The featured e-book, Embracing Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice: Re-Shaping Professional Identity in Counselling Psychology, provides a foundation for counselling practice with all clients. The free, open-source supplemental resource applies the principles of culturally responsive and socially just (CRSJ) counselling specifically to the process of building responsive relationships with clients. It features both conceptual and counselling skills videos that attend to the diversity of client lived experiences.
Fostering Responsive Therapeutic Relationships
Repositioning Microskills and Techniques in Service of Just Conversations
By Gina Ko, Murray Anderson, Sandra Collins, and Yevgen Yasynskyy
This resource builds on the foundational knowledge from the e-book, Embracing Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice: Re-Shaping Professional Identity in Counselling Psychology. It has been designed to disrupt how counsellors often think about the initial phases of the counselling process and the purpose, and use of, counselling microskills and techniques for relationship-building with clients. Ko, Anderson, Collins, and Yasynskyy propose that counsellor educators position and teach counselling skills with the aim of supporting culturally responsive, client-centred, and socially just counselling. This supplemental resource offers an applied practice foundation for building responsive relationships with clients in counselling through the use of specific counselling microskills and techniques. It includes a variety of experiential learning activities, commentaries, and videos from a wide range of contributors. The relational practices and counselling skills focus on the initial stages of counselling from building responsive relationships with clients to developing a shared understanding of both the challenges they face and their preferred futures. This resource is free and open-source. It is provided in web format for easy access.
This resources is not a multicultural counselling text; rather, the authors hope that it provides a clear example of how to apply the principles of culturally responsive and socially just (CRSJ) counselling in the moment-by-moment dialogue with clients. This resource is designed as a foundation for what is more traditionally positioned as a counselling and communication (or interviewing) skills course in most graduate counselling programs. See below for an example of a type of learning activity that introduces the technique of exploring sociocultural contexts.
Exploring Sociocultural Contexts:
Bennu’s Story Part I
In this first part of Bennu’s story, Bennu encounters the counsellor for the first time. Notice the ways in which various aspects of Bennu’s cultural identities come into play. Attend also to the ways in which the counsellor opens conversation about the sociocultural contexts that influence Bennu’s current sense of self as well as the possibilities they envision for the future.
The counsellor could have continued to explore sociocultural contexts in increasing depth with Bennu. However, we kept the video short to allow you the opportunity to imagine where you would take this conversation.
Questions for reflection:
- What are you curious about as the video draws to a close?
- What contexts remain unexplored, or only thinly described, at this point?
- Choose a point in the video at which you would incline toward a different line of inquiry with Bennu. What specific microskills might you use to thicken your shared understanding of Bennu’s sociocultural contexts?
This resource also contains applied practice activities that are designed to support the lab component counselling skills courses. These practice activities engage students in direct skills practice with their peers, and can be used in either virtual or face-to-face environments. Below is an example of a skills practice activity designed to support the technique of highlighting exceptions.
Highlighting Exceptions (45 minutes)
Please think ahead to potential exceptions to the ways in which you are approaching, perceiving, or responding to your challenge so that you can support your partner in practising the technique of highlighting exceptions. These exceptions might emerge from reflecting on similar experiences in different contexts, from different experiences over time, from a different aspect of your cultural identity or a context not yet explored, or from a portion of your response to the challenge that differs from emergent themes.
Skills practice (13–14 minutes each)
At this point, you should have developed a thick description of each other’s challenges, considering cultural influences. The purpose of this practice activity is to listen for, and highlight, exceptions to the themes you identified in the first two activities that offer alternate threads or stories.
- Draw on whatever microskills are appropriate to continue the process of co-constructing a shared understanding of the client’s challenge.
- Attend to, invite consideration of, or foreground exceptions to the challenge or the ways in which the client is responding to the challenge. Listen for strengths, responses, competencies, perspective-taking and so on that hint at exceptions.
- Respond as naturally as possible to the counsellor’s use of each of the microskills they choose.
- Focus on thickening your shared understanding of the exception(s) the client identifies. Where appropriate continue to explore cultural meanings as they relate to the exception.
Reflective practice and feedback
- In what ways did highlighting exceptions to the challenge shift the focus towards answering the question: How would the client like their lived experiences to be different?
- From the perspective of the client, how did foregrounding exceptions to the challenge reinforce your sense of self-efficacy and personal agency, draw out your strengths, or instill a sense of hope that the challenge can be overcome? What specific counsellor verbalizations supported each of these shifts?
Benefits of the supplemental resource as an accompaniment to the featured e-book.
- Expands on the concept of responsive relationships as a foundation for all counselling
- Repositions counselling skills and techniques in service of client-counsellor relationships
- Enhances learning through multimedia (i.e., images, audio, video)
- Offers a conceptual grounding in emergent relational practices and principles
- Provides video demonstrations of applied practice skills and techniques
- Translates theory into practice