with disabilities and those with an acquired disability.  Also, whether or not the disability is visible makes a difference in how they perceive themselves and how others view them.  People will avoid people with disabilities (PWD) or treat them as if they are not an equal.  If you have a mental illness, people may not understand why you cannot perform certain activities or tasks, or interact with the community.  For those with a physical disability, they may be seen as being unable to do certain things, or limited because they are a wheelchair user or blind.  In both these examples other people’s perceptions are what limits the individual before they even begin to deal with their own understanding of their disability.  People with a high level self-esteem, good support system, more economic resources and social supports have a better experience and are less likely to face the same barriers as those who do not.   The focus of community is about the PWD’s right to engage in and maintain gainful employment and access to resources.  This creates barriers in different communities that feel if a person with a disability has to work, then the family is not performing their duty in the family to take care of them.  Working can have such a positive impact on a PWD.  It allows for social interaction, the ability to learn new skills, build self-esteem, make their own money, and be independent.  Understanding how culture plays a part in disability will go a long way in helping the client and their family members support their loved one. Continue reading

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Multicultural Counseling

Becoming a multiculturally competent counselor requires research, understanding the basics about the different populations you serve,  diligence, and the ability to know your limits.  Meet your clients where they are and understand that counseling a multicultural population is not a one size fits all strategy.  It is about being aware of your own biases and prejudices and doing the work to overcome them so that you can be an effective professional.  As much as we want to help everyone, we cannot possibly be a specialist in everything.  When we meet with clients from different cultures, we must consider other aspects of their diversity as an individual that include more than what you see; such as disability, age, sexual orientation and gender, spirituality and mental illness.  The term diversity has seemed over the ages to be viewed as a black or white issue, but to me understanding diversity is about being open to the experience of others that are different from you, and seeing and appreciating them for who they are.  When we are able to meet a client in a place that shows no judgment, that offers unconditional positive regard, genuineness and respect, the opportunity to help them make progress can be limitless. Continue reading