half a tank is all you need…


Work the Cube: multidimensional cultural competency

I am looking at you,
You at him,
Kabir asks, how to solve
This puzzle —
You, he and I?

(Philosopher, 1440-1518)


I’m trying to write a post about my multicultural experience during my internship and I’m finding that I don’t know where to begin.  This is not surprising.  I think it’s fairly common “not to know where to begin” when dealing with these issues of culture, the -isms, and clients.

I walked into the agency armed with my Multiculturalism in Counseling Resources and an abstract understanding of what might take place in the room.  I also walked in feeling worried that I might say something silly, or worse yet, insulting.  I’d had many classes that provoked thought, required self-reflective journaling and processing, demanded experiential activities, and imbued the theories of identify formation and multicultural counseling competencies – but putting it all together in a new environment with real clients was something entirely more challenging.

The key thing I made myself remember during my internship was that it’s a learning experience.  As a mental health counseling intern, I was there to grow, to contribute, to practice the skills and begin to make the transition from theory to practice.  Becoming a culturally competent counselor follows a similar path.

A few weeks into the internship, I returned to the Cube (see below).   I’d had an array of clients at that point – many with cultural norms, religious beliefs, and race, class, and educational experiences that differed from my own.  The Cube served the same purposes then as it does for me now.

The Cube reminds me of the interlocking components that lead to the development of cultural competence.  Using the Cube, I can determine which component (skills, awareness, knowledge) I need to focus on, for which group, and at what level.  Working the Cube reminds me that acquiring cultural competency is an ongoing and proactive process.

So, while honing your interviewing skills, learning the fine art of identifying discrepancies and mastering interventions, take some time to Work the Cube and flex that cultural competency muscle.  As counseling goes global and our society continues to evolve (Counseling Today, Aug 2012) we need to be equipped to deal with with clients and colleagues from all walks of life.

A multidimensional model of developing cultural competence (Sue, 2001)

An edited version of this blog appears on


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GSSA stands for…

Graduate School Separation Anxiety.  It doesn’t exist in the DSM-IV TR (though I’m not sure if it’s proposed in the DSM V alongside Bad Baby Syndrome and Fantasy Football Disorder) but it certainly feels real.  I put in  a solid 6 semesters (including juggling work, fieldwork, and everyday life) yet now at the bitter end, I find myself looking at the course schedule for next term.  There’s not supposed to BE a next term for me.  I’m done.  Over and out.  So what is this feeling that is intruding upon the merriment that is supposed to come with graduation? GSSA.

For two years I have been a student.  Granted, I’ve been a student before and may be one again, but “student” is a title that grants a sense of knowing what will come next.  After Fall term, comes Spring.  After X class, comes Y.  Leaving “student” behind…well what comes next?  There’s a few things to check off the list like the license test, applying for the limited permit, obtaining a job, accruing hours, etc.  Yet there’s a lack of overarching structure that is lost once exiting the world of “student’ that can be downright terrifying and makes that next semester look mighty good.

The cure for GSSA?  Rather than considering it a “letting go” of the safe haven of school, I’m trying to re-frame it as embracing the *new* professional I am about to become.  It’s a different feeling for me – as a career switcher – to leave the comfort of the known but it’s an exciting move and a time to accept the pat on the back for a job well done and recognize that completing grad school (albeit, again) is an accomplishment.  So, to all the other students who are about to shed that title, I wish you the best!  Polish up the resume, hit the streets, and get ready for the ride of your life.