Psychological Counseling Systems the Existential Approach to Multicultural

Alan Sullivan's image for:
"Psychological Counseling Systems the Existential Approach to Multicultural"
Image by: 

Adams and Luscher (2003) present "four pillars" (as cited in Sattler, 1986) including; norm-referenced tests, interviews, observation, and informal assessment, which are claimed to "provide a firm foundation from which one can make decisions and recommendations" when integrated into an multicultural assessment (Adams & Luscher, 2003). This paper reviews these pillars and shows where this construct would be beneficial for servicing a large ethnic population.

Gathering information

Norm-referenced tests. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005, p. 99) describe norm-referenced testing as "a method of evaluation and a way of deriving meaning from test scores by evaluating individual testtaker's score and comparing it to scores of a group of testtakers". Adams and Lushcer (2003, p. 276) present that "norm-referenced tests are useful in that administration occurs within a relatively short period of time and substantial information can be obtained from such tests" (as cited in Satler, 1986). In the instance of a country becoming destabilized and a large ethnic group may be experiencing a need for health services utilizing a norm-referenced measure would be beneficial for saving time and assessing a large population. This seems to be an objective test construct which would eliminate bias, be valid and reliable, and serve the practitioner as an effective and efficient screening tool.

Interviews. Interviewing is the second of the "four pillars" (as cited in Sattler, 1986) presented by Adams and Luscher (2003) which claim that "Interviews also allow psychologist to assess and interpret information on the basis of interaction with the individual in a more or less open-ended format" (p. 277). In the instance of servicing a large ethnic group in need of emergency services the interview may need to be administered through an "unstandardized" (Adams & Luscher, 2003, p. 277) form. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005, pp. 424-434) present interviews including information on types of interviews, and cultural considerations and present standard questions that should be considered including the following; "demographic data, reason for referral, past medical history, family medical history, past psychological history, past history with medical or psychological professionals, and current psychological conditions" (pp. 425-426). A clinical interview may take an enormous amount of time to conduct so these questions with definitions may be administered to a particular group and a trained data analyst may input information obtained into a database for each client obtained from a "unstandardized" (Adams & Luscher, 2003) administered format such as a questionnaire. Administering these standardized questions should not create bias in test administration, and expedite a psychologist ability to service such a large group.

Observation. Adams and Luscher (2003) claim "Psychologists should be aware of the subjectivity related to this assessment technique and take the necessary means to avoid misinterpreting or overstating observations made at any point in the assessment" (p. 277) The ethnic group who has been displaced is going to experience emotions that are natural for individuals experiencing such trauma. One must not conclude on just individual states and be aware and sensitive when assessing the displaced ethnic group that some of the emotions that they are experiencing are natural. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) define behavioral observation "as monitoring the actions of others or oneself by visual or electronic means while recording quantitative and/or qualitative information regarding actions" (p. 10). It is not hard for one to observe the actions of the displaced citizens of New Orleans through means of the media. This may provide an example of how a particular group may act in a natural disaster, and provide practitioners with how a group acts in a related/similar environmental setting. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) note that behavioral observation is very time consuming; and costly; however, with the ability to compare behaviors of individuals in similar environments such as a natural disaster, one may be able to make comparisons if faced with similar assessment responsibilities.

Informal assessment. Adams and Luscher (2003) fourth and last "pillar" (as cited in Sattler, 1986) for foundations of gaining information for constructing a psychological assessment is through informal assessment. Adams and Luscher (2003) note research again describing that low reliability and validity can exist with the use of informal assessment alone and should be complemented with another assessment technique like using norm-referenced tests, interview, or observation leading to an increased reliability and validity results (as cited in Sattler, 1986). Cohen and Swerdlik (2005, glossary) define informal evaluation as " A typical non-systematic, relatively brief, and "off the record" assessment leading to the formulation of an opinion or attitude, conducted by an person in any way for any reason, in an unofficial context and not subject to the same ethics or standards as evaluation by a professional". One may delegate an employee to gather information of the ethnic group being assessed and categorize findings; however, this is not a very reliable or valid means of assessment. It does allow for saving time, and if one trained an evaluator to gather information from the ethnic group at hand and integrated them with the other gathering techniques then this may be a supportive gathering technique.

Cultural sensitivity considerations

Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) define culturally informed psychological assessment as "an approach to evaluation that is keenly perceptive of and responsive to issues of acculturation, values, identity, worldview, language, and other cultural-related variables as they may impact the evaluation process or the interpretation of resulting data" (p. 430). When assessing a particular culture and providing services to a particular ethnic group one must become literate about the population that one is servicing. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) recommend gaining cultural specific information from "family, friends, clergy, professionals, and others" (p. 430). The practitioner taking on the responsibility of assessing a large ethnic group must gain knowledge and become come aware of the ethnic group that services are being provided. Cohen and Swerdlik (2005) present research and terminology of "shifting cultural lenses" (p. 431, as cited in Kleinman & Kleinman, 1991). This terminology is appropriate for one assessing a particular ethnic group that one may not be familiar.

Psychological assessment construct

After using the above techniques then an appropriate assessment construct would be utilized to benefit the individuals seeking services.


Being tasked to recommend a plan of action for servicing multicultural groups takes a considerable amount of planning. Gathering information is key, to service the ethnic group, in this instance. Depending on the results of the gathered information one would have to devise a psychological testing battery to administer to the individuals at hand. Once tests are chosen they must be culturally sensitive to the ethnic group that is being serviced. Translators, may need to be hired, culturally specific testing and assessments may need administered to prevent bias and increase validity and reliability of the results of the assessments and testing administered.

Adams, H. E., Luscher, K. A. (2003). Ethical considerations in psychological assessment. In O'Donohue, & Ferguson, K. Handbook of professional ethics for psychologists: Issues, questions, and controversies (pp. 275-283). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.
American Psychological Association. (2002). Ethical principals of psychologist and code of conduct 2002. Retrieved July 18, 2006 from
Cohen, R. J., & Swerdlik, M. E. (2005). Psychological testing and assessment: An introduction to tests and measurement (6th ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.
Kleinman, A., & Kleinman, J. (1991). Suffering and its professional transformation: Toward an ethnography of interpersonal experience. Culture, Psychiatry and Medicine, 15, 275-301.

More about this author: Alan Sullivan

From Around the Web