Liberation as the commitment of critical transformation: how "waking up" to injustice influences multicultural and social justice competency of counseling trainees
Thacker, Falon Nicole
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Graduate counseling programs across the United States have made commitments to prepare counselor trainees to work with diverse clientele (Lewis, Ratts, Paladino, & Toporek, 2011; Chung & Bemak, 2013; Brown, Collins, & Arthur, 2014). A strong focus on multicultural competence training has existed for over twenty-five years (Bemak, Chung, Talleyrand, Jones, & Daquin, 2011), however, few counseling graduate programs have integrated both multiculturalism and social justice training as part of the curriculums (Bemak et al., 2011; Chung & Bemak, 2013). Existing literature on graduate counseling programs suggests gaps exist between instructing students to use and integrate social justice principles and applying these skills in counseling roles (Bemak & Chung, 2011; Collins, Arthur, Brown, & Kennedy, 2015; Sue & Sue, 2016). Current scholarship does little to address how master’s level counseling programs can develop both multicultural and social justice competence among counselor trainees’. Additionally, there is limited research addressing social justice issues in counseling related to power, privilege, oppression, and how they relate to liberation in the therapeutic process (Chávez, Fernandez, Hipolito-Delgado, & Rivera, 2016). This study engages Liberation Psychology (Martín-Baró, 1991) and the Cycle of Liberation (Harro, 2013a) as the theoretical frameworks with the qualitative participatory action methodology of collective memory work (Haug & Carter, 1987) to research counselor trainees experiences of “waking up” within critical incidents and how critical incidents influenced them to study multiculturalism and social justice in counseling. This study provides a deeper understanding regarding how experiences of “waking up” influenced counselor trainees’ to study multiculturalism and social justice in counseling. Utilizing collective memory work, the participants and researcher engaged in collective analysis of seven stories written by the participants regarding their experiences of “waking up.” This research explores the influence of recognizing injustice and experiences of privilege and oppression and also provides recommendations for the field of counseling to increase resources for counselor educators and counselor trainees to develop the self-awareness and critical consciousness needed to be an effective multicultural and social justice counselor. This study concludes with personal reflections and reflexivity regarding the process of the research and the experience of conducting collective memory work.