Information for Instructors and Course Designers

Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology 

Sandra Collins, PhD, RPsych

As a program developer, a counsellor educator, a reviewer of graduate counselling programs across Canada, and a curriculum developer in the Master of Counselling program at Athabasca University, I have been gathering resources, exploring instructional design, and thinking about how to foster learning outcomes and competency development in counselling and psychology for many years. I have enjoyed bringing all of these interests together in the creation of this e-book and the accompanying teaching and learning guide. Here are some of the things that I believe make this resource unique and well-positioned to enhance student learning or your curriculum development for programs in counselling, psychology, social work, and other helping professions.

    • Canadian: The Embracing Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice: Re-Shaping Professional Identity in Counselling Psychology e-book is wholly Canadian. All contributors are Canadian; the ideas, principles, practices, and cultures represented are Canadian; it is published in Canada, using Canadian spelling and gender neutral language; and it includes French-language contributions. It has been designed to support our claim to a unique identity as Canadians, to enhance the evolving identity of the professions of counselling, psychotherapy, and psychology in Canada, and to highlight the value of our contributions to the broader disciplines internationally.
    • Diverse voices: In addition to my own writing, the e-book includes 31 other contributors. I have been very deliberate about balancing the voices of experienced academics with those of other leaders within our field who are newer to the professions. I view it as part of my responsibility to recognize my own position of privilege, to support these newer voices, to advocate for an increase in the diversity of leadership in our field, and to work toward justice from the inside out in our professions and in the broader society. See the Book Preview for the list of contributors.
    • Marginalized voices: The contributors have been encouraged to speak in the first person, from their personal and professional experiences, from within their own cultural contexts and worldviews, and to own their cultural biases. Unlike many counselling texts, most of the contributors speak from within marginalized cultural identities and social locations. They navigate multiple, nondominant identities, are positioned personally and professionally in marginalized social locations, stand as allies and advocates, and speak alongside clients to amplify and empower those voices seeking social justice.
    • Minority-centred voices: I do not assume that the audience for this e-book will be composed solely or even primarily of people belonging to white, middle-class, heterosexual, able-bodied, or other dominant groups. To avoid such a culturally encapsulated, biased, and marginalizing position, I purposefully solicited contributions that speak directly to marginalized counsellors, whether in training or currently practicing, from the lived experiences, and within the cultural knowledge and practices of, for example, Indigenous people, persons of colour, and working class counsellors.
    • Intersectionality-focused case studies: The e-book is composed of about 50% theoretical/conceptual content and 50% case studies of various lengths that highlight, most frequently the intersectionality of multiple, nondominant cultural identities. These case studies attend to the social positioning and identity narratives of both clients and counsellors along the dimensions of gender, gender identity, age, ability, Indigeneity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social class, and religion/spirituality. The writers may bring a particular lens, such as social class or Indigeneity; however, each attends to, and brings to life, the complex, fluid, intersectional, and contextual nature of identity narratives.
    • Learner positioning: Although I have been diligently studying, teaching, practicing, and otherwise pursuing competence in culturally responsive and socially just counselling for the past 20 years, I still do not consider myself to be an expert in it, nor do I expect to reach such an endpoint in my learning. In fact, each time I reviewed a new contribution, I found myself asking new questions, adding to my cultural competency, or applying a different lens. I want readers to have that same experience and to benefit equally from what other contributors have to offer. I do not claim a final word on anything; rather I hope to contribute to ongoing critical dialogues within the professions.
    • Instructional design: Embracing Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice: Re-Shaping Professional Identity in Counselling Psychology is designed primarily as a teaching and learning tool, organized around a central model. Each key concept in the model is described in the theory chapters and mapped onto conceptual or applied practice examples by various contributors throughout the book. The glossary defines each term in detail, linking it to the current professional literature. There is an extensive network of internal links within the e-book, enabling readers to follow any key concept from the model to the glossary definition, to the conceptual chapters, and to client–counsellors stories that illustrate the concept, simply and efficiently, by clicking on the links. Readers are encouraged to move through the e-book in a non-linear fashion. You can preview the enhanced, interactive glossary through the video below.

    • Learner-centred: Within my own writing, and through the contributions from other authors, I am able to offer diversity in style and format within a single resource. Some contributions are personal reflections, interviews, or stories, and may include poetry, art, or audio stories; others share research results or expand conceptual lenses; and many provide prompts for further reflection. I hope to honour readers’ diverse learning styles and to ensure that each is moved in their own ways, emotionally and cognitively, through their experience of the e-book.
    • Integration of theory and practice: I believe that learning is best facilitated through the integration of theory and practice. I invite readers to consider a conceptual idea, such as identity or privilege, and to explore how that concept plays out in the personal experiences of contributors or in their work with individual clients, communities, or broader systems. Then, within each conceptual or theoretical chapter, readers are linked directly to the free, open source Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Counselling: A Teaching and Learning Resource (Collins, 2018) to engage in learning activities related to the key concepts. These activities draw on other open source resources and integrate multimedia to enable different learning styles. The learning activities can be linked directly into online courses, or instructors can copy, edit, build on, or otherwise repurpose them (with credit to the original authors).
    • Course development ease: The CRSJ counselling model has learning outcomes articulated for each of the key concepts, which are organized under the 6 domains and 18 core competencies of the model. I have done this specifically for ease of integration of the e-book and the teaching and learning guide into courses. This expanded model replaces the traditional index with a more user-friendly, fully interactive, one stop guide to the entire content of the e-book. Curriculum writers can simply (a) choose the domains and competencies most appropriate for their course; (b) choose the specific key concepts they want to address; (c) integrate the learning outcomes related to those key concepts; (d) use the e-book for definitions, grounding in the professional literature, theoretical and conceptual foundations, and applied practice examples; and (e) link to, copy, or adapt the corresponding learning activities from the e-guide. Check out the video below that describes the CRSJ model in Chapter 2.

    • Infusing cultural responsivity and social justice: There is increased recognition that cultural responsivity and social justice cannot be confined to a single course in counsellor education programs. Instead, students are most likely to enhance their competency if these principles and practices are infused throughout the curriculum. I designed Embracing Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice: Re-Shaping Professional Identity in Counselling Psychology and the CRSJ counselling model with the explicit intent of infusing this content across the curriculum of our Master of Counselling program at Athabasca University. The book could be covered in a stand-alone 13-week course on multicultural counselling and social justice. However, my hope is that the content related to professional identity and ethics (Domain III), relational practices (Domain IV), case conceptualization (Domain V), and change processes (Domain VI) will be revisited and infused into ethics, counselling skills, assessment, and interventions courses respectively.