Person Environment

The culture-matching, acculturation and adaptation, and racial identity approaches to multicultural psychotherapy remind us that people live in the context of culture. These approaches consequently focus on specific cultural experiences, including validating different worldviews, assisting in cultural transitions, and facilitating racial identity development. The person-environment approach goes a step further by acknowledging that people live in a cultural context and, more importantly, by placing this reality at the center of psychotherapy (Fanon, 1963; Friere, 1972; Ramirez, 1999; D. Sue et al., 1996). The basic goal of person-environment psychotherapy therfore is the liberation of consciousness or "learning to see onself and others in relation to cultural context" (Ivey, 1995, p. 56). It moves beyond assisting clients in their adjustment and adaptation to life as a culturally different minority in an Euro-American dominant society and toward creating empowered individuals who are capable of transforming society into a more pluralistic society.

The person-environment approach to multicultural psychotherapy emphasizes the inherent resilience in people. This resilience is embedded within the interdependence among people, including collective wisdom, shared resources, and commitment to community. People are encouraged to embrace the cultural differences in others' lives and to work cooperatively with each other. Similarly, therapists work with clients in a mutually collaborative manner to discover additional strengths and assets (Ivey, 1995). The balance of multiple roles and identities in people's lives, for example, is identified and reinforced as a positive individual and collective characteristic (LaFromboise et al., 1993). The personenvironment approach also encourages the development of an internalized and committed racial identity that empowers clients with an understanding of themselves as relational agents of change. Fanon (1963) and Friere (1972), for instance, were early proponents of empowering culturally different people living in an oppressive society. They emphasized the importance of finding one's own voice and language to describe personal experiences and life conditions. The power of language allows clients to recognize the unfair conditions and contradictions in life and moves them toward greater racial consciousness. Clients are encouraged to understand the self-in-relation concept and personally examine their own cultural strengths and assets. Cuento therapy, for example, is a form of storytelling that helps Puerto Rican children understand their lives in the context of their cultural heritage (Constantino, Malgady, & Rogler, 1986). At the same time, it is important for therapists to help clients see life from multiple perspectives and in the context of others. Clients are encouraged to understand life beyond their own inidividual needs and eventually work toward the societal good.

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