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It is critical for students of counseling and psychology to work through their own issues of race, ethnicity, and gender because these areas affect clients entering the counseling relationship. Because one or twc courses in multicultural counseling are often the only training in diversity’ issues students obtain, it is important to address students’ sense of their own identity in terms of race and gender. Narrative approaches to teaching multicultural counseling can make this happen.
A narrative, in this approach, “is a dynamic process that constitutes both the way that we organize the events and experiences of our lives to make sense of them and the, way we participate in creating the things we make sense of, including ourselves” (Anderson, 1997, p. 212). Narratives are the ways individuals understand their experiences and their identities, the ways they construct meaning in ongoing relationships. Bruner (1990) referred to narratives as the way that individuals use language to frame their experiences and memories. Narratives are used to help us understand reality and to understand self.
Narrative approaches in gender and ethnic studies
In the field of the psychology of women, Belenky, Clinchy, Goldberger, and Tarule (1985) wrote that “conceptions of knowledge and truth that are accepted and articulated today have been shaped throughout history by the male dominated majority culture” (p. 5). Gilligan (1982) andJordon, Kaplan, Miller, Sliver, and Surrey (1991) used the metaphor of voice to argue that if we listen to the stories that women tell about themselves, they seem to have a sense of self that is different, more connected, than the models that standard psychological theories have presented. These researchers use the voices of women, to create theories that capture a truth that is different than the one, psychology has previously reported.
In the field of history, Scott (1988) argued that history could not be understood apart from the way it is culturally constructed, which is especially important in the understanding and interpretation of gender and gender roles. In fact, she suggested that gender is both culturally and historically constructed. Dirks, Eley, and Ortner (1994) wrote that feminist and other forms of theory written by and about underrepresented populations contain a kind of vividness and urgency when discussing power and cultural constructionism. In these contexts, neither the pervasiveness of power nor the constructedness of identity seems an abstract academic question. Power and cultural construction are personally important for women an4 people of color because they are often the dues being created by the dominant voice, a voice that is not theirs.
In her research about ethnic minorities in the United, States, Garza—Falcon (1998) wrote that the histpry of Mexican Americans in the twentieth century had been, until recently, seen only through the perspective of Anglo historians who offered, to their “audience a cheering nationalism that was tainte4 with notions of Aryan supremacy” (p. 2). She argued that another perspective could be recovered through narratives from Mexican Americans living at that time However, she also pointed out that narratives challenging the prevailing view of those in the power structure are, on an ongoing basis, “being erased from normal channels of documentation and communication” (pp 3—4)
The field of anthropology has long included the issue of narrative, analyzing texts for ethnographic authority. However, although they acknowledge that the categories of the cultures they study are culturally and historically constructed, they often do not apply this fact to their own, interpretations. Dirks, Eley, and Ortner (1994) wrote that anthropologists have tended to “grant themselves a privileged position, in which their own categories are not subjected to this argument. But. . . their categories are as much products of their culture, their historical moment, and their forms of power as everyone else’s” (p. 37).
Reflection Exercise #4