Counseling Statement on Racial Justice
As we prepare to move into the Fall 2022 semester, the counseling area faculty have been reflecting on the past summer marked by the traumatic tragedies of multiple police murders of African American citizens in the U.S., and the resulting public outcry and social justice protests across the country. It has been an extremely challenging time for all of us: feeling overwhelmed, sad, outraged, paralyzed, or even powerless and helpless. With the heat of the protests in our city subsided, while still reeling from everything that has happened we have also been contemplating about critical changes to make moving forward.
First, we feel it is even more important now to reiterate, “Black lives matter,” and express our continuing solidarity in the long-term work to dismantle racial injustice at all levels and contribute to building a system with respect, equity, and support for individuals with all forms of marginalized identities. Second, we want to explicitly recognize the grief and trauma that have been brought to the students in general, and especially students in the BIPOC community. Racial trauma is real, and the past couple of months have made it so conspicuously clear. Third, we also acknowledge that systemic racism and other forms of oppression (heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, etc.) are insidious forces that infiltrate organizations with even the best of intentions.
Our program is not immune to these systemic forces and admittedly have areas that need critical examination and continued improvement. We reemphasize our commitment to looking into our own roles and to creating an anti-racist environment in the program, while also strongly encouraging and inviting students’ input and involvement in this process. Lastly, as mental health professionals, let’s all be reminded of the unique positions we have, in the community and in our schools, to help people, especially our BIPOC community, heal from the racial trauma, to educate the public and facilitate understanding and empathy in the now deeply divided country, and to advocate and strive for a better society where diversity is truly respected, appreciated, and celebrated. We invite you to join us in this life-long journey.
The counseling program at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee is a multicultural community of diverse racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds as well as representative of many religious, spiritual, political, beliefs, physical abilities, ages, national origins and sexual orientations. The program expects that students will be respectful and supportive of all individuals, including but not limited to clients, staff, faculty, and peers who are different from themselves in terms of age, gender, gender identity, race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, political orientation, religion, spirituality, sexual orientation, ability, language, and socioeconomic status. It is also expected that students and faculty will work to create a climate of safety and trust for all concerned.
The program recognizes that no individuals, whether they are faculty, students, staff, or clients, are completely free from all forms of prejudice. Furthermore, it is understood that there will be a range of attitudes and values concerning controversial issues. Nonetheless, enrollment in the program constitutes acceptance of the social value of respect for diversity as well as to the process of self-examination, so that such attitudes and values can grow and develop in regard to both available scientific data as well as standards of the profession. Indeed, American Counseling Association’s Multicultural Counseling Competencies specifically mandate counselors to be multiculturally competent. This means that they develop the ability to work with diverse clients of many backgrounds.
In addition, the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics (2014) specifically states that counselors (including students in training) must both examine and try to eliminate the effects of bias from their work. Successful completion of the program requires a genuine commitment to the examination of one’s worldview in order to develop skills needed to work with individual differences.
Students are required to honor the American Counseling Association’s (ACA) Code of Ethics (2014), and also be familiar with and abide by the various guidelines published by ACA (www.counseling.org) which address issues of working with diversity. The practice of counseling requires significant self-disclosure and personal introspection for the person receiving counseling. As such, counseling students must become familiar and comfortable working with the process of an individual’s self-disclosure and introspection. Therefore, it is an essential aspect of our training program here at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to provide assignments and classroom experiences that call for our students, as counselors-in-training, to self-disclose and personally introspect about personal life experiences to an extant not expected in other academic disciplines.
Accordingly, the faculty are committed to and expect an atmosphere of acceptance and respect among our students. ACA says the following about the ethics of requiring self-disclosure in an academic program: “…programs delineate requirements for self-disclosure or self-growth experiences in the ir admission and program materials … students and supervisees are made aware of the ramifications their self-disclosures may have when counselors whose primary role as teacher, trainer, or supervisor requires acting on ethical obligations to their profession”” (ACA, 2005, F.7.b). As such, we often require self disclosure and introspection of our students as they matriculate through the program.