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Stages of a Minority Identity Development Model
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In the last section, we discussed counseling a culturally different client who is depressed and angry.
In this section, we will discuss Atkinson’s Minority Identity Development Model and its five stages. The five stages of the Minority Identity Development Model are the Conformity Stage, the Dissonance Stage, the Resistance and Immersion Stage, the Introspection Stage, and the Synergetic Articulation and Awareness Stage.
Obviously a question like "Can a white therapist counsel a black client?" is not easily answered with a yes or no response. On this CD, we have already discussed a multitude of factors as they pertain to ethics that would influence this response either positively or negatively. Clearly cultural identity development is an important variable in clarifying this question.
In the Minority Identity Development Model, within each of the five stages there are four corresponding attitudes that form the culturally different client’s identity. These four attitudes are how the client views himself, how he views others of the same minority, how he views others of another minority, and how he views majority individuals. As we discuss the five stages in more detail, keep these four attitudes in mind and think of your culturally different client.
Ethics - Atkinson’s 5-Stage Minority Identity Development Model
♦ Stage #1 - Conformity
The first stage in the Minority Identity Development Model is the Conformity Stage. According to Atkinson the Conformity Stage is generally characterized by a preference for dominant cultural values over one’s own culture. As you are well aware the reference group is usually white America. This can cause strong feelings of racial self-hatred and negative beliefs of one’s own culture in the culturally different client.
Do you have a client who is receptive to your counseling and prefers the dominant culture? Is he in the Conformity Stage of the Minority Identity Development Model?
♦ Stage #2 - Dissonance
The second stage in the Minority Identity Development Model is the Dissonance Stage. In this second stage of Dissonance, cultural confusion and conflict are common characteristics of clients. At this stage, information and experiences begin to challenge the accepted values and beliefs of the dominant culture that the culturally different client held in the first stage of Conformity. As you probably guessed this challenge can create Dissonance within the client.
Do you have a culturally different client in the Dissonance stage? Have you considered the ethical implications of your counseling style on him or her?
♦ Stage #3 - Resistance and Immersion
After the Conformity Stage and the Dissonance Stage, the third stage in the Minority Identity Development Model is the Resistance and Immersion Stage. Clients of a different culture in this stage will actively reject the dominant society and culture. Simultaneously, these culturally different clients will completely endorse minority-held views. It goes without saying that, the reference group becomes the culturally different client’s own culture, and his or her distrust and hatred of white society becomes strong.
♦ Stage #4 - Introspection
The fourth stage in the Minority Identity Development Model is the Introspection Stage. Similar to the second stage of Dissonance, the fourth stage of Introspection is characterized by conflict and cultural confusion over the rigid constraints of the previous stage. I have found that in this stage notions of loyalty and responsibility to one’s own group and notions of personal autonomy come into conflict.
Do you have a client questioning his or her group-usurped individuality and absolute rejection of cultural values? Is he or she possibly in the fourth stage of Introspection?
♦ Stage #5 - Synergetic Articulation & Awareness
Finally, the fifth stage in the Minority Identity Development Model is the Synergetic Articulation and Awareness Stage. According to Atkinson minority individuals in this stage experience a sense of self-fulfillment with regard to cultural identity. At this stage, the conflicts experienced in the fourth stage of Introspection have been resolved. Culturally different clients in this stage objectively examine cultural values of other minorities as well as the dominant group.
As you know these clients then accept or reject these values on the basis of prior experience in the earlier stages of Conformity, Dissonance, Resistance and Immersion, and Introspection.
Ethically you may want to take into consideration the stage in which your culturally different client seems to be in counseling him or her. Obviously a client in the Conformity stage will likely have a preference for a majority member therapist. The conforming client will usually easily find a majority therapist to be credible and trustworthy. However, if your client is in the Dissonance stage, he or she may be less receptive to your counseling techniques because you appear unfamiliar with minority cultures.
Clients of a different culture who are in the Resistance and Immersion stage may be entirely unreceptive to your counseling techniques as they view the dominant culture with distrust and hostility. I have found that clients in the fourth stage of Introspection may prefer therapists of their own race but are more receptive to therapists who share their world view. Recall from the last section that the third component of credibility is belief similarity.
For clients in the Introspection stage, the belief similarity component may be given more importance than racial similarity. Culturally different clients who have progressed to the last stage of Synergetic Articulation and Awareness tend to display security in their own ethnic and cultural identity. Like clients in the introspection stage, clients in the synergetic articulation and awareness stage may place more importance on belief similarity than on racial similarity.
Think of your culturally different client. Which stage is your culturally different client in?
The ACA Code of Ethics states, "Counselors respect diversity and must not discriminate against clients because of age, color, culture, disability, ethnic group, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, marital status, or socioeconomic status."
In this section, we have discussed Atkinson’s Minority Identity Development Model and its five stages. The five stages of the Minority Identity Development Model were the Conformity Stage, the Dissonance Stage, the Resistance and Immersion Stage, the Introspection Stage, and the Synergetic Articulation and Awareness Stage.
In the next section, we will discuss the culturally different client’s Locus of Control, as well as the Locus of Responsibility. Your culturally different client may have either an Internal Locus of Control or an External Locus of Control. In counseling, your culturally different client may adopt either an Internal Locus of Responsibility or an External Locus of Responsibility.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Ghavami, N., Fingerhut, A., Peplau, L. A., Grant, S. K., & Wittig, M. A. (2011). Testing a model of minority identity achievement, identity affirmation, and psychological well-being among ethnic minority and sexual minority individuals. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 17(1), 79–88.
Syed, M., Walker, L. H. M., Lee, R. M., Umaña-Taylor, A. J., Zamboanga, B. L., Schwartz, S. J., Armenta, B. E., & Huynh, Q.-L. (2013). A two-factor model of ethnic identity exploration: Implications for identity coherence and well-being. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 19(2), 143–154.
Thompson, T. L., Kiang, L., & Witkow, M. R. (2016). “You’re Asian; You’re supposed to be smart”: Adolescents’ experiences with the Model Minority Stereotype and longitudinal links with identity. Asian American Journal of Psychology, 7(2), 108–119.
What are the five stages of Atkinson’s Minority Identity Development Model? To select and enter your answer go to .