Importance of Culture and Diversity in Psychology

The increasing cultural diversity in the United States has provided the need and importance for a multicultural perspective, especially in the field of psychology. The United States of America is popularly known as a ‘melting pot’ with a “foreign-born population of about thirty million” in which in about 10% of the citizens have an “immigrant background” (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000), as a result of “the greatest migration in history” since the year 1990 (U.S. Department of Homeland Security). Families and children belonging to ethnic communities are often challenged by the psychological adjustments they are required to make to the social environments while valuing and maintaining their heritage and cultures. Additionally, they are also required to learn the new language and adapt to the new society and culture, which puts a double burden on them.

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Sigmund Freud – Theory of Personality

Sigmund Freud’s theory of personality is a crucial aspect of psychology and stems from his work with mental patients, on the basis of which he developed his ideas about the psychoanalytic theory on the basis of which he stated that the personality has three structures; the id, ego and super ego. Freud stated that the id is the unconscious part of personality which has no actual contact with reality. The ego is the personality structure which emerges in childhood with all the varied experiences which make children aware of the demands and constraints they face in real life. The id and ego primarily use the ability to reason to make crucial decisions in life due to the impact of reality and experiences and as such lack morality or issues of right or wrong.

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Rogerian Approach to Low Self-Esteem

The Rogerian perspective of Carl Rogers involves the therapist to extend “unconditional positive regard” for the clients. According to Rogers’ (1961) theory, people with low self esteem have psychological problems which surface as a result of the negative feedback which they receive from their parents or figures of authority in their lives. As a result of the forcing of values by the crucial figures in their lives, the individuals develop feelings of low self esteem which cause them to be emotionally weak and low on self esteem. Rogers (1961) affirms that these individuals tend to be under constant “inner” struggle between their desire to be and the expectations of others from them which cause them to develop low self esteem.
Rogers however believes that with therapists can extend “unconditional positive regard” to their clients to enable them “overcome the negative effects” of their “past experience” “on their attitudes, feelings, and behaviors” (Rogers, 1961).

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Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)

The profession of mental health requires therapists to approach the clients with an open mind and clear perspective which enables them to provide therapy by providing the necessary support and consideration. However, in dealing with some clients, certain strong issues surface which clearly contrast with the therapist’s point of view. The issue of “unconditional acceptance of the client” (Garfield, 1995) is a recent concept and in compliance with Carl Rogers and the ‘nondirective approach’. Rational Emotive behavior therapy (REBT) considers the clients as “fallible human beings who may act self-defeatingly but are not bad people” (Vernon, 1996). This concept of acceptance of clients is noted as an important aspect of the relationship between the client and the REBT therapists, so that a suitable and amiable rapport is built between the therapists and the client especially the adolescent clients as the “tend to be more distrustful and defensive about being in counseling” (Vernon, 1996).

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03/01: Psychotherapy


Psychotherapy, relates to the treatment of consistent feelings of anxiety, despair or any other negative emotions experienced over a period of time with the help of a trained professional, a psychologist or a psychotherapist. Psychotherapy is primarily concerned with helping patients or people who display inability to independently deal with certain issue/s in life. Lisle Douglas (2003) states that modern psychotherapy should be re-christened as “life coaching” since it involves novel ways and techniques to effectively face the tests of life. Douglas (2003) affirms that while conventional psychotherapists worked toward “some distant and uncertain therapeutic goal” modern psychotherapy involves “skilled guidance” and ascertains that patients “benefit by seeking help” and get “moving more quickly” towards an enhanced life.

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Low Self-Esteem and Trait Theory

Self esteem is considered to be a “dynamic” and ever “changing construct” and has been viewed by researchers as the proportion between the success and pretensions of an individual or even an affirmative or pessimistic assessment of the self (Baldwin & Hoffmann, 2002). Low self esteem can generate emotions of worthlessness in individuals which can negatively affect their occupational, social and personal relationships (Baldwin & Hoffmann, 2002). It has been noted that all or five of the following traits are apparent in individuals with low self esteem. These include instability in relationships, reckless behavior which could be self damaging, emotional insecurity, anger, suicidal intimidation or damage to self, disturbed personality, feelings of worthlessness or boredom and frenzied efforts to avoid real or anticipated rejection (Diblasio & Belcher). Self esteem is known to reduce with the negative and stressful events in the life of individuals resulting in feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety and abnormal activities.

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Development of Personality and Human Behavior

Development of human behavior and personality is a combination of several environmental processes impacted by the family, society, tradition, culture and upbringing, along with the internal genetic influences. Individuals are shaped not only by the societies they live in but are also impacted by psychological character (Gazzaniga, 1985). The family plays a significant role in shaping the personality or identity of the individual. Gazzangia (1985) confirms of an association between the organization of the brains and the structuring of attitudes by individuals.
Researchers have conducted several experiments to study the impact of genes on the behavior of humans. Researchers have compared “identical and fraternal twins” (Roediger, Rushton, Capaldi, &Paris, 1987, p. 505) to evaluate the impact of genes on any single characteristic or traits (Erdle, 1990).

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The three general research approaches required for the study of personality are the clinical research, experimental research and the co-relational research. The criteria for the different approaches are as follows.
Clinical Research
The National Institute of Health (NIH) defines clinical research as Patient oriented research which includes the involvement of “human subjects” or any other human material which necessitates an interface between a researcher and an individual. Patient oriented research incorporates ‘mechanisms of human disease, therapeutic interventions and clinical trials’ (NIH). Clinical research is also associated with the examination of issues related to health under the category of ‘epidemic and behavioral studies’, while recognizing the most effectual and possible ways of “intervention, treatment and services” (NIH).

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Addictions Counseling and Career Counseling

Addictions Counseling is a very lucrative field with the “alarming” prevalence of “drug and alcohol abuse today” and with an estimated “50 million Americans” being not only “addicted either to drugs or alcohol” (Doweiko, 1993) but also a wide range of other addictions like “eating disorders, sexual addictions, gambling addictions, and countless others” which makes it to be “increasingly sought by mental health counselors, school counselors, counselors who work in criminal justice, and counselors in private practice” (Richard & Bailey, 1995). Similarly, ‘Career counseling’ also bears tremendous potential to benefit the practicing counselors with lucrative salary, being “one of the few applied psychology fields in which individuals can make substantial amounts of money” (Pope, 2003).
The field of career counseling with its “relatively long history” dates back to the “early 1900s” (Pope, 2000), providing a “large body of data, knowledge, theory and skills” (Pope, 2003). In contrast, the field of addiction counseling has received much attention due to the alarming growth in the use of chemichal drugs and alcohol abuse.

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Addiction and Self Help Groups

Self-help groups function to facilitate the recovery process of clients who are chemical dependency and mental disorders. These groups provide the clients with a social network of individuals with similar problems and experiences, since most of these individuals may be isolated from society due to the social stigma attached to their addictions or mental health seeking practices. The transition from being help recipients to being helpers enables them to build their self confidence and feelings of being wanted and desired in society, which facilitates their self confidence and positive self esteem. Self help groups also function as defenses to guard the clients against future crises in this manner. They enable the clients to share particular coping strategies based on their experiences and those who evolve successfully from such programs, serve as role models for the other members of the group. The major aspect of self help groups is their ability to provide self generated structure based on real life experiences of individuals.
Self help programs do not hinder but facilitate the counseling process for clients seeking professional counseling services, as these programs are primarily based on client empowerments, which serves as a highly positive factor in enhancing the self esteem of clients. The self recovery process for some clients can be a very long or life long process and these self help groups enable them to continue with the effort and motivation to recover along with their peer members of the group.

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