AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies
I. Counselor Awareness of Own Cultural Values and Biases
A. Attitudes and Beliefs
1. Culturally skilled counselors believe that cultural self-awareness and sensitivity to one’s own
cultural heritage is essential.
2. Culturally skilled counselors are aware of how their own cultural background and experiences
have influenced attitudes, values, and biases about psychological processes.
3. Culturally skilled counselors are able to recognize the limits of their multicultural competency
4. Culturally skilled counselors recognize their sources of discomfort with differences that exist
between themselves and clients in terms of race, ethnicity and culture.
1. Culturally skilled counselors have specific knowledge about their own racial and cultural
heritage and how it personally and professionally affects their definitions and biases of
normality/abnormality and the process of counseling.
2. Culturally skilled counselors possess knowledge and understanding about how oppression,
racism, discrimination, and stereotyping affect them personally and in their work. This allows
individuals to acknowledge their own racist attitudes, beliefs, and feelings. Although this standard
applies to all groups, for White counselors it may mean that they understand how they may have
directly or indirectly benefited from individual, institutional, and cultural racism as outlined in White
identity development models.
3. Culturally skilled counselors possess knowledge about their social impact upon others. They
are knowledgeable about communication style differences, how their style may clash with or
foster the counseling process with persons of color or others different from themselves based on
the A, B and C, Dimensions ,and how to anticipate the impact it may have on others.
1. Culturally skilled counselors seek out educational, consultative, and training experiences to
improve their understanding and effectiveness in working with culturally different populations.
Being able to recognize the limits of their competencies, they (a) seek consultation, (b) seek
further training or education, (c) refer out to more qualified individuals or resources, or (d) engage
in a combination of these.
2. Culturally skilled counselors are constantly seeking to understand themselves as racial and
cultural beings and are actively seeking a non racist identity.
II. Counselor Awareness of Client’s Worldview
A. Attitudes and Beliefs
1. Culturally skilled counselors are aware of their negative and positive emotional reactions
toward other racial and ethnic groups that may prove detrimental to the counseling relationship.
They are willing to contrast their own beliefs and attitudes with those of their culturally different
clients in a nonjudgmental fashion.
2. Culturally skilled counselors are aware of their stereotypes and preconceived notions that they
may hold toward other racial and ethnic minority groups.
1. Culturally skilled counselors possess specific knowledge and information about the particular
group with which they are working. They are aware of the life experiences, cultural heritage, and
historical background of their culturally different clients. This particular competency is strongly
linked to the “minority identity development models” available in the literature.
2. Culturally skilled counselors understand how race, culture, ethnicity, and so forth may affect
personality formation, vocational choices, manifestation of psychological disorders, help seeking
behavior, and the appropriateness or inappropriateness of counseling approaches.
3. Culturally skilled counselors understand and have knowledge about sociopolitical influences
that impinge upon the life of racial and ethnic minorities. Immigration issues, poverty, racism,
stereotyping, and powerlessness may impact self esteem and self concept in the counseling
1. Culturally skilled counselors should familiarize themselves with relevant research and the latest
findings regarding mental health and mental disorders that affect various ethnic and racial groups.
They should actively seek out educational experiences that enrich their knowledge,
understanding, and cross-cultural skills for more effective counseling behavior.
2. Culturally skilled counselors become actively involved with minority individuals outside the
counseling setting (e.g., community events, social and political functions, celebrations,
friendships, neighborhood groups, and so forth) so that their perspective of minorities is more
than an academic or helping exercise.
III. Culturally Appropriate Intervention Strategies
A. Beliefs and Attitudes
1. Culturally skilled counselors respect clients’ religious and/ or spiritual beliefs and values,
including attributions and taboos, because they affect worldview, psychosocial functioning, and
expressions of distress.
2. Culturally skilled counselors respect indigenous helping practices and respect help~iving
networks among communities of color.
3. Culturally skilled counselors value bilingualism and do not view another language as an
impediment to counseling (monolingualism may be the culprit).
1. Culturally skilled counselors have a clear and explicit knowledge and understanding of the
generic characteristics of counseling and therapy (culture bound, class bound, and monolingual)
and how they may clash with the cultural values of various cultural groups.
2. Culturally skilled counselors are aware of institutional barriers that prevent minorities from
using mental health services.
3. Culturally skilled counselors have knowledge of the potential bias in assessment instruments
and use procedures and interpret findings keeping in mind the cultural and linguistic
characteristics of the clients.
4. Culturally skilled counselors have knowledge of family structures, hierarchies, values, and
beliefs from various cultural perspectives. They are knowledgeable about the community where a
particular cultural group may reside and the resources in the community.
5. Culturally skilled counselors should be aware of relevant discriminatory practices at the social
and community level that may be affecting the psychological welfare of the population being
1. Culturally skilled counselors are able to engage in a variety of verbal and nonverbal helping
responses. They are able to send and receive both verbal and nonverbal messages accurately
and appropriately. They are not tied down to only one method or approach to helping, but
recognize that helping styles and approaches may be culture bound. When they sense that their
helping style is limited and potentially inappropriate, they can anticipate and modify it.
2. Culturally skilled counselors are able to exercise institutional intervention skills on behalf of
their clients. They can help clients determine whether a “problem” stems from racism or bias in
others (the concept of healthy paranoia) so that clients do not inappropriately personalize
3. Culturally skilled counselors are not averse to seeking consultation with traditional healers or
religious and spiritual leaders and practitioners in the treatment of culturally different clients when
4. Culturally skilled counselors take responsibility for interacting in the language requested by the
client and, if not feasible, make appropriate referrals. A serious problem arises when the linguistic
skills of the counselor do not match the language of the client. This being the case, counselors
should (a) seek a translator with cultural knowledge and appropriate professional background or
(b) refer to a knowledgeable and competent bilingual counselor.
5. Culturally skilled counselors have training and expertise in the use of traditional assessment
and testing instruments. They not only understand the technical aspects of the instruments but
are also aware of the cultural limitations. This allows them to use test instruments for the welfare
of culturally different clients.
6. Culturally skilled counselors should attend to as well as work to eliminate biases, prejudices,
and discriminatory contexts in conducting evaluations and providing interventions, and should
develop sensitivity to issues of oppression, sexism, heterosexism, elitism and racism.
7. Culturally skilled counselors take responsibility for educating their clients to the processes of
psychological intervention, such as goals, expectations, legal rights, and the counselor’s
Arredondo, P., Toporek, M. S., Brown, S., Jones, J., Locke, D. C., Sanchez, J. and Stadler, H. (1996)
Operationalization of the Multicultural Counseling Competencies. AMCD: Alexandria, VA
AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies