In this paper, I will examine an interesting case study that I found important to discuss. On one hand, I will scrutinize the details of this case study and the vital culture information of the participants. On the second hand, I will analyze the incident from the perspectives of the ethnicity, White American culture, and language differences.
Description of the Critical Incident
Sequence of events
This event took place in a primary school in Indiana State a year ago. H was introduced to a school psychologist by his teacher. He was the worst-behaved white kid in school. He was aggressive, fights with other peers, and argues with his teacher all the time. The teacher wanted to improve H’s behaviors and reported it to his mother. Therefore, the teacher and the school psychologist agreed to work with H, since he was the most challenging child in the classroom. H was in the 4th grade and had maintained high grades. He continued o have good grades throughout the school year. He sometimes had difficulties in following directions and completing in-class assignments in writing activity, yet his academic standing is in the average; however, it is higher in the math area.
In order to know more about H, an interview was conducted by a school psychologist with his teacher; the reported that H is from a divorced family and living with his mother who is a special education teacher in high school.
During the first session, H was observed to be a Caucasian male of average height and weight with blonde hair, blue eyes, and was dressed casually in a black sweat suit and sneakers. H was sitting silently at his desk and working on his own.
The following session, H was observed to be more aggressive and started to make noises, yelling, arguing with teacher and talking back in the classroom. I interviewed H about his behavior that the teacher and principal told me about his behavior that was erratic; I started the first session with him by playing a game to help him identify his feeling and behavior.
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Throughout the sessions, the student was talking to the school psychologist, and he was telling her that he was having some problems in the new place. He was having a hard time socialing and making friends. The student was also talking about the absence of his father, and how bad he was feeling to be raised by a single mother. He also addressed the bad relationship he had with his peers and teacher and he was telling through the sessions that no one could understand him. During this session, there were some misunderstandings between the client and the therapist in terms of language and some cultural things, such as talking about cartoons and movies characters, favorite Cereal, and kinds of dogs.
As a professional, I examined how I would help Hunter to change his behavior issues in the classroom. Therefore, a meeting was conducted with H’s mother in order to know more about his behavior at home and to get her involved. Unfortunately, the conference ended negatively. Added to this, the frustration of Hunter’s mother over my cultural differences led the consultation process to a negative outcome on H’s concerns.
During the meeting, H’s mother argued that her son will be will be attracting attention since they live in a small rural community and everybody knows each other. This was the major problem the mother was thinking about and was frustrated because she would have to face her neighbors’ staring and comments. The mom was also thinking of her kid in the future and how people will treat and look at him as an aggressive and misbehaved kid in the town. She stated as well that she is a single mom that raised her child by herself and she had faced enough from these people in the town. She mentioned that her kid would have some problems working with an international school psychologist who speaks better in another language than English and had a different cultural background. The student was willing to keep working with him, but his mom was refusing to complete our sessions; he seemed to change gradually and wanted to be different. He was mad, because his mother stopped everything and he told the school psychologist that his mother had not let him come to her. He stated that he did not have friends before and the school psychologist was his friend around that time.
Culture of the client The client is H’s mother, 38-year-old, and Caucasian female. She has one child who is 10 years old and step-elder son (age 17) and one younger step daughter (age 5) who does not currently live with her in the same house. The client is divorced, living with her son since she got divorced six years ago. She is working as a special education teacher in high school and mentioned she is from the superior middle class background.
Culture of therapist The therapist in this case was me. I am a 26 year old, Muslim international female student. I am from a middle-class background, and grew up in a home with my father, step-mother, and my sisters and half brothers. My family has been an important part in my life. I had a lot of social and emotional support. My mother had a heart attack and died when I was six. I hardly remember her face and how she was acting. Education was a stressful part of my life; living alone far away, and within a different culture was not an easy thing to deal with.
Handling of situation The team contained the teacher, the school psychologist, and the principle tried to intervene and help Hunter to stop his negative behaviors and start acting like a normal kid. The team conducted a meeting to target the behavior and plan an intervention. They called H’s mother to get her involved. As the team was working through this case, the mom came to school and asked the principle to discontinue working with her child. She said they are living in a small town and it is a sin in her area to be in trouble in school, especially in terms of behavior issues, and she did not want any kind of services from an international school psychologist. There was no way to convince the mother to get her involved and persuade convinced her to finish the case. This was one of my cultural incompetencies and biases that I experienced. I felt so mad and under micro-aggression, because I am not an American school psychologist. They do not want me to work with this kid; especially then the teacher refused to continue consulting with me about the student and the principle asked me to stay away from him. I felt like an outsider and helpless.
The team implemented an intervention to work with H in classroom, but everything was canceled. The problem of this case was unfortunately, was held at the end of the school year. So, I had to stop meeting the child and do what the mom was asking for. I felt so unhelpful and I realized the problems that can occur within school settings and how incompetent people would be in order to intervene. I tried to convince the teacher and the principle to re-set a meeting with the mother to discuss with her H’s academic concerns first, instead of his behavior issues. Explain to her how important it is to work with him before they become major issues in the future, get the mom more involved, and create a connection between home and school. Unfortunately, it was inappropriate to force people to attend sessions or receive help.
It was difficult to present a final consultation report for my project. As a final point, the teacher and school psychologist indicated using time-out and ignoring as methods of discipline. Lots of feedback also was suggested to reduce H’s frustration, but there was no way to handle the mother’s case expectation through her son. Therefore, I found it very important to address this case study to be more aware if it happened again in the future another time.
Cross-cultural issues and value differences
The following are the cross-cultural issues and value differences that may have existed between therapist and client: Gender, age, socioeconomic status, education, ethnicity, religion, and language differences.
Age: The client is 38 years old. The school psychologist is 26 years old.
Socioeconomic status: the client is from superior middle class background and the therapist is from middle class background.
Education: the client is a special education teacher at a high school. The therapist is a student in an EdS program.
Religion: the client is a Christian, while the therapist is a Muslim.
Ethnicity: the client is White European American and the therapist is an international Arab student.
Language: The client speaks English as the first language. The therapist speaks Arabic as the first language.
Out of these issues, I will specifically address ethnicity and language differences in the analysis part of this paper.
Sue and Sue (2007, chap.1), Hence and Boyd-Franklin (2005), and Fuller (1995) discuss the significance of being aware of our own culture, and each culture has limitations. As an international school psychologist, I was very aware of the ethnic differences during our sessions which made me feel like an outsider. The client in this case was a female white American. She seemed to be categorized deeply within her ethnicity, and she appeared to enjoy being white. In working with her, I believe that it seemed to be heavily associated with how she distinguished and reacted to racial stimuli. Therefore, the race-related reality of whites symbolizes major dissimilarities in how she viewed the world (Sue & Sue 2007). The client was not at ease in the beginning, and she noticed my accent and realized that I am not an American professional; she kept asking the “what are you?” and the “where are you from?” questions, which I believed now how rude and insensitive this questions were. I felt that she was judging me, and it was unclear what she was trying to mention with those questions. I believe that she is one of the people who think that it was fine to scrutinize and query people with dissimilar accents. This unsure idea is surely not to make the individual feel unwanted or insulted when asking about their ethnicity (Sue and Sue, chap.18),
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According to my own interpretations and what I congregated from the readings through this class, my client showed her own privilege (Sue & Sue, chap. 11). It was clear for my client to notice that I am from another country, especially after our following sessions and appeared to see school psychologist students in general as incompetent people who wanted only to practice their skills.
While I was reading the Parker and Schwartz (2002) article, I assumed “how did ‘White’ come to be the majority and the oppressor?” certainly, I agree that, in the United States, white is the foremost community that has become more pale into the statistical unit beside the other ethnicities that are classified as “minority” categories.
Through my little experience on the practicum at this school, I also noticed some strange things happening at this school; I did not notice that it was discrimination until now. In this school, all the school staff and students were whites and there was an ignorance of the culture strengths and the school staff blames the students and their parents for their problem; this reminded me of cultural blindness agencies. I did not notice all the time working in this school any other different ethnicities besides white Americans. In this stage, the school works with students as they are all the same, ignoring their unique needs and cultural differences (Sue & Sue 2007)
Goal: the goal of this difference would be to make an equal relationship, free from any racism. Racism found to be evident in all aspects of white community in our daily lives (such as in television, radio, and educational materials, etc.) (Sue & Sue 2007) My client is a white American and I should be aware of her own racial background and the persistence of racism in the United States just by being white (Parker & Schwartz). As was discussed in McGoldrick outlines (2005) “Ethnocultural factors are often the hidden dimension in family therapy with white ethnics, and exploring them may be a key component of successful treatment.” Create a therapeutic rapport will be the main goal of this scenario.
Course of action: After working with this client, I would collaborate with her with respect to determine her feelings in working with a therapist who is from a different culture as hers. I would also work on her confidentiality since there is a clear feeling of mistrust which is a reaction to being discriminated against and abhor for the dominant communities in an approximately global anti-White demonstration and feeling (Sue & Sue, p.200). As a professional, I should know the presence of distrust and work to get my client’s trust. My client is white American; I should be aware that white privilege is invisible (McIntosh, 1988) to her I was unwelcome. It will very effective to reduce the anxiety and the upset feelings of the client and the school psychologist as well in this scenario.
Rationale: My rationale for choosing this goal and course of action was to address the dissimilarities that exist between the school psychologist and the client in order to understand and reduce the relationship of dominant and minority. Collaborating with my client in the future will focus on her salient issues in order to get her more involved and trust the school psychologist. I would also teach my client some therapeutic techniques in order to help her comprehend and increase her feelings of trust and comfort.
Strong emotions such as anger, sadness, and defensiveness were displayed when talking about experiences of race, culture, and other socio demographic variables (McIntosh, chap.1). These feelings may improve or negate a full meaning to comprehend the worldviews of culturally varied clients. As professional, working with a multicultural population, I need to know that I am different and how to deal with it in an appropriate way. In this case study, I worked with a client who is from a diverse culture and that leads to have some hard times to understand each other in the beginning, especially in terms of the language, eye contact, and sometimes body language. The client in this case is an American English speaker using high Standard English and emphasizing verbal communication (Sue & Sue, chap. 6). The client was talking normally, but with attention that she was not satisfied. She sometimes talked very fast.
As a school psychologist, English is my third language and as most of non English first language speaker, I have an accent. Sometimes my accent may sound familiar, but usually most people mentioned that it is understood and has a French flavor, which most of people likes. From time to time, I feel uncomfortable if my client misunderstood me. I think that was because of my accent and she did not used to talk with foreigners she is having troubles to understand me; as Sue and Sue stated (2007, Chap. 21) “Communication due to language difficulties” as I stated above, my client may sometimes talk fast and use some slang statements that I could not comprehend. We were having a problem to connect and link up together, but the main problem was to be unable to work with her child that made me feel very embarrassed and sometimes unfruitful. In this case, I feel very depressed and sometimes I could not handle situations. I know that I have a productive background, but language issues make me very upset. It made me feel utterly unwelcomed in my client’s community and this country, especially with these kinds of clients who do not like me to work with their children, just because they do not trust international people. This idea of the inferiority of me in addition to the belief that my client has the power to impose her standards upon my culture was also presented (Sue & Sue, chap. 4). These also made feel both astound and shocked, especially when I experienced such things directly in this case.
Communication is an appealing part of communicative interaction; it is an instrument that helps the therapists to comprehend their clients and provides him or her needed services. (Sue & Sue, chap.6) In our field, we need to be able to exchange communication in appropriate way for both verbal and nonverbal messages. Coding and decoding messages from others is the key to understand both the language and the message that is transmitted through the use of the language.
Goal: as a goal to resolve this scenario is to be familiar with American culture and speak English perfectly, and also be familiar with their slangs and have self confidence that I am trying to do well. American speakers if they attempt to speak Arabic for an example they will have an accent as well. Through working with this client, I will discuss the language especially the accent barrier openly with her; I bet that this may be beneficial.
Course of action: I think it is very vital to talk with the clients in the initial interview before starting any assessment. Informed her that I am an international school psychologist and they may not fully understand my accent. I will let her know that I am open to answer her questions and repeat if it needed. Discussing the foreign language accents and refer that is normal to have an accent within another language learned as well. I again felt the stinging confidence to improve English with the aim of being a more effective and diverse professional.
Rational: My rationale for choosing this goal and course of action was to talk about the accent issues that may help me relax and work comfortably. Educating the client that her kid’s case is going to be confidential and no one will know about it in the town. It may lead to ignore other issues like language, I will also ask my client to ask for clarifications if the she did not understand me and the problem will be resolved.
After analyzing this case study, I recognized how significant it is to be sensitive of our cultural difference in order to be competent and sensitive to other cultures. This experience helped me to comprehend how dissimilar we are as people and how this affect the interpersonal communications. This will help me be to be aware and work on myself to be more an effective and successful professional in the future.
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