Counseling Issues for International Students STUDYING IN THE USA

Counseling Issues for International Students  STUDYING IN THE USA
University of Pretoria etd – Kendagor, S K (2005)
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Counseling Issues for International Students
PASTORAL CARE AND COUNSELING FOR INTERNATONAL STUDENTS
STUDYING IN THE USA
By
SOLOMON KIPTOO KENDAGOR
Submitted in accordance with the requirements
for the degree of Philosophiae Doctor in the Faculty of Theology (Section B),
University of Pretoria
PRETORIA
PROMOTER: PROF. J. C. MULLER
AUGUST 2005
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Abstract
Educational opportunities in the USA continue to attract thousands of
international students from around the world. Their presence represents
adjustment and other psychological needs that deserve addressing. The focus of
this study is to demonstrate how pastoral care and counseling discipline can
respond to the needs represented by the international students in the universities
and colleges. I will begin by defining pastoral care and counseling as a discipline
and how it is related to practical theology. Historical background of practical
theology demonstrates that pastoral care and counseling is a part of practical
theology as it is one way in which the Church seeks to meet the needs of
humanity in general. Counseling is a tool which the Church can use to bring
healing to the congregation as well as to the society.
Because international students represent many cultures, the pastoral care
and counseling professionals providing service will be dealing with pastoral
counseling in a multicultural setting. In the study I will demonstrate that it is
critical for the discipline of pastoral care and counseling to include multicultural
counseling in training professionals in the field. The study will include discussion
on competencies necessary for pastoral care counselors to provide counseling
service to international students.
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Outline
Chapter One: Introduction
7
Status of Research
8
Methodology
10
Model of Research
12
Summary
18
Chapter Two: Rationale for Providing Pastoral Care and Counseling to Foreign
Students
19
A Significant Population
19
Global and Historical Significance
23
A Growing Phenomenon
25
Potential World Leaders
28
Representing Wider Cultural Diversity Trend
30
Unique Psychological Needs
32
Summary
37
Chapter Three: Pastoral Care and Counseling as a Field of Practical
Theology
39
Emergence of Practical Theology as a Theological Discipline
39
Practical Theology from Historical Perspective
42
Developmental Stages
42
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Counseling Issues for International Students
The Coining of Practical Theology
45
Practical Theology from Contemporary Definitions
49
Pastoral Care and Counseling as Practical Theology
59
Multicultural Pastoral Care and Counseling as Practical Theology
83
Summary
88
Chapter Four: Counseling Issues Encountered by students in the Foreign
Land
89
Methodology
89
Narrative Study Cases
93
Specific Adjustment Issues
114
Cultural Attitude Towards Counseling
115
Academic Expectations
117
Difference in Approach to Learning
120
Political Crisis at Home
124
Death and/or Serious Illness at Home
126
Culture Shock
127
Chapter Five: Culture Shock and Re-entry Issues
135
Reverse Culture Shock Defined
136
Causative Factors of Reverse Culture Shock
140
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Personal Changes in the Student’s Life
140
Attitude and Expectations at Home
147
Attitude Towards Returning Home
149
Giving Up New Relationships
151
Exposure to and Appreciation of New Value Systems
153
Environmental Changes at Home
155
Applying the Acquired Academic Knowledge
157
Chapter Six: Unique Challenges in Providing Pastoral Care and Counseling to
International Students
162
A Challenge to Traditional Counseling Approach
163
Specific Unique Challenges
166
Diversity of Cultures Represented
166
Limited or Lack of Training for the Counselors
182
Cultural Perceptions in Counseling
190
Diversity of Religious Beliefs
196
Cultural Attitude Towards Mental Illness
205
Economical Realities
207
Summary
210
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Chapter Seven: Competencies Necessary for Providing Counseling to
International Students
Cultural Awareness
211
212
Awareness and Appreciation of Own Culture
213
Awareness and Appreciation of Cultural Differences
220
Ability to Identify and Utilize Community Resources
232
Financial Resources
234
Community Support Network
237
Ability to Adopt Flexible Approaches in Counseling
247
Home Visits
250
Informal Approach to Counseling
251
Ability to Provide Service in the Midst of Diversity of Belief Systems
254
Ability to Prepare Students for Readjustment at Home Culture
256
Chapter Eight: Conclusion
260
Why Pastoral Care and Counseling Must Respond
260
It is a Strategic Ministry
260
It is a Needed Ministry
262
It is a Challenging Ministry
263
It is a Challenge to Pastoral Care and Counseling
265
Concluding Statement
267
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Chapter 1
Introduction
According Yi, Giseala and Kishimoto (2003) the number of foreign
students studying in the USA between 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 increased by
6.25% to 547,867. The Institute of International Education (2004) reported that
there were 572,509 international students studying in the United States in
2003/2004. These foreign students represent more than 180 countries (Komiya
and Ells, 2001; Spencer-Rogers, 2000).
They represent people of diverse backgrounds as well as a significant
population that require special attention in any field addressing the needs of
humanity. Their presence in the USA and away from their home countries means
that they are adjusting to a culture that is foreign to them. Pastoral care and
counseling profession cannot ignore the needs represented by this diverse
population. This study will involve an attempt to demonstrate the need for and
the challenges of providing pastoral care and counseling to international students.
Status of Research
I find no research that addresses the counseling needs of international
students from a pastoral counseling perspective. However, there are some studies
that are related to the subject from the perspective of psychology, multicultural
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Counseling Issues for International Students
counseling and counseling in general (Boyer & Sedlacek, 1989; Pedersen, 1991;
Sodowsky & Taffe, 1991; Toupin & Son, 1991). Boyer & Sedlacek (1989) did a
study that focused on international students’ use of the counseling centers. The
result was that only 13% sought counseling help while an overwhelming majority
of 87% did not seek any help from the center. Other research yielded similar
results (Gim, Atkins & Whitely, 1990; Lee & Mixson, 1995).
Sodowsky (1991) did another study that focused on how international
students perceived the credibility of the counselor. He found that cultural
sensitivity is very important for international students’ ability to give credibility to
the counselor. Some of the studies focused on the counselor’s training to meet
counseling needs for the foreign students (Sodowsky & Taffe 1991). However,
D’Andrea, Daniels and Heck (1991) did a similar study focusing on how a
particular model of multicultural training impacts counselor’s effectiveness in
counseling foreign students. The study suggested that training counselors to be
sensitive to cultural issues is more difficult than helping international students
adapt to the foreign culture. Other studies focused on the needs of particular
cultural groups among the international students (Toupin, 1991; Gim, Atkinsons
& Kim, 1991 and Marks, 1987).
Another area of study focused on issues students confront when they
return to their countries of origin. Ansel (1993) did an extended study to find out
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how students from India were adjusting after their return home. The research
indicated that when students return to their countries of origin, they suffer from
reverse culture shock, which complicates their reintegration process. This makes
it difficult for the returning student to function well in society after extended
period of study overseas. Marks (1987) discussed the issues and gave suggestions
on how to help the students lessen the adjustment problems as they re-enter into
their original countries and cultures.
Since there is no research that addresses the subject from pastoral care and
counseling perspective, the study will rely on the research and other written
materials in these and other related fields. From the same materials I will seek to
identify the emotional issues experienced by international students during and
after their studies in the United States. The counseling techniques developed in
the fields of multicultural counseling will also be a part of the study. My
intention in this dissertation is to seek integration of these techniques with
principles drawn from the field of pastoral care and counseling.
The study will involve drawing principles that will be useful in defining
competencies helpful in providing a framework for pastoral care and counseling
to international students and, possibly, other immigrants. These competencies
will be a product of careful study, analysis and integration of techniques
developed in the fields of pastoral counseling, psychology, counseling in general
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Counseling Issues for International Students
and multicultural counseling and other related fields. While some of the studies
focus on counseling of internationals from particular geographical background
(Toupin, 1991; Gim, Atkinsons & Kim, 1991 and Marks, 1987), this study will
focus on international students in general.
The purpose in this study is to address the issues common to international
students regardless of their gender, ethnic and national backgrounds. The focus
will be on issues determined, by other studies, to commonly affect international
students irrespective of cultural upbringing and other variations. This is not to
claim that all international students do experience the same issues all the time.
Rather the argument is that there are issues that tend to affect foreign students
regardless of the learner’s cultural, national, personal and religious background.
Methodology
As demonstrated above I find no literature addressing the issue of pastoral
care and counseling for international students. Therefore the approach I will take
in this dissertation is to integrate the findings of other counseling disciplines such
as psychology, counseling in general, and multicultural counseling and
development, social work and other related fields. The purpose is to study issues
and counseling approaches the various disciplines have developed in counseling
international students and in addressing counseling issues for those who are
culturally different. This means that the research will involve literary analysis
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Counseling Issues for International Students
that will culminate in integration of applicable principles for providing pastoral
care and counseling for foreign students.
The exception is for chapter 4 where narrative study is used to
demonstrate how the counseling issues found by other disciplines impact
international students. The narrative study will focus on six international students
to whom I have provided spiritual care in their times of crisis. The experiences of
these students will be discussed in conjunction with the issues found to be
common among international students. The narrative study will demonstrate the
extend to which some of the issues can impact the students in their adjustment
process overseas. In essence the narrative study will illustrate how complex and
serious the adjustment issues can be for the foreign students. The stories will help
emphasize the urgency of meeting the counseling needs of students who are
seeking education overseas.
Model of Research
McCann and Strain (1985) regard any example of practical theology a
“simply a model within a larger genre” (p. 33). To them model is the same thing
as theory. They go on to explain the reason for models of practical theology by
stating: “Model-theory allows us to establish the perspectival limits and
possibilities of practical theological discourse” (pp. 33-34). In other words
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models promote free discourse but with framework to promote a particular focus
in perspective and approach.
According to Kelsey and Wheeler (1995) the idea of theological discourse
and different models owes its originality to Edward Farley who “inaugurated
unprecedented streams of essays and monographs on the nature, purpose, and
organization of theological study and theological schools” (p. 181). Since then
different models and theories of practical theology have been developed by
various scholars (McCann and Strain 1985; Heitinik, 1999; Lang, 1999).
For example Poling and Miller (1985) outlined what they considered six
models based on two axes. One axis is aimed at bringing “together a variety of
interpretations into some normative unity” (p. 31). The second axis “describes the
relationship of church and society” (p. 33). The six types or models address
issues of formation of the Church, the formation of society, Church’s vision on
society and the Church’s faithfulness to its mission as a congregation.
Browning (1991) outlined three movements he considered first in theology
and theological education. He begins with descriptive theology which he sees as
describing the “contemporary theory-laden practices that give rise to the practical
questions that generate all theological reflection” (p. 47). In this stage of theology
the researcher seeks to understand meaning of practices in relation to issues
affecting and generating certain behaviors. It “describes practices in order to
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discern the conflicting cultural and religious meanings that guide our action and
provoke the questions that animate our practical thinking” (p. 48).
Historical theology is the second movement. The focus is to find meaning
in the norms already accepted by society from history. The question is “What do
the normative texts that are already part of our effective history really imply for
our praxis when they are confronted as honesty as possible” (p. 49). In essence
this movement challenges what may be acceptable norms and practices in the
Church. The purpose is to engage the community of believers in hermeneutical
dialogue with accepted texts.
The third movement is systematic theology. In this movement the
acceptable practices or texts are integrated with contemporary experience.
“Systematic theology tries to gain as comprehensive a view of the present as
possible” (p. 51). The attempt is to examine the Gospel and its applicability to
present situation. Two questions guide systematic theology: “The first is, What
new horizon of meaning is fused when questions from present practices are
brought to the central Christian witness? The second is, What reasons can be
advanced to support the validity claims of this new fusion of meaning” (pp. 5152)? These questions are aimed at subjecting the Christian faith or theology to
philosophical testing (Brown, 1999).
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Browning (1991) moves then to a fourth movement which he terms
“Strategic Practical Theology”. He sees this approach of practical theology as
answering four fundamental questions. The first question is “How do we
understand this concrete situation in which we must act” (p. 55)? The question
assumes that practical theology addresses concrete rather than abstract situations.
It is the concrete situation that gives direction to the application of theology. The
focus is the particular situation from which the theological inquiry arises. “This
consists of the special histories, commitments, and needs of the agents in the
situation” (p. 55).
The second question is “What should be our praxis in this concrete
situation” (p. 55). The issue here is the application of practical theology to a
specific situation. According to Browning, “It brings the fruits of historical and
systematic theology into contact with the analysis of the concrete situation first
began in descriptive theology and now resumed in strategic practical theology”
(pp. 55-56). This is where practical theology takes the Church beyond ministries
to its congregation and to society in general. To Browning (1999) going beyond
the Church while maintaining “clerical paradigm, strategic practical theology is
concerned with areas of praxis that relate to the church’s activity in the world as
well as its ministries within its own walls” (p. 62).
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Third, there is the question of critical defense. He asks “How do we
critically defend the norms of our praxis in this concrete situation” (p. 56). The
argument here is that practical theology must defend its claims. He proposes five
validity claims or dimensions:
(1) the visional level (which inevitably raises metaphysical validity
claims); (2) the obligational level (which raises normative ethical
claims of rightness in Habermas’s sense of this world); (3) the
tendency-need or anthropological dimension (which raises claims
about human nature, its basic human needs, and the kinds of premoral
goods required to meet these needs-a discussion which Habermas
believes is impossible to conduct); (4) an environmental social
dimensions (which raises claims that deal primarily with socialsystemic and ecological constraints on our tendencies and needs); and
(5) the rule-role dimension (which raises claims about the concrete
patterns we should enact in our actual praxis in the every day world)
(p. 71).
The fourth question which has to do with communication is: “What
means, strategies, and rhetorics should we use in this concrete situation” (p. 56)?
This is where practical theology attempts to touch people’s lives according their
needs. The approach is to meet people where they are and to bring about needed
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transformation. In essence this question addresses the issue of the practicality of
practical theology. “For confessional narrative, or cultural-linguistic approaches
to strategic practical theology, this last question – the question of strategies and
rhetoric – often is thought to be the totality of practical theology” (p. 56).
This dissertation is based on this model of strategic practical theology.
Counseling needs of the international students provide a concrete situation in
which praxis and action take place. The study will address issues facing the
students and how practical theology can provide framework for responding to
these needs. The religious and cultural diversity means that the situation provides
room for “analysis of the various religio-cultural narratives and histories that
compete to define and give meaning to the situation” (Browning, 1991).
Discussion on the history of practical theology, its relationship with
pastoral care and counseling, and multicultural counseling addresses issues of
language and rhetoric in addressing the situation. In other words to what extend
does languages developed in other fields like psychology appropriate in
addressing human needs from practical theology perspective. The fact that the
focus is on international students means that the Church is challenged to go
beyond its walls and concern itself with the needs that exist outside the Church
community. It goes further and push the Church to concern itself with global
issues.
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The study addresses Browning’s fourth question by discussing various
means and strategies for meeting the needs of the international students.
Browning stresses the need for the Church to look within and without for
resources as means of meeting the needs. To him “Christian education in
pluralistic modern societies draws on ecology of interacting resources located
both within and outside the Church” (Browning, 1991, p. 235). This dissertation
will challenge the Church to look to the community not only for ideas but also for
other resources including funds.
In chapter 2 I will discuss the rationale for providing pastoral care to
international students. This addresses the second question posed by Browning
(1991), “How do we critically defend the norms of our praxis in this concrete
situation” (p. 56)? In the study I also discuss the rationale for applying findings
from behavioral sciences to pastoral care and counseling. This is important as
Brown sees the concern here as relating to rationale for adopting particular
approach. “The critical defense of the norms of action is what distinguishes the
revised correlational approach to practical theology from all simple confessional
narrative or cultural-linguistic approaches” (p. 56).
Summary
The demographic significance of the international student population in
the universities and colleges in the USA demands that pastoral care and
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counseling professionals respond to the needs they represent. Since there are no
studies that focus on pastoral care and counseling for foreign students, I will seek
to utilize findings from other fields like psychology, multicultural counseling and
other related fields. The purpose is to integrate them with principles developed in
the field of pastoral care and counseling in order to develop competencies for
providing service for international students. This methodology will involve
literary analysis and integration of different fields. The model of study chosen for
the dissertation is strategic practical theology as envisioned by Browning (1991).
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Chapter 2
Rationale for Providing Pastoral Care and Counseling to Foreign Students
In this chapter I will seek to demonstrate that providing pastoral
counseling to foreign students is of critical importance. Certain factors make the
need for addressing the issues represented by these students a ministry of great
necessity. First international students represent a significant population.
Secondly, they represent a movement with global and historical perspective.
Thirdly, they represent a growing phenomenon in the campuses. Fourthly, they
are potential world leaders. Fifthly, they represent an overall diversity growth in
the United States. Finally the foreign students have unique psychological needs.
Each of these points deserves discussions.
A Significant Population
Students from around the world continue to seek educational opportunities
in the United States of America. Marks (1987) reported that in 1984, there were
338, 894 international students studying in 2,498 colleges and universities.
Smolowe (1992) reported that there were over 400,000 internationals studying in
the United States. Zhang and Dixon (2001) stated that in five decades, between
the late1950s to 1994-1995, the international student population in the USA grew
from 47,245 to 452,635 (p. 253). According to Sakurako (2000) the population.
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grew from 29,813 in 1950-51 to 453,787 in 1995-96. Komiya and Ells (2001)
found that in 1997 the Department of Education reported that approximately
500,000 foreign students were studying in American colleges and universities.
The Institute of International Education (2004) listed the top twenty countries that
send the highest number of students to the USA. The following is the list of the
top twenty countries ranked according to the number of students they sent.
YEAR
WORLD TOTAL
1 India
2 China
3 Korea, Republic of
4 Japan
5 Canada
6 Taiwan
7 Mexico
8 Turkey
9 Thailand
10 Indonesia
11 Germany
12 United Kingdom
13 Brazil
14 Colombia
15 Kenya
16 Hong Kong
17 Pakistan
18 France
19 Malaysia
20 Nigeria
2002/03
586,323
74,603
64,757
51,519
45,960
26,513
28,017
12,801
11,601
9,982
10,432
9,302
8,326
8,388
7,771
7,862
8,076
8,123
7,223
6,595
5,816
2003/04
572,509
79,736
61,765
52,484
40,835
27,017
26,178
13,329
11,398
8,937
8,880
8,745
8,439
7,799
7,533
7,381
7,353
7,325
6,818
6,483
6,140
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The International Institute of Education (2004) commended that “While
two of the four leading places of origin of international students from Asia have
seen decreases in 2003/2004, India, China, Korea, and Japan continue to represent
a growing concentration in international student enrollments in the U.S. higher
education. Students from the leading four places of origin, all in Asia, comprise
41% of all international students” (http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/file).
The slight decrease between the 2002/03 and 2003/05 is “attributed to a
variety of reasons, including real and perceived difficulties in obtaining student
visas (especially in scientific and technical fields), rising U.S. tuition costs,
vigorous recruitment activities by other English-speaking nations, and perceptions
abroad that international students may no longer be welcomed in the U.S”
(http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/file). It is important to note that International
Institute of Education does not view this slight decline as representing the overall
growth of international students coming to study in the USA. In spite of
occasional decline the number has continued to grow.
Important to note also is the commitment of the United States government
to attract more international students. Patricia Harrison, Assistant Secretary for
Education and Cultural affairs was quoted as stating “"The United States remains
the best place in the world to seek the benefits of higher education, and we are
working in a concerted way at the Department of State and in related agencies to
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convince international students that they are welcome here”
(http://opendoors.iienetwork.org/file). In this case it is safe to assume that the
trend will continue to be that of growth rather than decline.
The increasing number of international students was a factor in the rapid
growth of the culturally different students in the USA universities in general
(Hayes and Lin, 1994; Zhang & Dixon, 2001). Merta et al (1992) stated that
“During the 1960s and 1970s enrollment of racial/ethnic minorities and foreign
students at U.S. universities more than double; by 1980 one in five students was
culturally different…” (p. 214). Rao (1995) sights an example of Harvard that “In
the 1940s, the class was predominantly American; in 1992, more than half of the
students in the class were foreign students” (p. 274). This represents a rapid
growth and it is an example of the reality that schools of higher learning continue
to attract foreign students in large numbers.
The fact that international student population is named as impacting
multicultural growth in the institutions of higher learning confirms the reality that
the presence of the foreign students is significantly felt in American
universities and colleges. Given the reality of examples sighted above any
discussion of multiculturalism in universities must include international students.
It is a population that cannot be ignored and deserves the attention of professional
counselors.
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Global and Historical Significance
The growth of internationals seeking education on foreign soil is
worldwide and not limited to the United States (Tatar & Horenczyk, 2000; Ward,
1998). For example Luzio-Lockett (1998) saw similar growth in Britain. She
stated, “The influx of a substantial proportion of non-British students into higher
educational settings in Britain obliges us to focus on the reality of what might be
termed as in-transit population” (p. 209). The statement implies that international
student population is also growing in Britain.
Tartar & Horenczyk (2000) sight Israel as one of the destinations for
international students. The growth of the foreign learners in their universities has
necessitated counseling centers to allocate “significantly more personnel and
financial resources during the last decade to deal with a marked increase in the
number of students, many of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet
Union” (p. 49).
According to Chambers (1950) “FROM THE BEGINNINGS of
universities, centers of learning have attracted scholars from beyond national
boundaries. Varying somewhat in prevalence from century to century, there has
always been a fellowship transcending differences of race, religion, and
nationality among those who devote themselves to the discipline of higher
learning” (p. 32). The reason he gives for this global movement in search of
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education is that “The interdependence of all the world's peoples, now greater,
more complex, and more manifest than ever before, gives redoubled emphasis to
the promise inherent in ‘crossfertilization’ of cultures, and multiplies
opportunities for the advancement of human welfare in every corner of the earth”
p. 32). One report estimated that there were more than a million worldwide in
1996 (Hxue et al, 1996). The idea of students pursuing higher learning away from
their home countries is global.
Neither is the idea new. It has historical roots (Chambers 1950).
According to Huxur et al (1996) “Even in the Middle Ages, universities have
attracted foreign scholars and students to their communities” (p. 3). Wehrly
(1988) agrees that the idea of sojourners seeking education away from their home
lands is not new. She states that the practice “has been occurring since the 12th
and 13th centuries when European students began traveling beyond the borders of
their home countries to participate in advance studies at cities like Paris and
Salerno” (p. 3). The point is that the practice of students seeking education
outside their home lands has been going on for many years. With such historical
roots, the practice is likely to continue as many opportunities avail themselves for
learners to pursue studies in different countries.
While circumstances have changed, history demonstrates that the trend
will continue to grow and expand as sojourning students continue to be driven by
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the desire to pursue learning in foreign countries. Circumstances and reasons for
the pursuit may change with time, but the practice is an ongoing phenomenon. As
Huxur et al (1996) states, “Although in contemporary times, universities are, for a
variety of reasons, more nationalistic than was the case in medieval period, the
tradition of the wandering scholar remains very much alive” (p. 3).
One of the changes that affect the trend is the rapid growth of the centers
and geographical locations, as more countries continue to attract these foreign
learners. According to Wehrly (1988) “At the beginning of the 1980s, about two
thirds of all the international students in the world were studying at higher
education centers in Canada, France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the United
States, and the West Germany” (p. 4). The desire for learning which continues to
motivate sojourners to seek education beyond their countries of origin is rooted in
history. They also come with adjustments issues that challenge the counseling
professions. Their presence is especially a challenge to pastoral care and
counseling providers.
A Growing Phenomenon
One of the main reasons for the increase in the number of foreign students
is economical. Many universities seek foreign students because they are able to
pay their own way without a need for financial aid (Susan 1990). In Canada
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international students pay four times more than the local residents (Arthur, 1997;
Driedger, 1998). In this case it is a business for the universities to have foreign
students because their presence means financial gain for the hosting institution as
well the hosting country.
Marks (1987) saw a wider and a more global economical reason for such a
growth in international population in the USA universities. To her the rationale is
“based on a concern for national and world problems, foreign trade, level of
foreign investments, and number of Americans traveling and working abroad” (p.
120). One can see from this statement that economical factors play an important
role in the recruiting of foreign students. Trade and investments imply that
business and financial gain are among the main reasons foreign learners are
recruited and encouraged to seek education in the USA. In addition, National
Association of Foreign Students Advisors (2004) reported that in 2003 foreign
students injected close to $13 billion into the USA economy. This confirms
that economical advantage is one of the motivating factors and reasons why the
number of foreign students has grown and will continue to grow.
Another reason, the universities and colleges value the presence of
internationals on their campuses, is that the quest students enrich the classrooms
and campus experience with cultural and global values which are critical for the
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domestic students as well as the professors (Driedger, 1998; Marks 1987). In the
field of professional counseling the need for contact with other cultures is strongly
emphasized for training professional counselors (Constantine & Gloria, 1999;
Diaz-Lazaro & Cohen, 2001; Lee et al, 1999). International students provide
valuable resources to meet this need.
Some institutions value the presence of foreign students enough to provide
full scholarship for some students. Pedersen (1991) outlines five motivations.
One is the assumption that the knowledge gained will promote global
understanding and consequently improve world peace. Secondly, knowledge
from the sojourning students will promote cultural tolerance. Thirdly, shared
culture will result in world homogeneity and stability. Fourthly, intercultural
contact will result in interdependence. Finally, one will gain a better knowledge
of himself or herself by interacting with those from other cultural backgrounds.
All these points support the fact that the hosting nations see advantages in
having international students on their campuses. The fact that the universities
value the presence of the foreign students means that they will continue to
promote their campuses overseas to recruit more foreigners. Natural outcome will
be a continued growth of foreign learners on American institutions of higher
learning. It is a growing phenomenon that requires the attention of the counseling
professions.
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Potential World Leaders
Many of the students seeking further training in the USA, are graduate
students in the fields of engineering, mathematics and science. According to
Pedersen (1991) universities are becoming more and more dependant on
international students in the same fields. In other words as much as the students
need the education the hosting institutions also need the foreign sojourners.
Goldberg (1990) reported that over half of the doctorates awarded to engineering
students in 1989 went to foreign students. Holden (1993) stated that over 100,000
graduate students in United States were internationals. He further stated that 60%
of the Ph.D. degrees awarded in the field of Engineering and 50% in math went to
international students. These numbers suggest that the foreign students in the
United States are among the brightest and have the potential of becoming top
leaders in their fields, countries and the world in general.
This upsurge of foreign students in the top universities created some
complaints. Some felt that the foreign students were favored over the minorities
in America, while others saw it as giving away the tax payers money to other
countries (Holen & Gibbons, 1993; Rosendahl, 1993). Universities were forced
to defend their positions by explaining that they are simply choosing the brightest
and the most qualified students (Holden & Gibbons, 1993). The complaints
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demonstrate that the presence of the international students is strongly felt in the
university and college campuses.
The concept that internationals studying in the USA are potential world
leaders is backed by examples. Lau (1982) observed that Dr. Kwame Nkuruma
was an international student who experience humiliation in the United States. In
one incident he asked for a drink and an American “pointed him to a spittoon” (p.
30). He eventually returned home to become the first president of Ghana for 14
years. He sighted also Mengitsu Haile Mariam who received his military training
at Aberdeen, Maryland. He too had a humiliating experience, but later returned to
his country of Ethiopia where he took power and expelled all Americans.
Rentz (1987) listed other former international students who ended up in
leadership positions after returning to their home countries: “El Salvador (Jose
Napoleon Duarte at Notre Dame); Philippines (Corazon Aquino at College of
Mount St. Vincent, New York); Mexico (Miguel de la Madrid at Harvard);
Zimbabwe (the Rev. Canaan Sodindo Banana at Wesley Theological Seminary,
Washington DC); Malawi (Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda at University of Chicago
and Meharry Medical College in Tennessee); Sweden (Ingvar Carlsson at
Northwestern); Greece (Andreas G. Papandreou at Harvard); Belize (Manuel
Esquivel at Loyola); Iceland (Steingrimur Hermannsson at Illinois and California
Institute of Technology; and King Birenda Bir Bikram Dev. of Nepal (Harvard)”
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(p. 10). NAFSA, (National Association of Foreign Students Advisors) (2004)
listed over 175 former international students who returned and assumed key
leadership positions in their home countries and in international agencies.
The point is that these students who have left their homelands to study
overseas may end up in places of leadership and key positions upon returning
home. This makes it of critical importance that counseling professionals seek
ways of ministering to these men and women who have the potential to impact
their countries and the rest of the world in their capacity as decision makers
(Christian Century, 1962). The implication is that meeting the needs of
international students can be an indirect way of meeting the needs of the countries
they represent and of the world in general, especially those who may take
leadership roles in the United Nations agencies.
Representing Wider Cultural Diversity Growth
The presence of international students in the USA colleges and
universities is only one element of a growing cultural diversity in the country
(Jacob & Greggo, 2001; Silva-Neto, 1992). Jacob & Greggo, (2001) point out
that while little attention is given to the needs of the international students, their
growth in population “is a part of the rapid shift occurring within American
society as the racial and ethnic composition becomes more diverse” (p. 74).
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Sakurako (2000) links the growth of cultural pluralism in American colleges and
Universities with the steady growth of international student population.
Pedersen (1991) echoed the same sentiment when he acknowledged the
necessity of developing relational skills in a society populated with people from
different cultural backgrounds. He stated that “The skills of adapting to cultural
diversity will become an important resource for helping people learn about one
another and about themselves in a multicultural society such as the United States”
(p. 12). According to National Association of Foreign Students Advisers
(NAFSA) (2003), this means the need to promote multiculturalism is not new to
the society.
The call for counselors to be culturally sensitive is growing (Ancis and
Sanchez-Hucles, 2000; Constantine & Gloria, 1999; Lee et al, 1999; Manese et al,
2001). The same call “can also be linked to multicultural training concerning the
counseling and transitional issues experienced by international students” (Jacob &
Greggo, p. 75). This means that the society is aware that the country is becoming
multicultural and must address these cultural issues. International students
present a unique element to the process because, unlike other foreigners who
migrate to settle in the USA, they, for the most part, are transitional as they are
here, temporarily, and will be returning to their home countries (Arthur, 1997;
Jacob & Greggo, 2001).
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Unique psychological needs
Chen (1999) described three levels of stress. One is stress that comes
from harm directed to damaging the individual psychologically. The second one
is threat or anticipated harm that has not taken place yet. The third one is a
challenge for the individual to have enough resources to overcome the threats. For
an international student “Language barriers, lack of knowledge of the host culture,
difficulty in adapting to the host country customs and lifestyle, maladjustment to
the physical environment could all be experienced as threatening and challenging
to an individual” (p. 49). The experience becomes a psychological challenge,
especially, since stress is influenced by “how people perceive and differentiate
harm, threat, and challenge” (p. 50). In a foreign culture the international student
anticipates challenges that are uncertain and they may not have resources to
overcome. Based on study and personal experience Wehrly (1988) concluded that
“the stress experienced by most international students is ongoing during most of
their period of study in the United States” (p. 4).
The presence of international students is a challenge for those seeking to
provide counseling services. According to Komiya and Ellis (2001) the stress
level among international students is complicated by the fact that the foreign
sojourner is unlikely to seek counseling help when needed. Sakurako (2000)
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stated that “given the evidence that the demands for cultural adjustments
frequently place international students at greater risk for various psychological
problems than are students in general, it is important that sufficient and readily
accessible mental health services be established for them” (p. 137). The point is
well taken but as mentioned above, foreign students are less likely to seek
counseling help even if the mental health care services are offered. There must be
a different method to make the services accessible to the international learners.
When an international student enters a college campus in the United
States, he or she leaves behind a familiar culture and family support (Hayes &
Lin, 1994). They come to a strange land and must adjust to a new culture while
carrying a full load of study. Their temporary status creates a unique challenge
for counselors and other caregivers (Mori, 2000; Tartar & Horenczyk, 2000). The
sojourning learner finds himself or herself involved in “many sociocultural,
environmental, and psychological adjustments” (Chen. 49).
According to Pedersen (1991), “When international students arrive at
overseas universities, the circumstances suddenly and simultaneously impose a
variety of competing and sometimes, contradictory roles that must be learned” (p.
10). This means that the student is not only learning a new culture but also a
behavior that his or her culture may consider unacceptable. Thus the learning
sojourner must overcome the newness of the culture as well as the cultural bias
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about a particular behavior. According to Wehrly (1988) even “Meeting basic
needs of food, clothing, shelter, and safety are often stressful because of vast
cultural differences between that of the students’ home countries and the culture
of the university community to which they have been transported” (p. 4).
One of the uniqueness of the stress experience by the foreign learner is
that it comes as a shock for the student who comes without preparation to deal
with the new culture. Jacob and Greggo (2001) state, “Often these students are
faced with the challenges of learning the intricacies of daily living and survival in
a foreign environment without adequate information or preparation” (p. 76). The
experience becomes complicated when the new sojourner has to face the
unexpected change in the midst of educational demands that require full load of
studies. As a result “It is not unusual during this process of adaptation for stressrelated psychological difficulties such as anxiety, sense of loss, loneliness,
helplessness, and depression to occur” (Chen, 1999, p. 49).
Pedersen (1991) sees a direct relationship between the student’s cultural
adjustment and emotional stability. He states “When the requirements of those
roles are realistically perceived and effectively learned, the student’s experience is
likely to be ‘successful,’ but when the roles are not accommodated, the resulting
identity diffusion and role conflict may affect the student’s emotional well-being”
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(p. 10). In other words the student’s success in the foreign country is affected
and even determined by success in cultural adjustment.
The statement is well taken, but the experience for the international
student remains a challenge. Combination of limited cultural understanding and
language barrier means that “stress in one way or another becomes an
unavoidable psychological factor for international college students” (Chen, 1999,
p. 49). Professional counselors, particularly pastoral counselors, must define
ways of helping these students address the barriers that make life difficult and
sometimes unbearable for the foreign learners trying to adjust culturally while
pursuing academic goals.
Gregory (1997) saw the need for the universities to prepare to meet the
emotional needs for the foreigners entering their campuses. His concern echoes
the sentiments that internationals represent emotional and psychological needs
that require special attention. Jacob & Greggo (2001) see the same dilemma that
continue to face colleges and universities when they state, ”An increasing
dilemma facing institutions of higher education is addressing the unique and
common concerns facing the growing population of international students in the
United States” (p. 74).
But addressing the issue cannot be the responsibilities of the universities
and colleges alone. The reality is that the need is much wider and requires serious
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attention by counselors. The problem is that most counselors are not prepared to
deal with the counseling issues represented in the international communities
(Merta, Ponterotto & Brown, 1992; Mori, 2000; Zhang & Dixon, 2001). Thus
Jacob & Greggo (2001) state that “The trend has significant implications for
counselors and counselor-trainers who may encounter international students in
college counseling settings or within various community service agencies” (p.
75).
While foreign students’ emotional and psychological needs are greater
than that of the national students, there is very little being done to address their
needs (Abe & Zane, 1990; Estrada et al, 2002; Huxur et al, 1996; Komiya & Ells,
2001; Mori, 2000). Obviously counseling in the west was developed to address
issues that affected the local culture. The problem is that the counseling
disciplines have neglected to pay attention to the demographic changes that
continue to transform the society into a multicultural community.
The presence of the international student population has intensified the
need for cultural awareness in the USA, and yet literature addressing the
counseling needs for the foreign students remain very limited (Huxur et al, 1996;
Ward & Rana-Deuba, 1999). For pastoral care and counseling professionals the
issues present unique challenges in their approach to ministry. According to
Augsberger (1986) “This is a time for pastoral theologians to claim the unique
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vantage point offered by their integrative stance and multidisciplinary training and
vision” (p. 19). To him this is a challenge for pastors to be relevant to the issues
and challenges of the present age. This is a call that “must begin with a shift in
the way we define the essential nature of pastoral counseling and broadened
model of the pastoral counselor as a person, as a professional, and as a culturally
capable therapist” (p. 19).
International students represent emotional and psychological needs that
are unique and that require attention by the counseling professionals (Abe &
Zane, 1990; Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Mori, 2000 Zhang and Nixon, 2001).
Therefore counseling professionals need to prepare counselors to address
multicultural needs for foreign students. Jacob and Greggo (2001) expressed the
same need when they stated that “Consequently, there is a need to provide
awareness and knowledge about the needs of international students in training
culturally sensitive counselors” (p. 75). They emphasized that, “Counselors
training programs should provide further training to graduate trainees so that they
can begin to understand and adequately address the cultural and psychological
adjustment issues faced by this group of students” (p. 75). It is obvious that their
concern demonstrates that international students represent counseling needs that
are unique and challenging to counseling profession.
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Counseling Issues for International Students
Summary
The chapter has demonstrated that it is of critical importance for the
pastoral care and counseling professionals to provide service for the foreign
students. Not only do the foreign students represent a growing population, they
also represent unique psychological needs that require special attention by the
professional counselors. The chapter pointed out also that the kind of service
these international students receive can impact their home countries and the world
in general as many of them return as top leaders with important decision making
capacity. These factors demonstrate the importance of meeting the needs
represented by the foreign students in the USA.
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Chapter 3
Pastoral Counseling Defined as a Field of Practical Theology
The previous chapter has demonstrated the significance of meeting the
counseling needs of the foreign students in the USA. In this chapter I will seek to
demonstrate that providing pastoral care and counseling to international students
is a matter of practical theology for the Church. To do so I will begin by defining
practical theology from historical perspective, demonstrating its role in meeting
needs of humanity. I will then define pastoral care and counseling and
demonstrate that it is a part of practical theology.
Emergence of Practical Theology as a Theological Discipline
According to Fowler (1985), the emergence of practical theology as a
discipline is a product of four factors. One is the recognition that throughout
history, the Church has always developed theology as a means of affecting change
through Christian presence in individuals, institutions and society at large.
According to Hulme (1981) the Church as a witnessing community has a mission
“to reach out as a leaven in society with the gospel of reconciliation” (p. 165). He
sees this mission as going beyond ministry to the individuals in the congregation.
The Church has the responsibility to address social structures that “may be unjust
or even oppressive to certain people” (p. 165). To him the church can take
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advantage of the numbers in the congregation and use it to address these issues
and affect change in the society in general.
In this understanding practical theology is a reminder of the Church’s
responsibility in affecting change in the world. Wood (1984) agrees with the
same concept. He describes practical theology as calling “attention to the fact that
Christian witness is a practice, a deliberate, patterned, purposeful activity; and it
identifies this fact about Christian witness as the distinctive concern of the
theological discipline which bears this name” (p. 253). This witness includes
every aspect of the Church’s activities within the congregation and outside the
congregation. To Christians this means “their participation in politics, and their
response to what befalls them, as well as by their verbal affirmations” (p. 253).
The second factor characterizing the emergence of practical theology as
described by Fowler is that, secular techniques, for affecting personal and social
change in society, has permeated the Church. Examples of such techniques
include counseling, administration, education and evangelization. Fowler is
concerned that these secular techniques have been adopted without criticism.
While Hulme (1981) expresses similar concern he believes that pastoral
counselors can borrow from secular psychotherapy and still “function within their
own unique perspective” (p. 17). To Fowler practical theology is there to help the
Church think theologically in adopting the secular techniques.
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Thirdly, theology is under pressure to address issues relevant to the
contemporary society without compromising the Christian traditional doctrine.
“In all pluralism and secularism of contemporary society, theology is under
increasing pressure to speak a language that is faithful to the Christian story and
vision, and at the same time addresses the felt experience and recognized and
unrecognized hungers of contemporary people” (Fowler, pp. 45-46). In essence
theology needed to reflect the doctrine of the Church while addressing social
issues affecting society as a whole. This required critical inquiry of the subject in
order to make it contemporary without compromising doctrine.
Fourthly, there exists a need for theology to address Christianity,
deeply, as it relates to its commitment to particular churches but without
appearing to promote sectarianism or isolationism. Thus he states “The new
practical theology aims to frame and generate a language for the sharing of the
ethical and spiritual riches and the imperatives of Christian faith in public, and
address the issues that threaten the common good” (p. 46). In essence practical
theology demonstrates Christian commitment to the Church and to meeting the
needs of the suffering outside the Church. It is concerned with the issues
affecting the Church and society as a whole. In doing so the discipline cannot
avoid addressing issue of diversity of doctrine while making sure the Church is
not isolated from other religions.
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The task in this chapter is to discuss the relationship between practical
theology and pastoral counseling in a multicultural setting. In order to discuss the
relationship between the two disciplines it is necessary to define both for clarity.
I will begin by discussing practical theology from historical perspective in order
to demonstrate how it is related to pastoral counseling.
Practical Theology from Historical Perspective
Developmental Stages of Practical Theology
Practical theology is a discipline that evolved over the years and through
cultural, ecclesiastical and historical changes. The practice existed before the
name came into existence. Fowler (1985) discussed Edward Farley’s definition in
four phases of history. The first phase which Farley (1983) named
Theology/Habitus, referred to the existential experience or knowledge of God
which begins in the New Testament times and is rooted in Hellenic philosophy of
early Christianity.
Concerning this understanding of God, Farley (1983), states, “In that
literature, God was the one, true, archetypal theologian, because only God had
true, archetypal self-knowledge”( p. 23). In other words theology is rooted in the
knowledge and the understanding of God’s nature, and true knowledge of God is
attributed to Him alone. Maddox (1990) defines the term on a relational bases.
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His description is that, it is “a cognitive and affectional disposition or orientation
toward God, others and creation” (p. 651). In other words theology has to do with
relationship with God, people and nature in general.
This phase of theological study did not address the relationship between
historical revelation and personal experience of God. Fowler (1985) defined this
form of theology as an “inquiry that does not sharply distinguish between
spirituality’s struggle to allow the self to be centered and formed by the love of
God and the cognitive effort to apprehend the truth of God’s revelation in history”
(p. 3). In reality the theory lacked practical application.
The second phase of Farley’s definition is Theology/Science, which was a
product of medieval Christianity and medieval universities. He saw this phase as
carrying forward Theology/Habitus and adding systematic approach and
exposition to the study of theology. Theology was treated like any other secular
subject such as philosophy and astronomy. As a discipline it became a subject
deserving further study and inquiry as to its relationship to other disciplines.
Farley (1983) stated, “There is of course, a set of courses and designated faculty
called systematic theology within a larger faculty of studies, but this genre we are
talking about is not a sub-discipline. It is simply the one, single science, parallel
to philosophy, rhetoric, and astronomy, with its own object and proper method”
(p. 23). Here systematic theology was seen as an independent scientific study that
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stood side by side with other fields of science.
It is interesting to note that the development of Theology/Science occurred
at the period when the Roman Catholic was gaining popularity and affecting the
society in Europe. According to Clebsch and Jaekle (1983) Permeation of Roman
Catholicism in society was evidence by the fact that “Religious conformity
became the foundation on which social cohesion was built, and the universality
and unity of Christian Europe found twin symbols in popes and Holy Roman
Emperors” (pp 23-24). They further explained that cure of souls became the duty
of the ministers as divine power was at the center of emotional healing for
society.
Theology/Habitus and Theology/Scince disappeared in the 17th. century
when modern university introduced critical approach to the study of theology.
According to Farley (1983), in this third phase, Theology/habitus and
Theology/Science was replaced by Theological Sciences. Such critical approach
to theology gave rise to compartmentalization of theology in keeping with the
other university disciplines. Hence, the emergence of theological faculties, that
included Old and New Testament, dogma, and church history. Theology assumed
a status similar to law, liberal art and medicine. The term theology was now a
reference to a cluster of relatively independent studies.
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Compartmentalization of theology gave rise to a new challenge on how to
relate the different faculties in order to maintain unity. This challenge led to the
development of a new literature, Theological Encyclopedia which marked phase
four of Farley’s definition. The disappearance of Theology/habitus and
Theology/science, according to Farley (1983), created a serious problem of
defining theology faculty and justifying its existence in the universities. The issue
prompted the German theologian Friedrich Schleiermacher who pioneered the
coining of practical theology as a discipline (Forrester and, Maddox 1988,
Campbell 1972).
The Coining of Practical Theology
Schleiermacher argued that theological sciences were professional
disciplines with goals just like medical and legal sciences (Farley 1983). To him
the unity of the theological sciences was teleological and practical. This marked
the beginning of practical theology as a discipline. He described ministers as
leaders in the society on the same level as doctors and lawyers in their fields. The
influence of ministers went beyond the confines of their churches or
congregations. Therefore, the education of ministers in the university was no less
important than that of physicians and lawyers (Farley 1983). If universities
existed to train leaders the ministers should be beneficiaries since they too were
leaders in society.
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According to Farley (1983) Schleiermacher rejected theology/habitus and
theology as a science. He stated, “There are discrete academic fields of teaching
and research that are unified generally by their contribution to the training of
clerical leadership of the church and more specifically by their relation to the
essence of Christianity” (p. 25). In other words while ministers were leaders in
society like lawyers and doctors their services were practiced particularly in the
Church.
Schleiermacher described practical theology as the crown of theology
which maintains and perfects the Church (Campbell, 1972; Fowler, 1985; Giles,
1984; Rumpf, 1959). To him philosophical theology was the root and historical
theology the stem (Dingemans, 19996). According to Campbell, Schleiermacher
described the Church as “the fellowship of those who share in God-conscience.”
(p. 217). Thus practical theology according to Schleiermacher applied only to the
Church and her participants.
While Schleiermacher succeeded in coining the term practical theology,
his approach was never implemented (Fowler 1985). Campbell (1972) outlined
three major problems that lead to the demise of the approach. One is that its
relationship to historical theology and dogmatic theology drifted apart. Practical
theology was treated as applied theology implying that the other disciplines are
not practical and practical theology has no academic relevance. As Campbell
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stated, “On the other hand it removes the independence status of practical
theology, making it into a subsection of dogmatics, whilst on the other hand it
opens systematic theologians to charges of irrelevance and inapplicability from
practical theologians” (p. 218).
Secondly, its status as an academic discipline became questionable as
scholars could not decide whether it was an art or science. The problem was the
view that practical theology was reduced to a matter of techniques that more
experienced pastors taught the younger pastors. The result was that “its status
within academic environment became questionable” (p. 219)
The third problem was that the definition limited its application to those
who are active in the Church. It failed to address issues affecting society at large
and how the Church can respond. Practical theology became the means by which
spirituality was maintained in the Church. Concerns affecting society became
secondary to the pastors. This meant that the Church “was quite ill-equipped to
cope with the radical questioning of the place of the Church in the world evident
in post-liberal theology” (p. 219).
Nevertheless Schleiermacher’s contribution led to more discussion and
further academic development of the discipline. Two approaches emerged. In
Europe Spiritual leadership of the Church dominated the field which was
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considered of less importance in the academics where philosophical and historical
approaches played a more prominent role (Dingemans 1996; Westerhoff 1984;
Whyte, 1973). In the United States the discipline developed into highly
specialized fields with each field maintaining a separate department in academic
settings including seminaries and universities (Whyte, 1973; Dingemans, 1996).
However, the differences between the European and American approach is
narrowing as European scholars are shifting to adopt the American model which
is strongly influenced by social sciences (Dingemans 1996; Rumpf, 1959;
Westerhoff 1984; Whyte, 1973).
As the American and European models become more identical the
discussion shifts to other issues. One issue deserving attention is how to define
the relationship between theory and practice. Rumpf (1959) sees the tension
arising from the way students understand field work and the way pastors
understand ministry. The concern is that many times students in seminaries do
not see the relationship between “what he is getting in academic pursuits and what
he is giving in practical pursuits.”(p. 143). His point is that there must be a
balance between the practical as well as theoretical aspects of ministry. Both play
equally important roles in ministry.
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Farley (1983) saw the lost of theology/habitus as the reason for the
development of separation of theory from practice. Therefore he suggested that
one of the ways to address the issue is the restoration of theology/habitus or
theological understanding, because “theological understanding is the telos, the
aim of any course of theological study, whenever it occurs.” (p. 37). Secondly, he
proposed the restoration of theology/science as a means of discovering the ways
in which various aspects of theology contribute to the discipline. His third
recommendation is the incorporation of praxis in the context of social and
political sciences into the study of theology. It is this third recommendation that
address the practicality and academic aspect of practical theology.
Practical Theology from Contemporary Definition
Maddox (1991) narrows down the definition of practical theology to two
aspects. One is the subject field and the other is the task. On the subject there are
five areas. First, ‘Pastoral Ministry’ which described the field as “the range of
tasks involved in the pastoral ministry” (p. 162). The focus is to address the tasks
involved in the pastorate. This definition became the standard for seminaries and
other training institution according to Maddox.
The second one is ‘The Life of the Church’ which grew out of discontent
and a call for theology to become more relevant to the whole Church by entering
into greater dialogue with the sciences. It resulted in a broad definition of the
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church ministry to include all the church members instead of limiting to the
clergy. The term ‘practical theology’ was favored over ‘pastoral theology’.
The third field is ‘The Life of the Church in the World’. Here the mission
of the Church becomes the focus. The discussion deals with the way in which the
Church can affect change in the world. Even discussion of worship begins to
center on “how they prepare for, encourage, or express ministry to the world” (p.
163). Social and human sciences play a major role in analyzing the world.
Maddox sees the ultimate result as turning “back towards the earlier
understanding of practical theology as moral theology” (p. 163).
The fourth field was termed as ‘Religious/Moral Life in the World’. The
focus here is the moral responsibility of the church in society. This does not mean
holding the Church responsible for every issue in the work of creation in the
world. “Rather, attention is directed to the moral/religious dimensions of general
human culture” (p. 164).
The fifth field was ‘Human Spiritual/Existential Experience’. The focus
in this discussion is more on human experience than on action. The human
experience include “temptation and the contradictions that call life into question.”
He further defines the purpose as “to help guide the life of the soul” (p. 165).
Maddox then discusses what he termed as ‘The task of practical theology’.
In this debate the idea that practice is merely derived from theory and that theory
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is merely a reflection of practice is rejected. “Instead, they have argued for the
need to see authentic human actions (as contrasted with mere technique) as both
meaning-discerning and meaning-laden” (p. 165). The term ‘praxis’ came into
use to describe the relationship between action and reflection. Praxis in this sense
represent “neither pure theory nor mere technique, but phronesis-a wisdom that
interrelates the universal and the particular” (p. 166). In order to capture the
importance and meaning of praxis in practical theology Maddox discusses four
areas.
The first of these areas is about applying theological theories into the
subject field. This involved applying previously developed theories from
systematic theology to the Church. This concept did not develop popularity
among many scholars. Most of the scholars, according to Maddox, “advocate a
more formative role of practical theology” (p. 166). In other words practical
theology is more than making systematic theology practical. It is a discipline with
its own identity and formation.
Analyzing the subject field was the second proposed understanding of
practical theology. The assumption in this discussion is that “the overall project
of theology is a correlation of the Christian truth with the present situation” (p.
167). The task assigned to practical theology is to utilize human and social
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sciences to analyze the current situation. The information derived from the
analysis is fed back “into the larger theological enterprise” (p. 167).
Thirdly, there is the idea of developing critical theory from subject field.
In this proposal the argument is that practical theology must go beyond
description to critical reflection. The challenge is to come up with the norms for
the critical reflection. The suggestion is that the norms be drawn from the actual
practice of the practical theology whose task is to clarify “the implicit theological
convictions of contemporary ecclesiastical praxis…and then critiquing that praxis
in light of its immanent norms” (p. 167).
The fourth is correlating theological theory and praxis. This approach
pushes the idea of critiquing further by articulating the task of practical theology
“as the correlation of critically-appraised theological theory with criticallyinvestigated praxis” (p. 167). While emphasis differ with those advocating the
concept, all “stress the need to preserve a dialectical relationship between the
analysis of present praxis, the determination of theological norms, and the critique
of present praxis in the light of these norms” (p. 168).
Defining practical theology in terms of its field and its task places
practicality on theological studies. Application of the term ‘Praxis’ makes
practical theology academic as well as practical. Theory and practice are both
subject of reflective criticism and yet they complement each other. Rumpf (1959)
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saw the same idea when he stated that “Practical theology is a vital part of
theological studies and service in which all Christians are engaged.” To him
practical theology “contributes to the other disciplines even as it is contributed to
in a process of interaction that reaches from the seminary to the field of service
and back again” (p. 143).
Wood (1984) also warns against emphasis on practicality of practical
theology to the point of losing the importance of its theoretical aspect. To him
“Practical theology studies the practice (or praxis) of witness: it asks by what
standards this practice is to be judged, and it proceeds to make the relevant
judgments of past, present or prospective witness” (p. 253). Thus the discipline is
practical as well as academic.
According to Ogletree (1983) “Theology is practical in the sense that it
concerns, in all of its expressions, the most basic issues of human existence.” To
him practical theology “has to do with human pilgrimage in its totality: with its
meaning and significance, with the determination of appropriate responses to the
realities we confront during its course, with the growth of persons in community,
with the construction of institutions suited to human well-being” (p. 85). In this
definition there is no dichotomy between practice and theory in the field of
theology. It is clear also that Ogletree views practical theology as application of
theology into the totality of human existence.
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Browning (1981) agrees with the above definition when he states that
practical theology “should be seen as the theology of the human life cycle, both
what this cycle should be when conceived normatively and what should be done
to restore it when its development has been arrested (p. 159). In other words
practical theology addresses issues that affects every aspect of human
development and experience both individually and collectively (Boyce 1960,
Browning 1981, Hunter 1990).
Browning (1989) argues that theology by nature is practical and therefore
practical theology is not a sub-discipline of theology. Practical theology is
theology. His logic is that philosophically, human beings move from practice to
theory and then back to practice. In other words people form theories from what
they already practice and then apply the theory back to the same practice, or in
essence standardize the practice. He proposes what he calls ‘strategic practical
theology’ to describe “church disciplines or religious education, pastoral care,
preaching, liturgy, social ministries and so forth” (p. 8).
Tracy (1983) places human transformation as top criteria in practical
theology. He states “My claim is that practical theology attains its public
character by articulating praxis criteria of human transformation as well as an
explicitly theological ethic” (p. 51). The models of human transformation are
provided by “psychology, social science, historical studies, cultural anthropology,
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philosophy, ecological theories, and religious studies and theologies” (p. 76). By
including psychology and social sciences, Tracy implies that counseling and other
related disciplines have a part in practical theology. Lovin (1992) agrees with the
implication. He states that theologians “make extensive use of contemporary
social theology, seeking to understand in the most general terms the ways that
societies function, the ways in which ideas are communicated and the ways in
which religious concepts can be made plausible and authoritative in modern
secular society” (p. 125).
What then is practical theology? Maddox (1990) sights what he
considered true characteristics of practical theology. First, he states that it seeks
to “unify various theological concerns (tradition, Scripture, experience, reason,
etc.), around the common focus of norming Christian praxis” (p. 665). The
emphasis is to highlight the unifying factors in the various aspects of theology.
One way or another all must address application of theology to Christian life and
practice.
Secondly, it must be holistic, seeking to address Christian actions as well
as ideas and confessions. To be practical, theology must address how one relates
his or her theological understanding to daily living and what goes on in the world.
The logic is that “when theology is pursued as a practical discipline, a central task
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will be the norming of those forms of theological activity that most actively shape
human character” (p. 666).
Thirdly, primacy of praxis must be at the core of its methodology. In
theological activity, praxis should be the beginning and the ultimate goal. This
does not mean that theological norms come from praxis. Rather it means that “the
needs and challenges arising from Christian praxis in the world are what spark
authentic theological activity” (p. 666). This is an affirmation of careful
reflection of doctrine and the application of the same doctrine to the issues
affecting the world.
Fourthly, practical theology is by nature an agent of transformation as it
seeks to change lives. Practical theology must go beyond simple understanding
and analyzing of truth. It must always “seek not only to understand but also to
correct Christian life” (p. 667). This means that practical theology address needs
affecting humanity as well as needs for change in the individual lives.
The fifth characteristic is that its professional nature should not result in
isolation from the community of the believers. The emphasis is that “theological
activity needs reflection of the breath of persons involved in Christian praxis to
preserve its vitality and wholeness: it needs to be communal in its process” (p.
667). Practical theology calls upon the Church to be inclusive of people from all
walks of life.
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The communal nature of practical theology must first, take into
consideration, the importance of involving individuals as well as community
participation. Secondly, members of the community must involve the
disadvantaged who are likely to be left out. Thirdly, the elitists or the theologians
in the Church cannot be excluded from the community. Finally theological
understanding does not stem from majority vote. Rather “Criteria of authenticity
for Christian life and belief would remain, and keeping the community conscious
of these may be the most important contribution of professional theologians to a
communal practical theology” (p. 668).
Fifthly, practical theology must be contextual. This characteristic
demands that the discipline address the contemporary and cultural issues
wherever it is applied. The major concern here is the strife to make practical
theology applicable to contemporary as well historical concerns. It has to do with
applying Christian doctrine to current issues affecting humanity.
Finally, practical theology, according to Maddox is “occasional, i.e.
concerned more to address pressing issues as they arise than to formulate
programmatically an abstract theological system.” (p. 668). The call is for
theologians not formulate abstract theories for addressing issues that do not exist.
Theology does not exist just for the sake of existence. It is there to address
contemporary issues affecting individuals and society. The promotion is for
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theologians to address problems and issue as they occur. The discipline is not for
abstract thinking. It should be addressing issues that are current rather than
debating on anticipatory issues that are not in existence.
It is clear from this study that practical theology is a discipline that
continues to evolve as a means for the religious community to address concerns
that affect mankind in general. It is practical as well academic in the sense that it
is an inquiry, which involves critical and analytical study. The application of
practical theology is to the issues affecting mankind individually and society as a
whole. To accomplish its task practical theology uses languages known and
accepted by society (Boyce 1960, Bozzo 1970). In this sense the languages of
social and psychological sciences can be applied.
Wood (1984) described practical theology from sociological and cultural
perspective. To him it is a discipline that “studies the influence of social and
cultural forces upon the shaping of Christian witness as well as upon its reception
and effects, and it asks how witness may be most appropriately borne within a
given set of circumstances” (p. 254). To do so it draws from historical and
philosophical theology. In other words practical theology must address
contemporary issues taking into account the current cultural, social and
psychological influences on society.
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Pastoral Care and Counseling as Practical Theology
In defining practical theology I have established that it is a discipline
concerned with addressing issues affecting humanity in Church and in society
(Browng, 1981; Rumpf, 1959; Woods, 1984). How is pastoral care and
counseling a part of practical theology? According to Clinebell (1990) pastoral
counseling is “The utilization by clergy of counseling and psychotherapeutic
methods to enable individuals, couples and families to handle their personal crises
and problems in living constructively” (p. 198). It appears from this definition
that Clinebell sees pastoral counseling basically from the perspective of the
functional office of the clergy. In other words it is pastoral counseling because a
clergy is providing the service. The definition fails to define the process from
theological perspective. Such definition creates concerns as expressed by
theologians addressing the role of practical theology in the helping process
(Browning 1981, Lovin 1992).
Braceland and Farnsworth (1969) attempted to define pastoral counseling
in terms of its difference from giving advice or counseling and psychotherapy. Its
difference from advice is that “it aims at change in the person, brought about by
new religious understanding and occurring in the context of a relationship with
another person” (p. 5). They see the difference with psychotherapy in the fact
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that “it does not deal with truly unconscious conflict, which are the concern of the
psychiatrist” (p. 5). The problem with this definition is that there is no clear
distinction between what he considers unconscious conflict and other problems
that drive people to counseling.
Knowles (1970), speaking from his experience as a Southern Baptist
counseling minister and national leader, emphasized the theological aspect that
the pastoral counselor brings in to the counseling relationship. He states that “The
pastor brings to his counseling work the concept of God and a theology of man,
the world, the nature of the church and its ministry. He also makes use of specific
spiritual resources such as prayer, scripture, and sacraments. In other words, he is
pastoral counselor because of his role as a shepherd of the congregation, his
theological perspective, and his spiritual resources” (p. 27).
Oates, (1976) puts more emphasis on the pastoral counselor’s ability to tap
into the belief system and draw from the spiritual resources. To him “the pastor is
at best a practical mystic in touch with powerful belief systems and with the
powers of blessings and curses in the universe” (p. 10). The idea is that the
pastoral counselor brings in a divine intervention that is not present in other forms
of therapy. This divine intervention implies that the pastoral counselor adds a
special charisma to the counseling process because “the power of the pastor’s
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being points to the presence of God” (p. 10). However this does not address the
issues that exist between psychology and pastoral counseling.
According to Braceland and Farnsworth (1969) the battle between the two
disciplines began when Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, depicted
religion as an illusion. Two conflicting issues came into play. On one hand the
psychologists saw religion as the bases for some of the psychological problems
people encountered. On the other hand the religious faithful saw psychology as
reducing God to nothing but a father image or a creation of human’s mind.
The battle between psychology and religion became another war between
religion and science and “it would take a long time until the various aspects of the
problem could be seen in proper perspective” (p. 4). They also see the battle as
coming to an end because now “the quarrel between religion and psychiatry is
seen as having been based on false assumptions; and while old suspicions die
hard, the two disciplines are coming to realize their common ground” (p. 4).
They however acknowledge that the same problems still exist between the two
disciplines.
There are two major issues that continue to surface when addressing the
relationship between pastoral counseling and psychology. One has to do with the
extremists who are described by Pfrimmer (1978) as reacting from the extremes
of both disciplines. On one side are those who declare that “psychotherapy is
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unnecessary, that psychological problems are a result of sin, and that only
conversion experience…will restore wholeness” (p. 22).
Pruyser (1968) appear to support this position when he describes
psychology and psychiatry as “fragmentary, inelegant, inconsistent and
incomplete clinical knowledge of personology…” (p. 27). He sees the theories
as disorderly because they rise out of “clinical theories which by definition are
disorderly” (p. 27). The disorderliness of the clinical theories stand in contrast to
“the systematic, rational and logical tenor of the basic theological discipline” (p.
27). Seen in this light one cannot help but see the need to reject psychology
completely in favor of theology in pastoral counseling.
On the other extreme are those “who maintain that psychology is allsufficient, that sin is merely a label of psychological disturbances, and that
therapy can restore both mental healthcare and one’s relationship to God, if
indeed the existence of God is even granted” (Pfrimmer, p. 22). According to
Pfrimmer (1978) the problem is based on one error which treats human relations
and relationship with the divine as identical. To him the best alternative is the
middle ground in which the divine and human relationships are viewed as related
only in a functional sense. The assertion is that “the horizontal and vertical
dimensions of the existence are related, but related only by which one may
prevent or facilitate the development of the other” (p. 23).
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Braceland and Farnsworth (1969) see the problem as emanating from
“misunderstanding of the whole human ideal” (p. 4). To them discovery of
science, which includes psychology, has simply made life more meaningful. The
result of applying these psychological techniques is that “Man no longer has to be
content with mere existence; he now has the luxury of working toward fulfillment
as a human being” (p. 4).
Pfrimmer (1978) goes on to explain his point that “Acts of sin may
indeed produce psychological symptoms just as psychological disturbances may
produce acts of sins” (p. 23). Psychological symptoms resulting from act of sin
may include guilt and repression of guilt feelings. On the other hand the
psychological symptoms may be a hindrance to the person’s relationship with
God by acting as a block to recognition of sin.
Pfrimmer uses an example of a woman who engages -in extramarital
affairs and represses the feelings of guilt to the point of developing psychosomatic
illnesses that may land her in a psychological treatment. This is a case in which
“psychological symptoms perform the function of preventing the recognition of
sin” (p. 24). Pfrimmer then recognizes the importance of psychotherapy because
to him “Poor psychological health may be detrimental in the sense that it may
prevent the awareness or acceptance of God’s grace in one’s life because one has
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not experience love and acceptance in the human realm” (p. 24). The implication
is that theology without psychology may proof ineffective in some situations.
It is important to recognize that Pfrimmer’s arguments are based on the
belief system rooted on theological understanding that acts of sin creates
separation from God and the individual who sins. The only way to restore such
relationship is for the individual to receive forgiveness from God and that
restoration is through conversion in which the person makes a moral choice to
obey God.
This belief system is reflected in his statements. For example he says that
psychological symptoms “can prevent one’s conversion, one’s salvation, by
hindering or impending the development of faith, and also by blocking the
awareness of the need for God in one’s life” (p. 25). This conversion is based on
the individual’s ability to recognize sin in his or her life and therefore turn to God
for healing and wholeness.
Thus he warns that “To deny the human sense of separation and the real
entrance of the vertical dimension into human experience is to deny the validity of
human experience and faith in the redemptive work of the God-man, Jesus” (p.
27). While other pastoral counseling theologians may not agree fully with this
position the point he makes about relationship between psychology and faith
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addresses one issue that pastoral care counseling professionals may encounter in
their clinical practice (Ahlskog, 2001; Eschmann, 2000; Jensen, 2003; Springer et
al, 2003).
The second major and most commonly addressed problem has to do with
the integration of psychology and theology in pastoral care and counseling. The
problem here is not a rejection of psychology per se. Rather it is a concern over
the extend to which psychology has impacted the discipline of pastoral counseling
to the detriment of the discipline losing its theological roots.
Hulme (1981) expressed this concern when he stated that pastoral
counselors were losing their uniqueness because of strong influence from the field
of psychology. While he agreed that pastoral counseling can and should
incorporate other forms of counseling technique, his concern was the balance
between psychology and theology. He stated that “when pastoral counselors
function primarily with psychological rather than theological concepts, they are
not only failing those who seek their help for religious reason, but they are also
failing to fulfill their complementary role in a teamwork approach with other
members of the helping professions” (p. 17). In other words theological approach
to life is a contribution to counseling that pastoral counselors should not abandon.
Evans (1958) demonstrated this point by stating that “When a person seeks out a
clergyman rather than a secular counselor for assistance, he is usually
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well aware of divine disapproval already, and tends to see the clergyman as the
representative of this disapproval” (pp. 174-175). In essence the clergy represent
God’s presence. He then is fit to address the quilt issues the individual is
experiencing in his relationship with God. The clergy is most qualified to address
the issues from psychological and theological perspective. According to Hulme
(1981) pastoral counselors should utilize other forms and theories of counseling
without losing their uniqueness, the theological perspective (Charry 1993; Pruyser
1968).
The influence of psychology on pastoral counseling continues to be a
concern that needs to be addressed (Ahlskog, 2001; Eschmann, 2000; Jensen,
2003; Stone, 2001). The concern is that pastoral counselors are relying on
psychology rather than spiritual resources for helping the needy clients. By so
doing they are abandoning their foundation for ministry. Ahlskog (2001)
analyzed a meeting that took place in April 1999 between American Association
of Pastoral Counselors (AAPC) and Council of Psychoanalytic Psychotherapists.
The meeting was intended to demonstrate that the two disciplines were moving
towards integration.
Ahlskog (2001) saw three major problems. First, he noted that the
motivation for the psychotherapists was financial in the sense that spirituality is
now recognized as an area that needs to be treated and counselors can be
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reimbursed for addressing the issue. Secondly, he points out that the
psychotherapists failed to recognize the importance of religion in spiritual care, an
important component of counseling for pastoral counselors. In other words
pastoral counselors function out of their religious convictions, which lack in the
other psychotherapists. Thirdly, during public interactions pastors are not willing
to discuss which religious tradition influences their approach to ministry.
Ahlskog concludes that the two disciplines could not be integrated because
“Neither field has publicly owned a distinctive position to which other could offer
critical responses in the service of advancing integration” (p. 4). He saw the
disparities as too deep for any genuine integration to take place. To him,
“Interdisciplinary cooperation is a useful process but it’s still just a process. No
genuine integration” (p. 4).
Jensen (2003) acknowledged the challenges raised by Ahlskog and many
others. However, his conclusion is that integration is possible. He outlined three
components that would make this possible. One is that the therapist can treat the
relationship between client and God in the same way as any other significant
relationships. Secondly, he suggests involvement of religious community and
religious text in the process. Thirdly, the therapist maintains neutrality to avoid
authoritarianism.
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Phil (2002) suggests that Freud, whom he credited with the first scientific
study of the dynamics of the unconscious, was influenced by religious leaders.
As such psychology did not develop entirely independent of religion. He argues
that, while most psychologists do not use religion explicitly in their practice they
cannot avoid addressing the subject. The reason is that their “ideas about the
operation of the human psyche often have had profoundly religious, spiritual, and
theological implications just as Darwin’s Origin of the Species has had profound
implications for Judeo-Christian use and understanding of the scripture” (p. 122).
He sees theology as changing and cannot be considered absolute. As
people’s experience an understanding of God change, so must the shaping of
theological understanding. His conclusion is that “aspects of God are knowable
to us through the mechanism of the human psyche as they are being revealed to us
by depth psychology, and that these burgeoning understandings must inform the
work of the church and its ministries” (122). It is clear that he sees the influence
of psychology in the ministry of the Church positively. In other words
psychology enhances the ministry of the local church.
Stone (2001) did an analytical study of the major authors of pastoral care
from 1949 to 1999. The study revealed a strong reliance on therapy rather than
spiritual resources. He found that in the literature written by pastoral counselors,
“most of its theory and methods grow out of theoretical constructs and
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psychotherapeutic modalities of long-term clinical practice, even when written for
pastors in the congregational context who primarily do short-term counseling” (p.
184).
While the study supported the fact that the movement owes much to
Freud, Stone (2001) found that pastoral care counselors make more references to
Carl Rogers than any other psychologists. The trend, according to Stone (2001) is
that the writers he studied made “extensive references to psychological theorists,
none of them seems to draw to any extent upon the resources of spiritual direction
and spirituality….” He continued to state that “Reference to spiritual resources
and disciplines, in the present study, tend to be generalized and somewhat vague”
(p. 185). It is clearly demonstrated here that behavioral sciences have had a great
influence in the field of pastoral care and counseling. Obviously pastoral care
counselors have found value is utilizing behavioral sciences in their practice.
Eschamann (2000) acknowledged that Carl Rogers was the major player in
introducing psychology into pastoral counseling. However the influence resulted
in the discipline becoming easy for one to teach, learn and evaluate. Negatively,
“the deficit in theory and theology of client-centered pastoral care, has not been
dealt with in a thorough way to this day” (p. 421). In other words the pastoral
care counselors applied principles from the behavioral sciences but did not have a
specific theoretical framework from which to function. Phil (2002) on the other
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hand warns that “Developing theologies on the principle doctrines of the Churchthrough humanity, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, atonement,
eschatology-need to be informed by or at least cognizant of theories of depth
psychology” (p. 125). To him theology will not survive if it ignores the realities
of advancing sophistication of psychology. In other words psychology enhances
and play a critical role in the application of theology to humanity.
The issues of integration of behavioral sciences and theological training in
pastoral counseling remained a source of tension and confusion in the 20th century
(Eschmann, 2000). Pastoral counseling theologians needed to address the issue.
According to Eschmann (2000) the leader theologian in the field was Thurneysen
whose teaching into the late sixties emphasized God taking initiatives in speaking
to mankind and addressing the issue of sin and the need for confession and
absolution. This thinking tended to agree with Thiessen (1979) who defined
practical theology as the area of theology which “treats the application of
theology in the regeneration, sanctification, edification, education, and service of
men” (p. 20). Pastoral counseling would come under the category of serving men.
Eschmann (2000) acknowledges that this concept which he calls
Kerygmatic Pastoral Care, has some strength. First it frees man from the
responsibility of affecting change in the souls of men and women. Rather, it is
God who does the work while the human person simply witnesses. Negatively
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the approach has the potentiality of “leaving the person seeking help in the
position of being ‘preached at’ instead of “listened to’” (p. 420). He goes on to
state that “Furthermore kerykmatic pastoral care is difficult to evaluate in practice
and hardly teachable and learnable in theological seminaries or in special courses”
(p. 420). In essence while the approach has practicality in the Church it lacks
what is necessary for it to be academic and practical at the same time.
Stone (2001) notes, however, that there is a new trend in which pastoral
counselors are now acknowledging theological and spiritual resources. He sees it
as positive shift that “pastoral counseling is becoming more in touch with its
theological roots” (p. 186). The downside to this trend according to Stone is that
“there is less ongoing assessment of the field’s underlying psychological base” (p.
186). He fails to give any example of this trend. Eschmann (2000) agrees that the
current movement is leaning towards using spiritual resources in providing
counseling help. He states that “In connection with sociological approach also the
rituals of church and life and their stabilizing affect upon persons-formerly
strongly criticized by psychoanalysis-receive increased attention in the newer
theory of pastoral care” (p. 422).
Phil (2002) developed further the integration of the two disciplines by
explaining the complementary function of depth psychology when addressing
issues from pastoral counseling perspective. To him there are issues that cannot
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be addressed theologically due to the complex nature of psychological condition
of the individual client needing help. He explains that “The bits and pieces, the
shards and fragments, or our psyches may be so far flung and unintegrated that we
may need to do substantial integrative work before we can even begin to have any
sense to have God’s grace or presence in our psyches” (p. 123).
The implication is that human problems can be so complex that deep
psychological analysis is necessary before one can apply theology. It does not
mean that theology as a discipline lacks depth in dealing with human problems.
Rather, as he further states, “there may well be times in which mental disease is
the way in which God claims our attention in our psyches and in our lives. This is
so because even intimation of the infinite God cannot be suddenly held in the
container of the tiny human psyche” (p. 123). In other words the pastoral
counselor must take into consideration the divine purpose of suffering and that
their may be some theological good in suffering. Such spiritual benefits can only
be addressed theologically.
The integration of the two is complementary in the sense that psychology
informs the pastoral care professional of the need to focus more closely on
“possible intra-psyche meanings, causes, and origins of feelings, motives and
actions” (p. 127). This will further aid ministers in helping people “find more
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authentic healing through deeper understanding of themselves, their motives,
feelings, actions, their religious beliefs and experiences” (p. 127). Evans (1958)
supported this principle when he stated, “In particular, we should appreciate not
only the truth of the Christian Gospel, but also its therapeutic value, and its
relation to the discoveries of psychotherapy” (p. 178).
Schlaugh (1987) agrees that psychology and theology are complementary
in pastoral care and counseling process. Although his focus is on pastoral
psychotherapy, the concept of the two disciplines complementing each other in
the counseling process is clearly stated. For example, to him, the discipline
“involves the observation, understanding, and interpretation of religious and
moral, as well as psychological, dimensions; it utilizes theological and ethical, as
well as psychological resources” (p. 322). Phil (2002) on the other end sees the
integration as having some historical value and meaning. He sees psychology and
psychotherapy as originating in religion and that the Church simply “needs to
draw on the body of knowledge developed by its own progeny-depth psychology”
(p. 133).
Seen in this light one can see how the two disciplines can be utilized in
helping clients achieve healing. Psychology becomes a tool that complements
rather than substitutes theological application in pastoral care and counseling.
Phil’s (2002) conclusion is that “A greater understanding of the structures
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and mechanisms of the psyche is important to deeper understandings of
relationships with God, of the vicissitudes of spiritual life, of the meaning of ritual
and the sacraments, to more profound and relevant scriptural hermeneutics and
theological understandings” (p. 134). He further states “Depth psychology has
given us new and powerful tools by which to examine and understand faith and
faith experiences” (p. 134).
Ewing (1990) described the term pastoral counselor in two ways. First, it
is a reference to a pastor who provides counseling as a part of his ministry.
Secondly, “it describes the function of a pastor who practices pastoral counseling
at a level of competence beyond that of the general practice of ministry and who
skillfully integrates religious resources with insights from the behavioral
sciences” (p. 859). The two definitions demonstrate that pastoral counseling can
be defined in a broad and narrow sense.
According to Boyd (1969) there are three factors that make pastoral
counseling therapeutic. One is that there must be a sanctioning body that
endorses the practicing professional. In this case the sanctioning body can be
American Association of Pastoral Counselors. (Clinebell, 1990; Ewing, 1990).
Secondly there must be a suffering individual seeking help from the professional.
Thirdly, there must be emotional transaction between the client and the counselor.
To him, “The therapeutic situation, then, involves a mutual reciprocal, emotional
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transaction between two people” (p. 20). This description subjects the profession
to a broad definition. For example if a counselor is sanctioned by a denomination
and he or she provides counseling that meets the criteria of a seeker and emotional
transaction the relationship becomes therapeutic and therefore pastoral counseling
is taking place.
In a narrow sense pastoral counseling is a profession or a discipline
reserved for practitioners with specific training and certification (Jordan, 1997;
Ewing, 1990; Holifield, 1990 ). In the United States, the recognized body that
certifies pastoral counselors is American Association of Pastoral Counselors
(Hurding, 1995; Clinebell, 1990; Ewing, 1990). According to Jordan (1997)
“Pastoral counselors are clergy and others who have received graduate training in
both religion and behavioral science for a clinical practice that integrates
psychological and theological disciplines” (p. 8). American Association of
Pastoral Counselors certifies pastoral counselors, accredits counseling centers and
sets standards for education and training of pastoral counselors and counseling
centers (Clinebell, 1990; Ewing, 1990; Holifield, 1990).
In the same narrow sense pastoral care is regarded as a distinct ministry
with a separate training known as Clinical Pastoral Education. Among the
accrediting agencies are Association of Professional Chaplains which is nondenominational and National Association of Catholic Chaplains (Trip, 1990). The
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two associations are also responsible for the training and certification of the
supervisors who provide the Clinical Pastoral Education.
Tripp (1990) sees the danger of not having a professional association to
offer credible accreditation. He says that one cannot expect the clients to judge
the professionalism of those providing their services. To him, “only members of
the same profession are qualified to judge whether one of its members possesses
the knowledge and skills to practice the profession in a responsible way” (p. 149).
He sees the goal of certification as “the recognition and measurement of
competencies” (p. 149). The same principle of training and certification applies
to both disciplines. However the process of training and certification make each
of the profession distinct from the other.
Hunter (1990) distinguishes the two disciplines by focusing on the scope
and duration of each practice. To him pastoral care is broader and inclusive. It
refers “to all pastoral work concerned with the support and nurturance of persons
and interpersonal relationships, including everyday expressions of care and
concern that may occur in the midst of various pastoring activities and
relationships” (p. 845). In this understanding pastoral care is inclusive of all
forms of caring and support given within the context of religious community.
Pastoral counseling on the other hand “refers to caring ministries that are
more structured and focused on specifically articulated need or concern.
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Counseling always involves some degree of ‘contract’ in which a request for help
is articulated and specific arrangements are agreed upon concerning time and
place of meeting; in extended counseling a fee may also be agreed upon,
depending on the institutional setting and other considerations” (p. 845). Thus he
sees pastoral counseling as being more structured, requiring extended period of
time and contract, and more focus than pastoral care.
However, in this study, pastoral care and counseling is used to refer to a
broader and inclusive understanding of the discipline. Ewing (1990)
acknowledges this reality when he states “Validation and accountability are
granted by the person’s religious group. Most Christian and Jewish groups ordain
persons for ministry; however, other processes are often employed to designate
pastoral counseling as a specific ministry, both for ordained and non-ordained
persons” (p. 859). In this sense it is the religious group that determines who is
qualified for certain aspects of ministry.
In his discussion of grief in pastoral care, Oastes (1976) uses the term “pastoral
care” in the same broader sense. He states that “When I use pastoral care, I am
referring to the total set of resources of church and community that a pastor uses
to prevent and to meet grief and separation” (p. 1). Campbell (1987) defined
Pastoral care as “that aspect of ministry of the church which is concerned with the
well-being of individuals and communities” (p. 188). He identifies four
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main pastoral functions, which include leading, guiding, sustaining and
reconciling. Clinebell (1987) acknowledges that the same functions belong to the
field of pastoral counseling.
O’Connor (2003) raises arguments that support the broad definition of
pastoral counseling to include pastoral care. He asserts that there is no clear
distinction between pastoral care and pastoral counseling. To support his point he
discusses the arguments that are used to support the differences between the two
disciplines.
One is that it is the caregiver who initiates relationships in pastoral care
while it is the client that initiates the relationship in pastoral counseling.
Secondly, pastoral counseling has contract with the client while pastoral care has
none. Thirdly, while pastoral care occurs in a home or Church setting pastoral
counseling occurs in an office or a community setting. The fourth argument is
that pastoral counseling is long term while pastoral care is short term. Fifthly,
pastoral care deals primarily with religious and spiritual issues while pastoral
counseling deals with psychological issues. The sixth distinction is that pastoral
care is more general while pastoral counseling is specialized.
O’Connor (2003) found that these distinctive were in both disciplines. For
example he taught a course on short term therapy for pastoral counselors and
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chaplains working in emergency room and those working in long term care
facility. Included in the students were also family therapists. The evaluation
indicated that all the groups found the course equally helpful in their ministry. It
made no difference whether the students were dealing with short term care or long
term care. His conclusion is that the two disciplines are basically the same with
the only differences on the emphasis. While acknowledging that the separation
between the two disciplines has enriched pastoral ministry with diversity, he
states also that “The distinction, however, is not based on evidence and there is
more common ground” (p. 14).
Historically, pastoral counseling movement owes its origins to Clinical
Pastoral Education (CPE) movement which celebrated 75 years of existence in
2000 (Jernigan, H. L. 2002). While the idea of CPE started to formulate at the
turn of the century, the movement began flourishing in 1930 to 1967 when
Association of Clinical Pastoral Education came into existence (Cotterell & Nisi,
1990). The movement developed into a tool used to “teach the skills of
ministering to persons in crisis and at the same time teaches insights and
understanding into the person and into the student” (Cotterell & Nisi, p. 136). It
is the primary training program for pastors, chaplains and others desiring to
function as spiritual care providers (Clinebell, 1990; Westerhoff, 1984, Hurding,
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1995). It was through Clinical Pastoral Education that psychology and behavioral
sciences were introduced into the field of practical theology (Clinebell, 1990).
Introduction of psychology lead to the development of pastoral counseling as a
specialized discipline (Holifield, 1990; Gilmore, 1990).
By applying the broad definition of pastoral care and counseling I am
including all types of care that utilize theological, sociological and behavioral
disciplines in meeting spiritual, emotional, psychological and social needs for
individuals, families and communities. This will comprise pastoral counseling,
pastoral psychotherapy, pastoral psychology, and pastoral care (Schlaugh, 1987;
Morris, 1986). Hurding (1995) acknowledged that “the distinction between
psychotherapy and counseling is becoming less sharply defined” (p. 81).
The purpose of choosing the broad definition is not to deny the reality of
the differences noted by various scholars (Morris 1986, Schlaugh 1987, Pruyser
1968, Hurding 1995). It is the intention of this study to draw principles that will
be applicable in any of the disciplines addressing human issues from behavioral
and theological perspective. Secondly, the choice of a broader definition is an
acknowledgement that there are no fixed models that address multicultural
pastoral counseling as the discipline is still in the developmental stage (SilvaNetto 1992). Thus principles drawn from the study will contribute to the process
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of development as more scholars within the field continue to address the issue of
applying pastoral counseling to diversity of cultures.
From the above study it is clear that practical theology is a discipline that
emphasize the need to reflect the practicality of theology in the sense that it
addresses issues affecting the church, society and mankind in general (Maddox,
19991; Wood, 1984). Farley (p. 934) summarized the definition of practical
theology as “(1) A field of study in clergy education covering the responsibilities
and activities of the minister and usually including preaching, liturgies, pastoral
care, Christian (Church) education and Church polity and administration. (2) An
area of discipline in clergy education whose subject matter is the life and activity
of the church as it exists in the present. (3) An area or discipline of theology
whose subject matter is Christian practice and which brings to bear theological
criteria on contemporary situations and realms of individual and social action”.
Browning (1981) emphasized the fact that practical theology encompasses every
aspect of life within and beyond the religious community.
Practical theology must, in a broad sense, grabble with issues such as
social justice, psychological and emotional adjustment, questions regarding the
role of spirituality in suffering and many other factors that are important for
individuals and societies to live as normal lives as possible. Pastoral care and
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counseling on the other hand seeks to address the same issues on a more specific
and personal level by integrating behavioral sciences and theological disciplines.
In this sense pastoral care and counseling is practical theology, and it simply
reflects the ongoing evolution within the discipline. Augsburger (1986) defined
pastoral counseling as “a liberating and healing ministry of the faith community
that is based on a relationship between a pastor (or pastoral team) with counseling
skills and a family or person who come together to engage in conversation and
interaction. The relationship is a dynamic process of caring and exploration, with
a definite structure and mutually contracted goals, and occurs within the tradition,
beliefs and resources of the faith community that surround and supports them” (p.
15).
Multicultural Pastoral Care and Counseling as Practical Theology
The focus of this study is pastoral care and counseling in a multicultural
setting. So far the study has demonstrated that pastoral care and counseling is
practical theology. Since the research will focus on multicultural pastoral care
and counseling, I will give a brief definition to demonstrate how multicultural
counseling relates to pastoral care and counseling. The task in this section is to
define multicultural pastoral care and counseling. To do so it is important to
understand multicultural counseling as a discipline in order to demonstrate how it
relates to pastoral care and counseling.
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Lee & Richardson (1991) stated, “Broadly defined, multicultural
counseling is a helping process that places the emphasis for counseling theory and
practice equally on the cultural impressions of both the counselor and the client”
(p. 3). In essence multicultural counseling takes into account not only the client’s
culture but also the culture of the therapist. Both cultures play an important role
in the process. Augsburger (1986) described a culturally sensitive counselor as
one affected by diversity of forces. He states, “Having to appreciate the impact of
the historical, social, religious, political, and economic forces that have shaped the
identity and values of all human beings, they are sensitive to the effects of racism,
economic exploitation, political oppression, historic tragedy, religious prejudice,
or the absence of these on the personality or interpersonal adjustment” (p. 20).
But to be an intercultural pastoral counselor one must have the skills to enter into
another’s culture while retaining his or her cultural background. To him, “The
intercultural pastoral counselor who is at home on the boundary crosses over and
returns with effectiveness, freed by theological groundedness to function as a
mediating and reconciling person” (p. 47).
Augsburger (1986) also sees the important role of the pastoral counselor’s
theology in the counseling relationship. He states that “Theology on the boundary
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is committed to the authentic presence and genuine dialogue between cultures,
faiths, and values” (p. 47). Lee & Richardson (1991) see differences in social
status, language and culture as issues that the helping professional must consider
in counseling the culturally different client (Ibrahim, 1991).
Lee (1991) further defines culture as “a multidimensional concept that
encompasses the collective reality of a group of people” (p. 11). In a more
elaborate sense Murray and Zentner (1997) defined culture in three ways:
“Culture is the sum total of the learned ways of doing, feeling, and thinking, past
and present, of a social group within a given period. These ways are transmitted
from one generation to the next or to immigrants who become members of the
society. Culture is a group’s design for living, a shared set of socially transmitted
assumptions about life, attitudes, roles, and values. Culture is a complex
integrated system that includes knowledge, beliefs, skills, art, morals, law,
customs, and any other acquired habits and capabilities of the human being. All
provide a pattern for living together” (p. 5). In a sense culture informs the
individuals the acceptable behavior, ways of thinking and relating.
Any counselor desiring to provide counseling to the culturally different
must understand that each culture has values and expectations that will affect how
the individual client responds (Corey, 1986). The challenge is that each culture
has its own sets of rules and expectations. Murray and Zentner continue to state
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that “All cultures, subcultures, and ethnic groups possess certain values, customs,
and practices common to every culture; share certain values, customs, and
practices with some other cultures and have certain customs and practices unique
only to that group of people” (p. 6).
Augsburger (1986) stressed that in training pastoral counselors, one must
consider the effects of the culture in development and appreciate validity of
equality in value between the secondary and the dominant culture. He further
stated, “Training and practice models must be grounded in sociocultural systems
thinking. All human psychology is embedded in its cultural context, and all
counseling must take the personal and the contextual with equal seriousness” (p.
14).
One cannot counsel effectively without considering the cultural context in
which the counseling needs arise. The way the individual views reality is affected
by the cultural upbringing. Therefore, “The pastoral counselor views the
universe, its cultures and its peoples from a theology that addresses both
universals and particulars. Culture is the form, theology is the content of human
experience”(Augsburger, 1986, p. 78). Meaning of relationships, morality and
family systems are products of culture (Rome, 1969). According to Corey (1969)
“ethical and professional practice entails finding effective ways to provide
psychological services to meet special needs of diverse cultural groups” (p. 349).
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In essence counseling needs are culturally informed.
In this study multicultural pastoral counseling will be defined as any
counseling or caring in which the counselor factors in theological and cultural
issues in the counseling session. A culturally sensitive pastoral counselor will
seek to understand the impact of the culture on the issues facing the client or
clients (Silver-Netto, 1992). At the same time he or she must be aware of his or
her belief systems and culture. “Awareness of ones own culture can free one to
disconnect identity from cultural externals and to live on the boundary, crossing
over and coming back with increasing freedom” (Augusburger, 1986, p. 13).
The emphasis is that a pastoral counselor must be able to enter into
cultural interaction with his or her client and still maintain his own cultural values
and beliefs. The belief system of the counselor and that of the client will play an
equally important role. The goal is to interpret theological belief system in such a
way that issues affecting the clients are addressed within the totality of their
background. Thus, multicultural pastoral counseling is practical theology in a
multicultural setting as it seeks to apply theology to changing lives and addressing
issues affecting individuals and society as a whole. (Augsburger, 1986; Browning,
1981; Maddox, 1990; Maddox 1991; Rumff, 1959).
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Summary
Practical theology has existed throughout history as a means by which the
Church addressed needs affecting humanity. It is demonstrated in this chapter
that pastoral care and counseling is a part of practical theology in the sense that it
is a means in which the Church addresses psychological and behavioral issues of
the believers and humanity in general. Multicultural pastoral care and counseling
is also a part of practical theology as it is an attempt to provide care and
counseling from cultural perspective.
Providing pastoral care for international students is within the realm of
practical theology since the students are a part of the multicultural group in need
of spiritual care. With this understanding the following chapter will now focus on
discussion of the counseling issues the foreign students encounter in the foreign
land.
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Chapter 4
Counseling Issues Encountered by Students in the Foreign Land
This chapter will address issues that affect international students during
their study overseas. Narrative study on specific cases will demonstrate how
these issues impact the students and complicate their ability to get help. The
transient nature of the students in the study limits the amount of time I was able to
spend with the subjects and the ability to follow each story systematically. The
stories in the narrative study will be integrated with the issues documented in the
finding of other research scholars in the field.
Methodology of the Study
This chapter will begin with a narrative study of 6 students to whom I
provided spiritual care when they were facing crisis. The six students were
chosen because of the significance and relevance of the issues they presented in
their encounter with me. In my 19 years of ministry to International students the
six students represented the most significant issues in terms of the complications
and severity of the problems they presented. Also in observing and reading what
other internationals experience, I see the same issues showing up to some degrees
among other foreign students. Their experiences embody and reflect the
experiences common to other students from different countries. In essence there
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is a universality in the problems presented by the six chosen students. This will
be demonstrated in the study.
First, it is important to define narrative research in order to understand its
place in academic research. Narrative research is academically accepted as a
form of inquiry based on observation of life experiences of the subjects under
study (Atkinson, 1999; Behar-Horenstein and Morgan, 1995; Burnford,
Fisher,and Hobson, 1996; Hones & Cha, 1999; Gergen, 1998).
Thomas & Brubaker, (2000) stated “In recent decades, individuals'
descriptions and interpretations of their personal experiences have been
increasingly accepted as suitable versions of research by academicians of a
postmodern persuasion” (p. 110). Hones & Cha (1999) explain the rationale for
narrative research in terms of personal and social stories. They state “The focus
on individual lives enables narrative research to place social theory in a practical
light, as well as to connect an individual's personal history with the social history
of his or her life span. Finally, narrative research is marked by subjectivity. The
focus on the subject's ‘voice’ and story are seen as a positive contribution of the
narrative genre to social science research” (p. 208).
Cochran (1990) sees two aspects of narrative research. “The first is
concerned with developing a well-founded story that is faithful to life. The second
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is concerned with drawing out the meaning, plot, or explanation embedded within
a story (or set of stories). While each might be conducted without the other, each
often complements the other as phases of a single project” (p. 78). Explaining the
benefits, he stated "Along with other qualitative methods, the great advantage of
narrative research is that it offers the possibility of a greatly expanded scope for
questions that are of direct significance to practice" (p. 83).
According Hones & Cha (1999), "There is an increasing use of narrative
inquiry within the broader field of educational research" (p. 205). They see
narrative research as focusing “on the lives of ordinary people, individuals whose
lives are in part defined by racial, class and gender boundaries constructed by the
dominant culture” (p. 206). They differentiate narrative research from other
forms of research by stating that “Narrative inquiry can be distinguished from
other types of qualitative research by its focus on the individual, the personal,
nature of the research process, its ‘practical’ orientation and its emphasis on
subjectivity…” (p. 208).
According to Young & Borgen (1990) there two kinds of narrative
research. “The first kind of narrative research is descriptive ; its aim is to render
the narrative accounts already in place which are used by individuals or groups as
their means for ordering and making temporal events meaningful. The criterion
for evaluating this kind of narrative research is the accuracy of the researcher's
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description in relationship to the operating narrative scheme. The second kind of
investigation is explanatory ; its aim is to construct a narrative account explaining
‘why’ a situation or event involving human actions has happened. The narrative
account that is constructed ties together and orders events so as to make apparent
the way they ‘caused’ the happening under investigation” (p. 78).
Behar-Horenstein and Morgan (1995) describe narrative research “As an
entity with a beginning, middle, and end, story has a dynamic that is created and
interpreted through the lived experiences of a person or a participant observer
who offers a vicarious interpretation of an individual's personal story” (p. 143). In
other words narrative study involves drawing meanings from observing life
experiences of the individual subjects under study. The focus of this chapter is to
analyze the issues observed in the real lives of selected students in conjunction
with those found by other researchers.
It is clear from the above definitions that narrative research involves
several factors. First it can be an observation of life experiences of an individual
or individuals with focus on meaningful events. In this case the researcher
focuses on individual life stories and draws meaning from the experiences of the
subjects. Secondly it can be an observation and reconstruction of certain events
with the purpose of finding out reasons and causative factors of the same events.
In this case the researchers comes after the events have occurred and seeks to find
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meaning by reconstructing the events and finding out why and what caused
certain events to occur. Thirdly, narrative research can be subjective as the
findings are based on the observation by the researcher or the verbal report of the
subjects. This is why in this study the interpretations of the experiences of the
students involved will be integrated with the findings of other research in the
same field. The issues affecting the subjects are discussed in the lights of findings
by other studies.
In this study the events or experiences of the subjects will be discussed as
examples of the issues addressed by other research scholars. Throughout the
discussion the case studies will help the reader relate the issues to the stories in
the case studies. The cases will serve as examples, of different issues that will
emerge from the rest of the studies throughout the chapter.
Narrative Study Cases
Case Study #1
My relationship with Peter began when one of the volunteers, in a ministry
I was involved, brought him to a Christian fellowship. Initially he seemed calm
and well adjusted. He talked about his life and how he was raised in a foreign
country because his parents were refugees. He was involved in a war that
overthrew the government of his homeland and so he became a part of this new
regime that got into power through the war. His government sent him to the
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United States for military training. But why was he in this particular city instead
of the place of his training?
Peter explained that while receiving his training he became suspicious that
political leadership in his country wanted him back because he was seen as a
traitor. Why was he seen as a traitor? He explained that he spoke up against
issues of corruption and bad treatment of those whom the new regime perceived
as enemies of the government. The complaint seemed logical. He then convinced
his training officer about the suspicion and was eventually granted refugee status
and secretly sent to the new city where he became a part of the Christian
fellowship. The story came across as genuine and no one saw any reason to
doubt. However, things began to change.
Peter lived in an apartment complex in which he had a room but there
were others with rooms in the same building. One day a phone call came and it
was Peter complaining that one of the residents verbally abused him and he
needed to move out. He headed for another city to stay with a friend. A week
later he was back and needing a place to stay because that other city was not
welcoming. He found an apartment and a job but soon complained that the
neighbors were threatening to kill him. He claimed that, people were checking
his mail and talking about him whenever he passed by. Eventually he quit his job
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claiming that his life was in danger because some people wanted to kill him. By
now it was obvious that Peter was experiencing serious psychological problems.
For a long time every attempt to convince Peter to seek counseling proved
fruitless. One day he did agree to admit himself to a psychiatric hospital.
However, he managed to convince the psychiatrist that he was just fine. He was
discharged from the hospital but his problems continued to mount. He started to
view everyone he knew suspiciously claiming he or she was after his life.
Peter moved out of the city in search for peace and comfort. About two
years later, I received another phone call from a friend describing a student,
hundreds of miles away, who had to move out of his relative’s house because
someone in the family wanted to poison him. The student turns out to be Peter.
Unfortunately the phone call did not result in further relationship between me and
Peter. He disappeared without informing the family where he was going.
Three issues emerged as I began to work with Peter. First he was paranoid
and suspicious of everyone that got close to him. The government was after him.
Friends were after his life. Neighbor and even place of work were all after him.
According to Morris and Snyder (1993) "To meet the diagnostic criteria for
paranoia, the individual must have a chronic and stable persecutory delusional
system of at least six months' duration " ( p. 28). They also described what they
considered general paranoia. To them “Those criteria require persistent
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persecutory delusions or delusional jealousy; emotion and behavior appropriate to
the content of the delusional system; at least a one-week duration of illness; the
absence of symptoms of schizophrenia such as bizarre delusions, incoherence, or
marked loosening of associations; no prominent hallucinations; the absence of
depressive or manic syndrome; and the above criteria not caused by an organic
mental disorder” ( p. 29).
Peter’s behavior is definitely delusional and it has lasted way longer than
six months. It seems like everyone that take interest in him becomes an enemy.
Another description of paranoia is that "Untoward chance events are perceived as
personal provocations at the hands of presumed enemies" (Kantor, 1992, p. 8).
Fits with Peter’s interpretation of people’s interest in him as an attempt to control
his life.
Secondly, Peter continued to resist any idea of going for counseling.
Further discussion in this chapter will demonstrate that this behavior is common
among international students. However, in order to gain some understanding of
Peter’s behavior and what might have contributed, it is important to understand
his background.
Peter came from war and research has demonstrated that post traumatic
syndrome is a common problem experienced by people after participating in war,
and evidenced by similar behaviors as displayed by Peter (Hendin & Haas, 1984;
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Marten, 2001; Murray, 1992; Sloan & Arsenault, 1995; Weinfeld, Sigal &
Eaton, 1981; Williams & Sommer, 1994). Post traumatic syndrome is described
as "a debilitating condition that some people develop after experiencing or
witnessing an extremely traumatic event." (Gorrell, 2002).
Hendin & Haas (1984) warn that to understand the effects of Post
Traumatic Disorder, one has to look at the mental and emotional status of the
individual before during and after the trauma. Discussing veterans who suffer
similar disorder they stated, “Who the veteran was before combat is highly
significant, and sometimes decisive, in shaping the way in which the
posttraumatic stress disorder develops. This does not imply that a personality
disorder was present in the veteran or would have developed without the stress of
combat, or even that such individuals are more vulnerable to stress in any general
sense” ( p. 37). The argument is that one has to look at the issues that may have
existed before the individual went to war.
In the case of Peter prior issues in his life may have been the primary
reason for his response to the experience of war and travel overseas. However the
focus of this study is to examine his experience, as an international student, in the
light of the experiences of other students. To what extend is his experience
common among other internationals? This is one of the questions the study will
address in this chapter.
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Obviously Peter’s situation is complicated by the fact that he is in a
foreign country and adjusting to a new culture. As it will be demonstrated in the
study, his refusal to go for help is a cultural issue common among foreign
students coming from non-western countries (Hayes & Lin, 1994; Komiya &
Ellis, 2001; Arthur, 1997; Mori, 2000). In essence Peter’s experience in war left
him traumatized. Coming to the USA put him in position where he was dealing
with the Post traumatic syndrome (Danitz, 1997; Murray, 1992; Sloan &
Arsenault, 1995; Weinfeld, Sigal & Eaton, 1981) while trying to deal with a
reality of being in a foreign culture. One can see how the combination of the two
forces could have caused serious problems for the sojourner. He is also away
from home and familiar family support. Lack of support system can be a factor in
intensifying his experience (Hayes & Lin, 1994).
Case Study #2
Dan is another student who ended up in Nebraska where he received a
Masters in clinical psychology from a prestigious university. He also got a job
with a well known company and seemed very successful. He won respect and
trust from his landlord who gave him a substantial discount in rent. Dan was
enrolled in a Ph.D program and was doing well until problems began to surface.
First, it was some news regarding some minor conflict between his
relatives that were not getting along. The situation did not seem that serious. But
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it affected him emotionally as he began to feel guilty that it was his absence that
caused the conflict between the relative. “If only I was home” he kept repeating.
Things began to deteriorate for him as he continued blaming himself. He began
to suffer so much from depression that it affected his ability to work. Meanwhile
he was developing some serious psychosomatic symptoms like frequent stomach
pains, headaches and high blood pressure. Every effort intended to help him seek
psychiatric help proved unfruitful. Meanwhile things continued to get worst. He
became disoriented to time and place. The situation compelled him to take a sick
leave due to severity of the illness.
The friends discovered that Daniel’s uncles lived in South Carolina. They
then convinced him to visit South Carolina and spend time with his family.
Amazingly, one month in South Carolina made a big difference in his life. He
returned to Nebraska as normal as he was before. His memory was back and he
was ready to move on with his education.
What did the family do that became a healing factor in the life of Daniel?
Jenkins (1991), argues “that culture is of profound importance to the experience
of depression, the construction of meaning and social response to depressive
illness within families and communities, the course and outcome of the disorder,
and thus to the very constitution of depressive illness” (p. 8). The implication
here is that culture determines how individuals and families respond to depressive
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experiences. It is also implied in the description that family dynamics play a
major role when one is dealing with depression.
Dan’s experience of losing meaning in life, not being able to work and
displaying paranoia reveals symptoms of depression (Ainsworth, 2000; Jenkins,
1991; Kantor, 1992). The same symptoms of depression are common in those
born and raised in the American society (Gil-Rivas, Greenberger, Chen & LopezLena, 2003; Mirowsky & Ross, 1989).
One problem with depression which was evidenced by Dan’s experience is
the fact that by the time it is recognized it may be too late. “The reason is simple.
Depression is a sneak thief, slipping into a life gradually and robbing it of
meaning, one loss at a time. The losses are imperceptible at first, but eventually
weigh so heavily that the person's life becomes empty. Once begun, the course of
depression varies with the individual and with the form of the illness. Untreated, it
can last weeks, months, or even years” (Ainsworth, 2000, p. 3). For Dan by the
time he was diagnosed with depression he was already critical with symptoms of
disorientation as shown above.
Complications for Dan resulted from the fact that he was also dealing with
cultural issues coupled with being in a foreign country. Cultural adjustment is
emotionally tasking even without having to deal with issues of depression (Davie,
1947; York, 1994). In this case Dan was dealing with both issues that were
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powerful enough to impact his life drastically. Being away from culture of origin,
having no family support and maintaining a negative view of counseling added up
to make the situation near impossible. Without a healthy view of counseling it is
impossible for him to consider seeking help in spite of the emotional turmoil
going on his life.
As it will be demonstrated in this chapter, resistance to counseling is a
common experience among international students. Dan’s refusal to seek
professional counseling was a reflection of international students attitude towards
counseling in general. It was not something new.
Case Study #3
Rita came from a country in Asia and lived in the USA long enough to
become a citizen. She attended a prestigious university and graduated with
honors. She then transferred to another prestigious university where I met her and
linked her with a host family. It was in her second year that problems began to
develop for Rita. First, she developed anxiety fearing that she might not make the
grades. Indeed her grades began to go down causing her anxiety to heighten even
much more. The heightened anxiety was making it difficult for her to concentrate
causing her grades to suffer even more. She also began to suspect that the
professors did not like her and were causing her to fail.
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Eventually, Rita was forced to drop out of school because she was not
making the grades. Her host family worked hard to convince her to see a
psychiatrist. Eventually she began to receive counseling and showed signs of
improvements. However, one day she noticed that the counselor was recording
time at the beginning and at the end of each session. She asked the counselor if
that meant she was going to pay for the sessions. The counselors stated in a
joking way, “You can pay when you get a good job.” That was it for Rita. The
counselor was not trustworthy. He was there only to make money of her. She
immediately quit coming to the counseling session. No one was able to convince
her to go back.
Life continued to prove very difficult for Rita. She withdrew from
everyone and started living on welfare. She confined herself to her apartment and
going out only to buy food. Failure to complete school was such a big issue that
life seemed to lose meaning for her. Why did the fear of failure to complete her
degree become so catastrophic? Why such an anxiety in the first place?
Working with her I found out that rejection had been a part of Rita from
childhood. She stated that she was an unwanted child and her mother died at
childbirth. Her siblings wanted nothing to do with her. So she lived in an
orphanage and later wondered from home to home before becoming completely
independent. All these years she has felt rejected by society. These past issues
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complicated her ability to adjust culturally while carrying a full load of studies.
In spite of being bright enough to easily win scholarship in a prestigious
university, emotional stress hindered her from succeeding. She lost everything
because she was not able to cope with her emotional problems complicated by
cultural maladjustment.
According to Kirkpatrick (1955) “culture together with natural
environment, heredity, and variable or personal-social behavior constitute
fundamental factors shaping the destiny of individuals and groups. Cultural
inconsistency in association with scarcity, differences, and clash of motives seems
interwoven, in a somewhat causative way, with the troubles and problems of
human beings” (p. 176). Family is an important cultural institution that helps
shape the life of the individual, and determine how one can deal with life issues
(Biller, 1993; Duane, Stewart & Bridgeland, 2003; Kirkpatrick, 1955). Studies
suggest that family stress can affect the child’s ability to develop emotional and
even physical illnesses (Biller, 1993). Other studies suggest that even when
placing troubled juveniles in homes, parental support is still of great significance
for the learning of the juvenile (Schwartz & Auclaire, 1995).
Rita’s family became an institution of rejection and therefore she did not
learn to deal with issues of life. Artiles & Hallahan, (1995) found that family
rejection for adolescent children with learning disability can have negative
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consequences. To them, "Rejection places children with learning disabilities at
risk for socioemotional maladjustment. Children need to feel accepted and that
they belong. When they do not find acceptance at home or at school, they are in
danger, especially during adolescence, of entering peer groups that may provide
them with emotional support but frequently lead to antisocial behaviors” (pp. 182183).
After studying early childhood rejection Stevens & Gardner, (1994)
concluded that “Clearly, the anticipation of the loss of a nurturing, protective
person in the first few months of life can be said to impinge upon the
consciousness of a person who is helpless, particularly helpless to prevent the
absence of that other person. When mothering … or the mothering person is
neglectful or rejecting and the infant is particularly immature and helpless, the
absence becomes traumatic and, according to this application of repetitioncompulsion, the threat of loss of nurturance, protection, and security will
revitalize the affective component of the trauma” (p. 107).
Rita’s family rejection traumatized and placed her in danger of becoming
antisocial. This also meant that she did not have cultural stability since she had
no family to assist her in learning about her own culture. One can see the
complications she faced trying to adjust socially to a foreign culture without
social skills from her own culture.
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Case Study #4
I met Tim at the University campus. At first he was just like any other
student going from one class to another. However, as our friendship developed it
became apparent that Tim was under so much stress that he feared his grades were
going down. Indeed his ability to concentrate was greatly affected by the anxiety.
But what caused such a serious anxiety? Tim came from Ethiopia but his family
worked and lived in Kuwait. We met at the time of the Gulf War.
When the war broke out Tim lost contact with his family and he found
himself without the financial support that he normally received from his parents.
Missing his family and losing financial support combined to create serious crisis
for him. Who was there to understand the serious issues Tim was experiencing?
To an average American the war was going very well and the enemy was losing.
But to Tim the war was putting him out of touch with his family and source of
support and yet there was no one to identify with his suffering. He found himself
lonely and having to keep his pain and the suffering to himself.
Unfortunately my contact with Tim was limited and it was years later that
I learned of Tim’s decision not to continue with his education due to emotional
stress and financial problems. He became a taxi driver just to survive. What did
it mean for Tim to quit his studies and give up the dream that caused him to leave
his family and travel all the way to the USA?
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Cild (1998) did a study of American Indian children who were separated
from their families and put in boarding schools without or with very limited
opportunities to visit home. His conclusion was that many of them suffered
psychologically due to stress from homesickness. When combined with issues of
being in a foreign country psychological pain can be overwhelming. “The overall
experience of many refugees, including the trauma of relocation, isolation from
family and friends, problems with acculturation, and the economic stresses
associated with the inability to find and hold a job may increase depression, lower
self-esteem, damage psychological well-being, hurt coping skills, and increase
anger and frustration” (Mayadas & Segal, 2000, p. 219).
By being in America Tim was vulnerable to all the above symptoms. But
now he was facing fear of not knowing if his family was still alive. At the same
time lack of financial support and the need to continue with his education created
a psychological crisis for him. All these, plus the need to adjust culturally,
combined to intensify stress and depression (Kirkpatrick 1955; Mayadas & Segal,
2000; Potocky-Tripodi 2002).
Case Study #5
Paul came from a country in Asia. He applied for a college in the United
States. Excited about being accepted into an American college, he signed every
form without reading the content. Upon arrival on campus, the student
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discovered that one of the forms he signed contained strong restrictions that made
it very difficult for him to adjust to the campus life and consequently to the
American society. His movements were restricted because the institution felt it
was their responsibility to ensure that the student concentrated on studies and not
social life.
Four years of study in this college left the student longing to know the
American life style but never had the opportunity. Upon graduation he had an
opportunity to do practical training which meant that his student status allowed
him to work and earn money for one year. Some friends of his family welcomed
him to their home and gave him free room and board. Everything was going well
until problems began to surface. The family complained that Paul was rejecting
every suggestion they gave him.
In my listening to the family and to Paul the issue came down to one
problem. He interpreted any suggestion the family gave as people telling him
what to do and how to run his life. And yet his survival depended on the host
family helping him adjust culturally to the USA. Unfortunately the family felt
that every discussion became a reason for sharp arguments.
When I met the student, he had a professional job under practical work
permit. The job was prestigious and promised a permanent position at the end of
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the year. However, it was obvious that some psychological problems were
beginning to affect every hope he had in life. When the employer suggested to
him that healthcare insurance was a part of requirement for employment he took
that as another way for someone attempting to control his life. This relationship
with his employer was affected. This lead to him losing his job.
Eventually Paul moved from the city and found an apartment in a city
away from the environment in which he was known. He managed to find a parttime job with an income that barely met his financial needs. Meanwhile the
expectation from home was that anyone going to America becomes successful
and should only return home with degrees and money.
The student found himself trapped. On one hand he missed his family at
home. On the other hand the idea of returning home without money and no
guarantee of getting a job was unthinkable. Meanwhile friends who did not travel
overseas were settled with families and doing well financially. After eight years
overseas he had nothing to show. At the same time life in America did not offer
him much hope. His world felt like a prison with no way out. He accepted no
advice because to him that constituted surrender of his life to the control of other
people.
My initial assessment was that the problem stemmed from the restrictions
placed in his life in College. However, after listening to Paul more issues
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surfaced. At home he grew up under an extremely religious Muslim mother who
put all kinds of restrictions in his life. When he left home he thought he was
finally getting freedom to do what he wanted to do. However, college became
another bondage.
Studies suggest that abused children tend to internalize the negative
experience received from parents (Whitbeck, 1999). For Paul the experience
coupled with the issue of being in a foreign culture magnified the problems into
major psychological issues. More studies reveal that while parental control has
positive effects, it can also have a negative consequences on individual’s
psychological development (Amato & Booth, 1997; Pomerantz & Eaton, 2000).
For Paul parental control left him unable to adjust to life without feeling afraid of
people replacing his mother to control his life.
Obviously Paul’s experience at home left him psychological scars that
resulted from his mother’s control. Given that relationship, home culture was
something he was trying to escape. But that left him also without any cultural
stability and knowledge of how to address issues in life (Stevens & Gardner,
1994). In the United States, he found himself without that cultural base from
which to address issues in his life. At the same time he was trying to adjust to a
new culture without the skills of coping with adjustment process.
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Case Study #6
Lydia was a student in one of the East Coast universities. Her husband
was also a student and both were doing well raising their children who did well in
the schools they attended. One day the news came from home that her uncle who
raised her from childhood was very sick and about to die. I knew Lydia and her
family well. When she came to talk to me about the issue she had one complaint
about her pastor. “He immediately talked about donating money for my trip
home,” stated Lydia referring to her pastor. “I am dealing with the possibility of
my uncle dying and all my pastor is thinking about is that I came for money”.
Why was she upset with her pastor’s immediate offer to help with the
transportation? Cultural issues were emerging here. In her culture relationship of
caring and sympathy was the most important gift he could give her at that time.
Offering money made her feel like she came to beg. The pastor on the other hand
was thinking practically. Possibility of death at home means she needed to go and
grief with the family. That was indeed a need but not the focus of the visit
according to Lydia. Nevertheless, arrangements were made and soon, with the
help of her Church, she was able to go home and spend time with her uncle.
She returned to the United States before her uncle died. However a few
months later the news of his death arrived. Lydia grieved but was able to return
to her normal life and was able to do well with her studies and her job. But things
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did not stop there. Another devastating phone call. The same disease that
claimed the uncle’s life had also claimed the life of her brother. Meanwhile
another close relative was undergoing surgery for the same illness. What did it
mean for her to lose two relatives while she studied far away from home?
According to Potocky-Tripodi (2002) “The most commonly observed
mental health problems of immigrants, and particularly refugees, include grief,
alienation and loneliness, decreased self-esteem, depression, anxiety,
somatization, paranoia, guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse”
(p. 484). International students share similar issues as they share the commonality
of being away from familiar culture and environment (Arthur, 1997; Burak, 1987;
Emougu, 1985; Huxur et al, 1996; Pedersen, 1991).
As it will be demonstrated below, the case studies above represent some of
the serious issues that international students encounter during their studies in the
United States. In order for pastoral care providers to meet the counseling needs of
international students it is important to understand the uniqueness of the issues
one faces when dealing with sojourning students.
U-Curve Theory
For many years the theory of U-Curve was accepted as a standard for
understanding adjustment process for international students when they enter a
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foreign land (Ward et al, 1998). The theory claimed that adjustment problems
were encountered between 6 to 12 months of residency abroad (Ward et al, 1998).
According to Lysgaard (as in Ward et al, 1998, p. 278), “Adjustment as a process
over time seems to follow a U-shaped curve: adjustment is felt to be easy and
successful to begin with; then follows a ‘crisis’ in which one feels less welladjusted, somewhat lonely and unhappy; finally one begins to feel better adjusted
again, becoming more integrated into the foreign community.”
According to the theory the sojourner experiences greatest difficulties in
the first six month and then the degree of difficulties drops significantly after six
months and then rise again six months later. The problem with this theory
according to Ward et al (1998) is that first it is based on cross-sectional studies
rather than longitudinal which is more appropriate for this kind of study. Crosssectional study assumes that everyone experiences and reacts the same way under
particular circumstances. Secondly, cultural adjustment is not clearly defined
and sometimes psychological and social adjustments are used interchangeably.
Ward et al (1998) see fundamental difference between the two adaptive processes.
They see psychological adjustment as “largely influenced by personality, social
support and life change variables while sociocultural adaptation is more strongly
affected by cultural distance, amount of contact with host nationals and cultural
knowledge” (p. 279).
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Ward et al (1998) did another study with 35 Japanese students who studied
in New Zealand. The subjects responded to four questions that were given in
sequences. First, within 24 hours of arrival, second at four months, third at six
months and the fourth at 12 months. The purpose was to examine sociocultural
and psychological adjustment within the period of six months.
The study resulted in conclusions that differed from the U-Curve theory.
“Adjustment difficulties decreased between entry and four months of overseas
experience with no further significant changes at the 6 and 12 month testings. In
addition, as predicted, the magnitude of the correlation between psychological and
sociocultural adjustment increased over time, with significant differences found
between point of entry and 1 year of residence abroad” (p. 286).
Their conclusion was that “U-curve model of sojourner adjustment should
be rejected, and more promising conceptual perspectives such as stress and coping
theories and culture learning approaches be further and more profitably
investigated” (P. 290). One important result of this study is to note that one
cannot group international students into one category. So many other variations
affect how they interact and adjust to the environment and culture of the host
country.
While the study above disagrees with the finding of the U-Curve theory, it
does not negate the reality that foreign students experience adjustment issues
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during their study overseas. The case studies demonstrate the reality and the
seriousness of the social and psychological problems that affect students seeking
to further their education in a foreign land. The uniqueness of these issues pauses
a challenge to pastoral care and counseling professionals seeking to help
international students adjust culturally while pursuing academic ambitions. It is
therefore important to discuss these issues in order to demonstrate the need and
the uniqueness of reaching international students through pastoral care and
counseling services.
The narrative studies covered so far in this chapter will serve as examples
and demonstrate the seriousness of these issues in the lives of international
students. The issues are drawn from studies done by other scholars n in the field.
The purpose is to integrate the experiences of the students and the findings of
research studies.
Specific Adjustment Issues
Adjustment issues affecting international students in their studies overseas
include cultural attitude towards counseling, academic expectations, difference in
approach to learning, death and/or serious illness at home, and culture shock.
Each of these issues will be discussed individually. The case studies will serve as
examples to illustrate how severe these issues can be for some students.
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Cultural Attitude Towards Counseling
Each of the narrative case studies done in this chapter concurs with the
finding that foreign students resist the idea of seeking counseling help from a
professional (Hayes & Lin, 1994; Komiya & Ellis, 2001; Yau, Sue & Hayden,
1992). Why is it so? Wehrly (1988) outlined several reasons. First, in the nonwestern countries counseling help comes from the family and not outsiders.
Problems should not go outside the family context. Secondly, there is a stigma
attached to anyone seeking psychological help. It is viewed negatively in the nonwestern cultures including industrialized countries like Japan. Thirdly, as a result
of these cultural constraints, the concept of counseling remains strange in the
minds of international students. Fourthly, and even after a student agrees to seek
counseling, the problem of self disclosure is an issue.
Peter (case study #1) was able to convince the therapist that he was doing
fine when in fact his emotional condition was very critical. He could not disclose
the fact that he was under stress. According to Wehrly (1988), “western
expectation for self-disclosure and dealing with feelings during counseling
sessions may be considered not only alien, but extremely threatening and
demeaning” (p. 6). This was evident when Peter was conversing with me one
time. After he explained every stressful situation he was under, my response was
simply to acknowledged the evidences that he was under stress. But immediately
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Peter responded by stating “No, I am not under stress. In fact I sleep well.”
Obviously, it was uncomfortable for him to admit even to a friend that he was
experiencing an emotional problem. In some cultures psychological problems are
viewed negatively and sometimes associated with immoral thoughts (Boyer &
Sedlacek, 1989; Mori, 2000).
Cultural attitude towards counseling is a factor that those seeking to help
internationals cope with life in the foreign country must address. With this
understanding one can see why it was difficult for each of the cases above to seek
counseling help. What makes the situation so critical is that without help things
can get gravely worst for the students. Dan’s resistance to suggestion for
counseling in spite of the tremendous stress is a good example. It is importance to
note that when he did go to counseling none of his friends knew about it.
Resistance to the western form of counseling and absence of family support
leaves the student without help and vulnerable to serious complications socially,
psychologically and spiritually. Pastoral counselors seeking to impact the lives of
international students must think of different approaches that will draw the
student to counseling because resistance is common (Arthur, 1997; Mori, 2000;
Smith et al, 1999). One cannot set up an office and expect foreign students to
come seeking help in spite of the need for counseling.
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Academic Expectations
Why did the fear of academic failure affect Rita (Case study #3) and Paul
(Case Study #5) so much that they ended up loosing every opportunity accorded
to them? First, international students who travel to study abroad have to deal with
high and maybe unrealistic expectations back home (Oropeza, Fitzgibbon and
Baron, 1991). Chen (1999) found that academic performance for foreign students
have either negative or positive effect in their adjustment process. Describing
students from South-east Asia, Fernandez (1988) stated “Because education is a
valued commodity in the home countries of Southeast-Asian students, the
necessity to succeed and not return home as a failure is a stress” (p. 161). The
expectation is to do better than their performance at home. Once the thought of
failing entered Rita’s mind it created an overwhelming fear complicated by worry
that she will look like a failure to the people she represented from her home.
Chen (1999) sees another reason for such an emphasis on academic
success. “If students perceive they are academically successful, they are likely to
feel more confident in living in the new environment. Otherwise, they may feel
that things are out of control, and that there are harms and threats to their welfare”
(p. 52). For a foreign student trying to fulfill personal and family goals for his or
her study, this feeling of things being out of control can be devastating. Rita
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demonstrated this reality when her academic ability was completely clouded by
the fear of failing to the point of giving up her educational pursuits.
Many of the foreign students were chosen because of their top academic
performance (Chen, 1999). Their success or failure can affect the chances of
others desiring to come for further studies (Burak, 1987). Thus family pride and
sponsoring agencies can create pressure so that the “need for high achievement
then becomes a critical stress factor for many foreign students” (Oropeza,
Fitzgibbon and Baron, 1991, p. 281). The situation is worsened by the fact a “C”
grade for some of the students constitute a failure (Burak, 1987; Chen, 1999).
The feelings of failure like the case of Rita (Case Study #3) can have a spiral
effect that will continually worsen the student’s emotional instability and
rendering him or her unable to perform academically and socially.
On a personal level education is the main purpose of a student traveling
overseas (Fernandez, 1988). Failure to achieve it can be catastrophic as the
individual students feel the weight of disappointing family, friends and home
country (Naughton, 1985, Council of Graduate Schools in the US, 1991,
Emoungu, 1985). Arthur (1997) stated “The threat of failure, whether real or
perceived, and returning home to face embarrassment of self, family, or sponsors,
coupled with the financial resources allocated for the international student can be
immense pressure” (p. 262).
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Secondly, even without the pressure from family and sponsors, the thought
of not succeeding in education is in itself a cause for serious anxiety, which can
affect the student’s concentration necessary for effective learning. Again Rita is a
good example. She had no family or sponsoring agent to worry about. However,
she was afflicted by pressure she placed on herself to succeed. The pressure
affected her ability to concentrate creating more anxiety, which resulted in her
quitting school. When a student is unable to concentrate, his or her grades will be
affected causing further complication in the anxiety level. An effective pastoral
care and counseling professional must take into account the issues of academic
performance and expectation from the student and the country of origin.
Some of the students are on scholarship and their financial support
depends on their ability to perform academically. At the same time language
barrier, for the students from non-English speaking countries, can be a factor in
their ability to learn (Wehrly 1988). All of these factors increase the chances of a
student experiencing serious psychological problems related to academic
performance (Oropeza, Fitzgibbon and Baron, 1991). Feelings of obligation to
please and satisfy family, friends, supporting agencies and country of origin can
be so overwhelming to the student and may lead to serious emotional crisis.
Emoungu (1985) stated that South African students could not concentrate in their
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studies as they worried about their families’ safety during periods of unrest. All
these factors may heighten the student’s level of anxiety, which will have the
effect of causing the student to fail. An effective pastoral counseling program, for
foreign students, must take into account the possible emotional issues caused by
academic pressure.
Difference in Approach to Learning
Besides the fact that a student is operating under much pressure to
succeed, some other factors can affect his or her performance and even lead to
further failure. Idowu (1985) sighted the difference in the system of education in
the United States. He pointed out that, Nigerian students, who are used to essay
exams, experience stress and anxiety when they have to adjust to multiple choice
questions and frequent quizzes.
In his study of Taiwanese students, Parker (1999) noted difficulties
foreign students encounter in the academic environment in the United States. One
of them is the emphasis on competition in which the foreign students sees success
as doing better than others. In the United States sometimes students are assigned
to study in groups. A student, who views success in terms of outperforming
others, will find it difficult to study in a group setting. The concern is that the
student cares only about getting the right answers while neglecting learning
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through team effort. “They will exhibit a genuine and determined work ethic, but
they were, as a group, unfamiliar with designing or assessing cooperative group
activities” (p. 7). The experience can be stressful for the foreign student who,
besides trying to adjust to the new concept, may feel like an outsider in the group
setting.
Wehrly (1988) observed the same problem when he stated that
“International students may experience differences in teaching and learning
strategies in classes here in the United States as compared to education in their
own countries” (p. 5). To him rote learning is a method applied as a standard for
learning in many countries. The fact that students from these countries “are
expected to synthesize and draw their own conclusions from what they read (in a
foreign language) may be an entirely new assignment” (p. 5).
Then there is the issue of one getting used to informality in the class room.
In the United States students and professors interact and relate informally. But
international students “may come from a culture where it is inappropriate for
students to develop any personal rapport with faculty, and they may feel uneasy
being more than passive receivers of the written or spoken word: the teacher
presents the information and the student receives it” (pp. 5-6). The concern is that
while American approach to education encourages critical thinking, students who
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are used to receiving, retaining and recalling information may find class room
atmosphere difficult.
Thirdly Parker found that while the American system of education
emphasized the importance of the learning process, international students tend to
be task oriented. The idea of discovery learning did not seem valuable to them,
because ‘”they wanted to know the specific task and the most efficient way to
accomplish the task” (p. 7). Trying to cope with the new approach to learning can
affect the student emotionally and academically. Arthur (1997) saw similar
problems with foreign students studying in Canada. The adjustment is
“complicated by cultural differences from previous educational settings and the
demands to quickly master changes in other roles in the host culture” (p. 260).
Fourthly, Parker found that due to language difficulties some international
students did not understand the issue of plagiarism. He noted that, in spite of
explanation, some students were quoting different authors word for word without
using quotation marks and without giving credit to the original authors. He points
out that this is just one example of language problems internationals encounter.
“When confronted, the students would genuinely attempt to rewrite the passage or
cite the quote, but many times the limitations of language and translation
confounded the intent and clarity of the writing” (p 7). Chen (1999) points out
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that “If international students do not have adequate language skills, they may find
themselves at a disadvantage in their academic and social lives” (p. 51)
Arthur (1999) agreed that language plays an important role in the student’s
ability to learn. In her study of foreign students in Canada, she noted that the
student’s academic and social success depended very much on his or her ability to
communicate with fellow students and others in the host culture. It is also a factor
that will impact counseling relationships. Arthur further states that “A limited
vocabulary from which to describe concerns and symptoms, combined with
anxiety of seeking counseling assistance, may explain the embarrassment and
sense of inadequacy expressed by international students who seek counseling
assistance” (p. 263).
Luzio-Lockett (1998) also described similar dilemma for international
students studying in Europe. She appealed for a change in helping international
students in their learning when the problem is language. To her the international
student is subjected to a foreign language, foreign system of education which he
or she has to learn to understand while “adjusting to an educational system which,
in the contemporary political climate is itself undergoing continuous change” (p.
209). The point is that language problems can be a major issue for an
international student trying to succeed in an American system of education.
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The problem of dealing with a different system of education is also
complicated by the fact that the foreign student has to think about the relevancy of
his or her education in the home country. Wehrly, (1988) expressed the same
concern when he stated that “the students are usually trying to determine how
much of what they are learning is really relevant to their home culture” (p. 5). In
essence while an international student is adjusting to a foreign method of learning,
he or she is psychologically addressing the issue of practical application of the
acquired knowledge.
Unfamiliar system of education is a challenge for an international student.
When the style and the language of learning are both foreign, the learner finds
himself or herself in serious emotional problems because of stress that result from
the pressure for success while dealing with the unknown in terms of culture and
language (Chen 1999; Merta et al, 1992; Mori, 2000). In other words the pressure
to succeed is complicated by language deficiency and unfamiliar style of learning.
Political Crisis at Home
Tim (Case study #4), left home when everything was fine. His family
members had good jobs and were able to finance his education in the USA. He
left home hoping to return and find it the way it was when he left. He had no
reason to anticipate a crisis like the Gulf War, which cut off his support and
communication with his family. He found himself in a serious dilemma that he
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was totally unprepared to address. War or political unrest in a student’s home
country can be a devastating experience and a source of serious anxiety,
especially when family and financial support are lost (Council of Graduate
Students in the US, 1991; Burak, 1987). The matter is complicated by the fact
that everything happens so unexpectedly and hits a student who is already dealing
with academic pressure in a foreign environment. Communication breakdown
with the family is in itself a serious source of psychological anguish. When it is
coupled with financial problems, the issue can become too overwhelming for a
student who may have no one to provide any form of support.
War or political unrest can cause other problems for the student.
Sometimes the political change involves a change of relationship between the
student’s country and the United States. In this case the student may be identified
with a country considered an enemy of the United States (Sandhu & Asrabadi,
1991). Fear of repercussions may keep the students isolated and unable to share
deep hurts. Meanwhile the demands of maintaining academic load of study to
maintain student status remain unchanged (Oropeza et al, 1991). In some cases
the student may actually experience prejudice for being from a country considered
an enemy.
In the case of Tim, he was forced to drop out of school to find a way to
survive. Dropping out of school meant giving up a life time dream. Education
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was the reason the student traveled to the foreign land. Inability to complete his
or her academic goals can also devastate the student as it is another significant
lose. Take for example the case of Rita (Case study #3). Though not due to war
or political unrest, her inability to complete her education was devastating enough
to force her to live in isolation even up to the present time. All these loses can
render the student unable to cope with the grief while dealing with cultural
adjustment (Council of Graduate Students in the US, 1991).
Death and/or Serious Illness at Home
Students leave their countries and families to study abroad with the
expectation of returning to the same home and the same people they left behind.
That was the case for Lydia (Case Study #6). She left home hoping to return and
celebrate her accomplishments with her whole family. Losing her uncle and her
brother meant also that she lost her dream to some day celebrate her achievements
with her family. The situation was devastating. News about death and serious
illness in the family come as a shock. The student may feel guilty for
being away from the family at such a difficult time (Burak, 1987; Emougu, 1985;
Naughton & Ed, 1985). Though it was not the case for Rita, for some students
death of family members could mean a lost of financial support (Burak, 1985;
Naughten et al, 1985).
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Grieving is a painful process for anyone. But when it is coupled with all
the complications of being in a foreign country and separated from loved ones
while trying to adjust in a new culture it becomes overwhelming and can create
serious crisis for the individual. Critically important is the fact that the
international may not think of sharing these personal problems with a counselor
(Sandhu et al, 1991; Werhly, 1988). Meanwhile the pressure of studies and the
need to maintain good grades continue to increase the level of stress for the
foreign student.
Inability to share problems with others means that the professors may have
no way of understanding the dilemma of the grieving student. Any sign of failure
academically may lead the professor to conclude that the particular student is not
applying necessary effort. The student may in turn interpret the professor’s
attitude as insensitive and uncaring. One can see how this can complicate the
situation and make life unbearable for the international student. Without help in
dealing with grief the student may not have a way of addressing the issue. Care
providers must think about the issue of grief and possibility that the student may
be experiencing without verbalizing to anyone.
Culture Shock
Silva-Netto (1992) defines culture as “the learned and shared system of
meanings used by the cultural participants to respond to situations, to create
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environments, to define roles, to design goals, to establish boundaries, to structure
relationships, to interpret social behaviors, to facilitate communications, to
generate decisions and actions, and to engage in multifarious human activities” (p.
137). Augsburger (1986) defines culture in terms of values. To him “Culture
integrate themselves around a central cluster of values” (p. 76). He sees the same
values as taking “the form of institutions, structure, and political establishments”
(p. 76).
Students from other countries bring their cultural values that are rooted in
structures and forms foreign to those in the host culture. They have a way of
understanding relationships, expectations of roles, communications and many
other expectations in life (Fernandez, 1988; Foust Ed., 1981; Komiya & Ellis,
2001). Their cultural upbringing informs them about life and how to interpret and
respond to difference circumstances. When their cultural value systems conflict
with the foreign culture the result can be psychological pain and confusion (Abe
& Zane, 1990; Gilton, 1994; Jackson, 1974). This is because survival in the new
culture requires the student to make rapid adjustments so that he or she can fit into
the society. According to Arthur, “The need for rapid understanding and
demonstration of appropriate role behavior in the host culture may be the source
of considerable stress, resulting in identity diffusion and role conflict…” (p. 264).
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Sometimes the process of adjusting to a new culture means dying to the
culture of origin. “The familiar culture must die in the sojourner, and the process
of dying is multiphasic. Denial, anger, negotiation, and acceptance form some of
the phases of adjustment a sojourner must experience in order to adapt to a new
culture” (York, 1994, p. 48). The experience can be painful and complicated for
the sojourner.
Foreign students’ lives are not limited to the classroom. They have to
adjust to a foreign life style which includes foreign foods, climate, cultural norms
and expectations regarding relationships (More, 1987; Mark 1987). How a
student responds to the experience of being in a foreign culture can have serious
effect on his or her ability to perform academically. According to Taft (as cited in
Merta, Stringham & Pontrotto, 1988) “Culture shock is the feeling of impotence
on the part of the stranger who cannot deal competently with his (her)
environment owing to unfamiliarity with cognitive aspects of the culture and
inability to perform the necessary role-playing skills” (p. 242). In essence culture
shock results in the sojourner’s inability to reconcile the norms of the new culture
and that of the original culture.
According to Hunter and Whitten (as cited in Gilton, 1994), “Culture
shock is ‘a common psychological response to exposure to an unfamiliar culture
[which] is characterized by disorientation, heightened anxiety, and more rarely by
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depressed or paranoid behavior’” (p. 54). Gilton (1994) further states that
“Culture shock occurs when a person in a new culture finds that the unwritten
rules that worked at home culture no longer work” (pp. 54-55). Fernandez
described culture shock in terms of its unpredictability. He stated that “The
outstanding features of culture shock include the inability to make any sense out
of the behavior of others or to predict what they will say or do” (p. 158).
Experience of culture shock may include fatigue, burn outs, disorientation,
and feelings of helplessness (Snow, 1997; Fernandez, 1988, Gilton, 1994). Arthur
(1997) sees culture shock manifesting itself “in psychological symptoms such as
depression, social withdrawals, academic problems, loneliness, hostility towards
host culture members, or psychological reactions such as insomnia or vague
physical symptoms” (p. 265). Culture shock in this research refers to the
experience of one feeling helpless and hopeless in trying to adjust in a new
culture. In this sense the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness describes the
intensity which distinguishes culture shock from the normal experience of cultural
adjustment in a foreign land.
Gilton (1994) described three phases of culture shock. One is the euphoric
state in which the sojourner is first introduced to the new culture. In the second
phase the newcomer discovers that the rules that worked in his or her culture do
not work in the foreign culture. The problem in this phase is that the sojourner
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has not learned the new rules yet. The sojourner begins to develop objectivity, in
the third phase, in his or her attitude towards the foreign culture. At this stage he
or she can see advantages and disadvantages of the new culture. The degrees of
such an experience differ according to the individual’s ability to cope and
availability of support system.
Arthur (1997) reflected the same stages when she summarized U-curve
experience. She stated that “Stages progress from initial excitement and optimism
about encountering a new culture, a shift toward the bottom of the U-curve to
reflect difficulties with cultural differences and resulting negative affect, and the
later stage of recovery as strategies for managing in the host culture are mastered”
(p. 263). While U-Curve theory was seen, in this study, as inadequate it is
important to note that students do experience different level of stress at different
times during their cultural adjustment.
In providing counseling help to the foreign students it is important to
understand that adjustment process takes a student through different stages in life
experiences. Thus the counselor needs to take into account the reality that the
need of each student will differ depending on the stage she or he is at the time
service is provided. However, as Ward et al (1998) found these stages do not
always apply the same way with each student. Therefore it is important that the
counselor treat each case uniquely.
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The effect of culture shock can be devastating and may result in serious
psychological and physical symptoms, which may seriously interfere with the
student’s ability to function academically and socially (Moore, 1987; Oropeza,
Fitzgibbon & Baron, 1991). Jackson (1974) observed how serious culture shock
can affect the individual. He stated “But culture shock strikes its victims so hard
that it almost seems incurable; ‘Wonder Pills’ have little effect against what
Cousins calls ‘compassion fatigue,’ a malady of the spirit upsetting the moral and
mental equilibrium of its victims. The only sure cure for such a person appears to
be a trip home, either on leave or permanently” (p. 235). It is noteworthy that
Jackson is not advocating a mandate to send home anyone experiencing serious
problems adjusting to a new culture. His purpose in this statement is to describe
the magnitude of the problem of culture shock as experienced by the foreigners.
Dan, (case study #2) is a good example of such serious symptoms of
culture shock. He was doing well in school, had a good job and almost a free
room and board. These were commodities that any international student will
cherish in an American college. And yet in spite of all these privileges he was not
able to cope and almost lost everything. It is noteworthy that he got well only
after spending time with his family and enjoying that family support. Obviously,
absence of family support and familiar environment made his cultural adjustment
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unbearable to the point that he developed serious psychological problems.
Not only did the family provide support for Dan. They talked about home,
prepared familiar food and simply allowed him to enjoy the stories and the
experiences familiar to him from the past. The experience was therapeutic
enough that over six months later he was back to normal and able to concentrate
on his studies and job. His psychological and physical ailments resulted from
inability to cope with the foreign culture and environment. A few months with
the family resulted in him retuning back to school and able to function normal.
Summary
Pastoral care and counseling professionals seeking to help students with
their spiritual, social, psychological and emotional problems must learn to address
issues of cultural adjustment affecting the students who are seeking to adjust to
the new culture. Adjustment issues that can affect the student in the foreign
country include cultural attitude towards counseling, academic expectations,
different approach to learning, political crisis at home, death or serious illness at
home and culture shock. Pastoral care provider must address these issues in order
to help the foreign students maximize their stay in the host country.
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Chapter 5
Reverse Culture Shock and Re-entry Issues
Adjustment for the student is not limited to the foreign country. In this
chapter I will demonstrate that when students return to their home countries, they
face yet another adjustment that is even more challenging than the adjustment in
the foreign country. Discussion in this chapter will include factors that
complicate readjustment process as students return and reintegrates into the
culture of origin.
When students study overseas they undergo changes that eventually
affects how they adjust to their home countries. Pai (1997) acknowledges the
importance of reverse culture shock by stating that “For returnees, the major tasks
may be making a reentry adjustment; for their home countries, the challenge may
be dealing with the impacts (political, social, economical, technical, educational,
etc) posed by the returnees. Among all types of returnees, international students
and their reentry require particular attention” (p. 2). Students returning to their
home countries do face major adjustment challenges and the pastoral care
providers and counselors must address.
Americans, who study or spend time overseas, also, become victims of
reverse culture shock (Gaw, 1995, Huff, 2001). Thus, the issue is universal in the
sense that it affects not only students coming to USA, but also Americans going
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overseas (Hogan, 1983; Jackson, 1974). Hogan (1983) described the dilemma
faced by Americans who return after a period of time overseas. To him “the
returnee must re-arrange with his/her education or profession, peers, and family.”
The reason is that “An unsuccessful reentry may pass from euphoria to alienation
and rejection leading to either geographic or psychological expatriation” (p. 14).
The experience can be so severe that some end up choosing to leave their
home and return to the foreign country (Hansel, 1993; Hogan 1983). The fact that
some find it necessary to return to the host country indicates the severity of the
problem and the need for the profession of pastoral care and counseling to take it
seriously and prepare counselors to address it. According to Hogan (1983)
unsuccessful reentry is the reason why the sojourners feel devastated enough to
want to return to the host country. Before discussing reasons for the reverse
culture shock or reentry it important to define what is meant by “reverse culture
shock”.
Reverse Culture Shock Defined
Huntsberger (1989) defines Reentry as “the experience of a person going
home after academic training and adjustment to changes within oneself and
changes at home” (p. 6). After years of hard work and a long process of learning,
the student has to say good-bye and return to the country of origin. Perhaps it
should be a happy experience for one returning home to family, friends and
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familiar culture. The reality is that it is not an easy experience. Research indicate
that students returning home after years of study abroad encounter another long
process of adjustment, more difficult than the adjustment to the foreign country
(Marks, 1987; Isa, 2000).
Arthur (1997) suggested that international students “may enter another
period of cultural transition as they face discrepancy between their personal
learning and the degree of change in their relationships and other living conditions
in their home countries” (p. 264). According to Frazee (1997) sojourners who
adjust well in a foreign country face more problems in adjusting at home. The
positive experience overseas becomes the reason for difficulty in adjusting to the
culture of origin.
According to Huff (2001), reverse culture shock “results from the
psychological and psychosomatic consequences of the readjustment process to the
primary culture” (p. 246). This definition acknowledges the fact that reverse
culture shock can cause serious emotional issues that are easily manifested in
physical as well as psychological pain. Betina (1993) did a study on returnees
from India and found that some experienced adjustment problems even years
after their return home.
Huff (2001) discussed variables related to re-entry. One is that the length
of time one stays at home country after returning from overseas will lessen the
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severity of the culture shock experience. Secondly, the younger the returning
student the easier it is for him or her to adjust to the culture of origin. Thirdly,
lack of social support can complicate the returnee’s readjustment to the culture of
origin.
Foust et al (1981) described issues of reentry in four different categories.
First he classified personal issues as one category. He saw the psychological,
emotional and physical stresses that one encounters during adjustment to own
culture as belonging to this category. Other factors he included in the same
category are identity crisis, insecurity, uncertainty about education and career
plans, professional frustrations, and lost of the benefits of leaving abroad.
Secondly, he discussed what he considered social issues, which may
include relational issues and acceptable behavior. Complications occur when the
sojourner encounters conflict between that which he or she learned and
internalized abroad and what the culture of origin considers acceptable. In this
case the acquired behavior may be in conflict with the acceptable rules of contact.
Such a conflict can cause stress for the returnee and the people in the
home culture (Pai, 1997). Other factors included in this category are changed
behavior, feelings of isolation and alienation, boredom, superiority complex on
the bases of having traveled overseas, jealousy, inability to integrate and
resentment.
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The third is cultural issues and concerns, which addresses how the
returnee relates to the culture of origin. In this category he describes the issues of
objectivity and criticism of the returnee’s home culture. In other words to what
extend is the student objective in criticizing his or her culture? Secondly, to what
extend is the returning student informed and appreciative of his culture and
country? Other issues include feeling of alienation, problems in adjusting to
educational system at home and feelings of frustrations due to limitation in being
able to affect change in society.
The fourth issues are categorized as political. The returnee may return
home only to find political changes that are unfavorable to him or her. The
political climate may conflict with the view of the returnee. In some situations,
the former student will experience a sense of dissatisfaction with home country
compared to the host country. The returning sojourner may find that he or she has
developed international outlook that will create a sense of dissatisfaction if the
same outlook is not shared by the foreign policies and international relations of
his or her home country.
From above discussion it is clear that reverse culture shock is an
experience that affects returning student in variety of ways. It is also an
experience resulting from a conflict between home culture and what one acquires
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in terms of culture, experience, knowledge and worldview in the foreign land. In
order to address the issue, it is important to understand the factors that cause
students to undergo such negative experiences upon returning home. What are
the factors that cause a returning student to experience such difficult time in
making adjustment to his or her home country? Research indicates that there are
several factors.
Causative Factors of Reverse Culture Shock
Personal Changes in the Student’s Life
Isa (2002) did a study on wives of Japanese men who worked in the
United States and then later returned home to settle. While the women did not
necessarily represent returning students, the fact that the study addressed issues of
reentry after a length of stay overseas make some of the experiences relevant to
those of returning students. The study, which focused on adjustment in terms of
space and time, revealed that returning Japanese women found it very difficult to
adjust to their culture of origin. Upon their return, they discovered that what was
familiar culture when they left home was no longer familiar, as they had gotten
used to another culture whose view of space and time differed from that of the
Japanese.
Readjustment to Japanese customs and life style proved to be a very
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difficult process simply because of unconscious acculturation that took place
during their residency overseas. While residing in the USA, they became
accustomed to free space, driving any time they chose and maintaining privacy.
Back in Japan the crowded condition of the cities, slow pace of using public
transportation and small space in their homes took a significant meaning and
made it very uncomfortable for them to adjust. According to the study, many of
the women experienced depression and some sought treatment for emotional
distress.
Such experience of inability to cope with adjustment in one’s own culture
of origin is not unique to women who find themselves having to move overseas
due to their husbands’ job transfers. The same can be said of students returning
home after study overseas. Wilson (1993) did a study of returnees from Australia,
Ecuador, Norway and Sweden. On personal change an overwhelming number of
participants indicated that they experienced significant changes and continued to
feel torn between home country and the host country. At least one found himself
calling the host families in the United States and referring to them as parents. The
experience was so internalized that he felt a sense of family affiliation in the
foreign country.
When the student lands in a new country, the experience is that of being in
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a strange environment and culture. This initial experience causes the student to
idealize home where everything is normal, unlike the hosting country where
everything appears strange and different. In the mind of the sojourner, home
becomes the ideal place and as a result, he or she begins to develop expectations
that may not be realistic (Institute of International Education, 1998; Huxur et al,
1996; Gaw, 1995). Frazee (1997) suggested that over a period of time the same
student begins to adjust, though sometimes unconsciously, while the idealization
of home country continue to develop in his or her mind.
While idealization of home is taking place in the student’s mind, life styles
in the foreign country become a part of his or her experiences and adjustments
(Betina, 1993; Ward, 1999; Frazee, 1997). This process of acculturation takes a
long period of time in which the student goes through many stages (Fernandez,
1988). The student gets used to some of the conveniences that may not available
at home country. For example availability of telephones, ownership of a
vehicle, ability to go to a store any time and many other conveniences that may
not be a part of the student’s culture at home. Practically the individual is
adjusting and getting used to the new culture, but mentally the idea of home being
the norm continues to develop (Isa, 2002; Lerstrom, 1995; Barbian, 2002; Hayes
& Lin, 1994).
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Studies indicate that foreign students do better psychologically and
socially when they identify with the host country (Ward and Rana-Deuba, 1999).
According to Foust et al (1981) social satisfaction in relationships is key to
overall adjustment in the foreign country. The reason is that “Satisfaction
relationships facilitate access to information that is needed to live in the new
culture” (Foust et al, 1981, p. 9). Ward and Rana-Deuba (1999) further stated,
“For socio-cultural adaptation, by contrast, host national identification functions
as the primary influence on the adjective outcome and clearly is linked with a
reduction in social difficulties” (p. 435).
More studies indicate also that most international students prefer
relationship with host nationals than with other foreign students (Hayes and
Heng-Hue, 1994). This preference may mean that during their study in the
foreign country the students will invest in friendship relationships with the
students from the hosting nation. Combination of these two factors, the positive
effect and the preference of foreign students to relate to the host culture, means
that most international students will bond relationships with the people from the
host country. Ironically, this experience has the opposite effect during reentry
process, which means ending these relationships.
Adjusting well to the foreign culture is necessary to the student. However
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research suggests that individuals who adapt well in a foreign culture have the
most difficulties in readjustment back home (Frazee, 1997). Hogan (1983)
explained that bad experience overseas can make returning home a relief which
may contribute to an easier adjustment. He goes on to suggest that “If, on the
other hand the student was ultimately very gratified with his/her foreign
experience, reentry may mean the abrupt removal of potent re-enforcers” (p. 18).
The reality is that the process of adjusting to the new culture requires personal
changes as a necessary process of acculturation (Frazee. 1997). Such changes
affect ones way of thinking and interpreting reality. The reason is that the
“development of an open mind, receptive to different ideas, concepts and
behaviors, is crucial to success in an intercultural situation” (Foust et al p. 17).
While it is healthy for the sojourner to broaden his or her understanding,
such a process of adopting new concepts will impact the returnee’s thinking for
the new concepts become a part of his or her life. This suggests that adjustment
and readjustment process for an international is a complicated process. One has
to make every effort to adjust in the foreign country and then make even greater
efforts to readjust to the culture of origin. In a sense, the returnee goes home
unaware that he or she has become a foreigner to the home culture (Pusch and
Loewenthal, 1988). Other studies, however, indicate that for students with
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multiple reentry experiences, readjustment back home is much more smoother
than those reentering for the first time (Wilson, 1993).
Personal changes can lead to identity crises for the returning individual.
Isogai et al. (1999) discussed the issue as related to the returning Japanese
students after study in the United States of America. Her finding indicated that
many Japanese find themselves being identified with Americans when they return
home. But in America they are identified as Japanese. She states, “After a while,
the returnee feels rejected by both cultures. Denying one of the other culture is
painful because it feels like denial of a part of one’s own identity” (p. 497).
People’s personalities and behaviors are affected by the attitudes of the
people around them. Relationships means interacting with and learning different
world views from the people with whom we relate. Thus, Isogai et al, 1999,
further states “Individuals who grow up in two or more cultures are, therefore,
likely to acquire multiple sets of behaviors to elicit desired image…”(page 499).
The identity crisis is well expressed by Horoiwa (1986, as cited in Isogai et al,
1990, p. 497):
For example, a simple question such as, “Where are you
from?” can be disturbing to the returnee. Furthermore, the
issue of changing behaviors add another element to their
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struggle with identity. “By pouring beer for a man, am I no
longer an independent woman?” “By expressing my
agreement with a group when I disagree deep down inside,
have I become a hypocrite?” Questions such as these can
trigger identity issues for many people who equate behavior
with core identity.
If, as suggested above, a returning student upon arriving home finds that
he or she is viewed as a stranger at home culture, the experience can be
devastating. The student’s need to belong is seriously challenged and the result
can be very painful. Lack of prior preparation can render the returning individual
helpless and unable to cope with the challenge. Wilson (1993) found that for
returning Norwegians and Swedes the issue of identity is important. He suggests
that the returnees can cope by identifying themselves as intercultural.
The challenge of returning home is more than giving up all the
conveniences and material possessions to which one becomes accustomed. It
involves a complicated mental adjustment from the newly adopted to the original
pattern of thinking (Huxur et al, 1996). The issue becomes more challenging by
the fact that the returning individual is not aware of the changes that take place in
his or her life and may find out upon returning home. A returning student crosses
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two cultural bridges, one that surround the foreign culture and one that surround
the culture of origin (Marks, 1987). The sojourner is normally aware of the
adjustments necessary in the foreign culture. The home culture adjustment is not
natural and comes as a surprise for the returning individual (Huxur et al, 1996).
The excitement of returning home, or overly optimistic expectations
(Marks, 1987), clouds the student’s need to address these changes before the time
approaches for departure from the host country. Unlike the departure from home,
this adjustment is final. The student is saying good-bye to everything he or she
has come to appreciate and to which he has become accustomed. According to
Pusch and Loewental (1988) it is a process that will never end “in the sense that
they are unable to become part of the home culture in a way that they were before
departing. They may and often do continue searching for ways to extend or
recreate the overseas experience and/or ways to use the competencies they have
acquired by living in another country and culture, possibly with little success” (p.
7). The returning student need to understand that going overseas changed his or
her life and that going home will mean a life long process of adjustment.
Attitude and Expectations at Home
Expectations and attitudes from friends and family pose another challenge
to the returning students seeking to adjust in his or her home culture. In his study
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of returning high school students Wilson (1993) noted that some students felt their
families and friends considered them bragging when they tried to share about their
experience overseas. The wives of Japanese corporate sojourners reported the
same experience when they returned to Japan (Isa, 2000). Family and friends at
home are not able to identify with the student’s experiences overseas (Marks,
1987). Hence the misunderstanding that the student is bragging when he or she
tries to share the overseas experience.
The problem goes deeper as the student’s newly developed attitudes and
independence become obvious. People at home do not expect the returnee to have
changed (Pusch and Lowewenthal, 1988). The result is a confrontation between
the student’s changed perspectives on issues and family’s traditional expectations
(Fourst, Ed. 1981). While the host country may be tolerant and understanding of
the sojourner because of the fact that he or she is a foreigner in process of
adjustment, “People at home are not likely to be so tolerant, and will exert a great
deal of pressured on the returnee to conform. The foreigner is far too important to
be ‘lost’ to foreign influence” (Pusch and Loewental, 1988, p. 7). The returnee is
then confronted with the unexpected pressure from family. Such a pressure can
prove to be a source of stress (Fourst, Ed., 1981). Attitudes and expectation at
home are some of the factors that create culture shock experience for the returning
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sojourner. He or she has to find a way to adjust to home culture while dealing
with family pressure.
Attitude Towards Returning Home
Pai (1997) did a study on Taiwanese students who returned home after at
least one year study in the USA. The purpose was “to examine relationships
among 11 selected factors and reentry difficulty, life satisfaction, psychological
well-being of Taiwanese student returnees from the United States” (p. 2). The
study concluded by noting several factors that had negative effects on reentry
process.
First, female students experience more difficulties than the male students.
Secondly the students who did not consider returning home as a priority, found
that adjusting to home culture was a difficult experience. Thirdly, those who
returned simply because of expectations by family or lack of job opportunities in
the foreign country also experienced more problems in adjusting to their country
of origin.
On the other hand those who went overseas, knowing for sure that staying
in the foreign country was not an option had little difficulty adjusting upon
returning to their home countries. It was the same for those whose return was a
result of personal preference. Their adjustment was much easier. This study
suggested that a student whose plan to go home is clear from the beginning have
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enough time to prepare during the course of studying overseas. Such preparation
makes reentry to home culture much easier.
In regard to satisfaction the study concluded that personal preference in
returning home, treatment at home country, satisfaction with overseas experience
and positive attitude towards job market at home had significant positive effects
on the adjustment process of the returnees. If a student returned home because he
or she considered it a priority and a positive decision, that student experienced
much more satisfaction upon returning to his or her home country.
On psychological well-being the study concluded that students, who return
because they knew from the beginning that staying was not an option and that
returning was personal preference and that treatment at home was a welcoming
experience, had a high level of satisfaction. It did not matter if the student
returned because of government sponsorship or simply because he or she
preferred working at home culture. The idea of going overseas with a clear sense
of returning home made it much easier for the returning student to experience a
sense of psychological satisfaction.
The point is that students who view their return negatively will find it
much more difficult to adjust after returning from study overseas. Positive
attitude and expectations on the other hand made it possible for the returning
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student to adjust well and find satisfaction upon returning home. This
demonstrates the need to help returning students prepare mentally and
emotionally before traveling back to their countries of origin. It suggests also that
it is important to begin reentry preparation from the beginning of study overseas.
This will give the returning student a chance to anticipate the challenges and
prepare so that nothing comes as surprise.
Giving Up New Relationships
One way in which students adjust in the foreign country is by forming
friendships with others from the host country and other countries (Ward and
Rana-Deuba, 1999). The study has already demonstrated from research that
during the time of cultural adjustment, students prefer social contact with the host
country (Hayes & Lin, 1994). Some develop academic relationships with their
professors. Others find American host families who adopt them. Over the years
These relationships can be strong and the attachment very real. Many times the
student is not aware of the depth of the bond within the relationships.
Graduation comes and the student has to face separation from the people
with whom he or she has bonded in one way or another. Again the separation is
not as temporary as it was when he left home. It is a final separation from people
with significant impact in the life of the student. Hence, another grieving process.
Without any help and proper preparation the process can prove to be very difficult
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for the returnee. According to Pusch and Loewenthal (1988), “Grief work has to
be completed before the returnee can get on with becoming part of the home
culture, but there will probably always be feelings of nostalgia for the sojourn
abroad” (p. 7). Among the students Wilson (1993, pp. 475-476) studied, from
Ecuador, one of the students wrote and stated:
I cried for two months.
I just loved my
(American) family. I think about my family
every day. It was really hard. I was happy to
see my family and friends here, but part of my
heart is in Upper Peninsula (Michigan).
Every time I talk to them, it seems like
yesterday.
The quotation above indicates the extend to which foreign students can
bond with the American families or friends. When the time comes to return home
giving up these bonds of relationships can prove to be very challenging for the
individual returning home after years of study overseas. This is one of the
areas of concern for any professional providing counseling service to international
students. The returning individual need help to prepare for the time he or she has
to say goodbye to the people who have become a part of his or her life. Lack of
good preparation can leave the student vulnerable to unexpected stress.
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Exposure to and Appreciation of New Value Systems
During their time of training and education the students interact with the
new culture and may acquire new value systems as a result of the interaction
(Huxur et al, 1996). One may find capitalism more attractive though it is not a
part of his home culture. By interacting with the new culture the student may
discover some problems in the value system of his or her culture. In some cases,
one may find it necessary to adopt a new religion (Foust et al, 1981; Oropeza et
al, 1991). Taking these ideas home can create conflict with their original cultural
values. The new ideas may be totally rejected at home. The conflict leaves the
student feeling lonely and isolated.
In some cases complications are intensified when changes in the life of the
students involve adoption of the foreign culture and value system to the point of
rejecting his or her cultural values totally. According to Foust et al (1981) such
“alienated returnee reacts negatively to the home culture, criticizing its dominant
values, beliefs and norms while glorifying the cultural beliefs and values in the
foreign country” (p. 25). According to Triandis (1991) some may “even
‘overshoot’ and become more like the host culture than the average member of
the host culture” (p. 60). The student is caught between loyalty to family and
country of origin, and the newly adopted customs and norms (Oropeza et al,
1991).
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The fact that family and friends at home do not expect such double loyalty
will compound emotional pressure on the returnee making the adjustment process
even more challenging (Pusch and Loewenthal 1988). In this case, the returning
sojourner will find it difficult to adjust to a system, which she or he has rejected
whether consciously or unconsciously. Pusch and Loewenthal (1988) see the
adjustment complication as a process that will not end but will get better over
time. Counselors of foreign students must have this change in mind as they
prepare the students to return to their home countries.
Change of value system can occur even when one is holding on to and
appreciating her home culture. Betina (1993) described the experience of some of
the Indian students in her study. One of them, Amrita is a good example. While
studying in the USA she saw many pitfalls in the American culture. Some of the
pitfalls included welfare system, abortion laws and many others. She was aware
that while she rejected some of the value system in the USA, she knew also that
she had adopted some that she considered acceptable.
Fully aware of the cultural difference in India she went home prepared to
submit to her original customs and norms, and even went as far as accepting an
arranged marriage. However, even such preparedness did not exempt her from
experiencing frustrations. One of the complaints was the fact that she was always
the one to make concessions to the family and to her husband. Her values did not
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seem important to the rest of the family members. The challenge for her was
finding a balance between the values she adopted overseas and remaining in
submission to the cultural expectations at home. In some cases her integrity was
challenged as she tried to hold to the values she acquired in the foreign country
and still remain submissive to the demands of her home culture.
Environmental Changes at Home
A returning student expects to find the same home and the same people he
or she left years ago (Institute of International Education, 1998). The reality is
that while the student is undergoing changes overseas, home does not stay the
same either. According to Marks (1987) the returning international student needs
to remember that he or she is going home “not as the same individual who left,
but as one who is returning to a culture that is changing even as the individual is
changing” (p. 122). A returnee from Russia stated, “Encountering unexpected
changes may be stressful and make it difficult for you to find a new niche and to
realize your plans” (Institute of International Education, 1998, p. 35).
According to Betina (1993) the returning students often find that
relationship with friends have changed, sometimes dramatically. In her study of
returnees from India, she found that “a more common pattern was found, even
among those student who returned to the same city they left, that their former
circle of classmates was not longer around” (p. 24). Friends may have moved or
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gotten married and thus establishing other bonds of relationships (Betina, 1993;
Lerstrom, 1995). In some cases students may return only to find a different
political climate due to change in government which may mean the support one
expected from the former government is no longer there (Foust et al, 1981,
Lerstrom, 1995).
Adjustment to these changes becomes complicated when the returning
sojourner does not expect to deal with them and therefore is not prepared
psychologically. Raschio, (1987), found out that many students expected their
family and friends to take interest in their experience, but were “shocked to find
that only rarely was the entire family or full circle of friends able or willing to
listen” (p. 158). In his research Raschio (1987) further discovered that this
experience resulted in the students feeling rejected.
Changes at home means that the returning students find themselves
dealing with double loses. They lose relationships with the host country and then
they find that the home they knew before traveling overseas is not the same.
What they knew before departure is also lost. This experience is well expressed
by a Canadian students who returned and was surprised by the reverse culture
shock he found himself having to confront. “When our gaze revealed the home
returned to as not the one fondly remembered, we realized we had lost not only
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our American existence, but our former Canadian existence” (Huxur et al., 1996,
p. 12).
The experience is a three way grieving process. The student grieves when
he or she says goodbye to home country. Leaving the foreign country constitutes
another experience of grief. To his or her surprise upon arriving home, the home
he or she left is no longer there. Hence, the third phase of grief, which can be
more complicated because it is unnatural and the sojourner does not expect.
It is noteworthy that the above example refers to a student from a country
like Canada, which is so close geographically and culturally to the USA. The
experience can be much more difficult for the student returning to a country with
greater geographical distance and cultural difference than that in the USA. “The
greater the differences, the greater the re-acculturation difficulty for the student.
The larger the culture gap, the greater the stress in traversing it in either direction”
(Institute of International Education, 1998, p. 35). For a returning international
student going home can be a double edge grieving process. There is the loss of
the relationship with the host country and then the loss of the home he or she
knew before departure to the foreign country.
Applying Acquired Academic Knowledge
The first challenge is student’s ability to apply acquired knowledge and
trying to function without academic and technical support which is available
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in the USA. Academic achievements in the foreign culture involve peers and
professors who help provide support and direction to the student (Spencer-Rogers,
2000). Suddenly, the time comes when these relationships come to an end. Going
home may mean losing source of encouragement and challenge for excellence in
the particular field of study. For some it may mean going to function alone
without others of the same educational background. According to Fouad (1991)
“The infrastructure that supports research in the United States may not exist in
their home culture. This may include secretaries, lab assistants and technicians,
capital equipment, and smooth mechanism to order supplies and materials” (p.
69).
This means that one can get all the training and education but return less
prepared to function effectively in the home country. While education in the
United States expands the student’s knowledge and understanding in his or her
field it also exposes the sojourner to technical and other professional help that
may not be available in the home country. Lack of preparation to transfer the
same knowledge without all the amenities available in the foreign country can
create stress for the returning individual.
Secondly, there is the challenge of finding employment opportunities at
home country. In her study of returnees from India, Betina (1993) discovered
that the students considered “finding a job upon their return was a top priority
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even among those who had no immediate need for an income” (p. 21). The
returnees reported that finding a job was “difficult, frustrating and disappointing”
(p. 21). In other words education and training overseas does not guarantee
employment at home.
Difficulty in finding appropriate job after hard work of studying in the
foreign country can complicate the reentry process especially for the students who
return home with high expectations for employment (Huxur et al, 1996). It is a
source of stress for a student to discover that in spite of all the learning overseas,
he or she discover that jobs are not as available as one expected. “Graduates who
have difficulty finding an appropriate job upon their return can be expected to
experience more stressful re-entry process than those who return to a past
position, or to a promotion, or who are able to make new start in a challenging
job” (Institute of International Education, 1998, p. 36).
Spencer-Rogers (2000) did a study on career needs for international
students. She categorized the foreign student into two groups. The US-focused
students represented those who reported a plan to stay in the USA upon the
completion of their studies. Those who planned to return to their country of
origin were considered return-focused. Of the 227 students who participated in the
study 77% indicated the need for counseling advice on career planning. The
study also revealed that while some students may choose to reside and seek
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employment in the United States, the majority, between fifty-five and seventy
percent do return home eventually. This makes it important to emphasize career
development in counseling internationals on reentry issues.
The 227 students surveyed indicated that the greatest career concern
included immigration rules on jobs for international students, need for advisory on
career plans and about job market in America. Overall the study concluded that
international students ranked work experience, job search skills and career
development at the top of their concerns. This means that vocational counseling
is of great importance to the returning international students.
In providing pastoral care and counseling for international students, one
must consider the issues related to reentry for those returning overseas. The
changes that must take place while the student is abroad will affect how he or she
adjusts to the country of origin. While studying overseas the individual adopts to
a new culture, acquires new perspective or worldview and becomes accustomed to
the foreign value system. Meanwhile changes at home means that the same
student will not return to the same home and culture.
The student’s learning means getting used to professional help and
availability of technical and other support that may not be available in the country
of origin. During the period of study overseas the student also bonds with friends
and families who become a part of the student’s life. Returning home means
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giving up all these relationships and experiences that have great impact in the life
of the returning individual going back to his or her country of origin. In reality a
student going to study overseas must go through adjustment process from the time
of departure from home to the time he or she returns. The experience of
reentering into one’s home culture creates challenges that those seeking to help
international students must address. This is one of the challenges that make
providing pastoral care and counseling to foreign students a unique experience
requiring unique approach to the counseling process.
Summary
Returning home after years of studies overseas can be a challenge for the
sojourners. Factors that make reentry difficult for the student include personal
changes, attitude and expectations at home, attitude towards returning home,
giving up new relationships and exposure to and appreciation of new value
system, environmental changes at home and application of knowledge acquired
overseas. These factors contribute to the student’s difficulty in adjustment at
home country.
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Chapter 6
Unique Challenges in Providing Pastoral Care and Counseling to
International Students
Providing pastoral care and counseling for international students is
uniquely challenging. The argument in this chapter is that those seeking to
minister to foreign learners in universities and colleges must face some unique
challenges. The intention is to demonstrate that providing pastoral care and
counseling to foreign students calls for a unique preparation on the part of the care
provider.
Siegel (1991) raised a series of questions that any professional seeking to
provide counseling service to an international student need to consider: “What
assists us in understanding the dilemmas of identity and role conflicts that
international students face in confronting the values of a new society? Does our
experience form of counseling interventions expand or take issue with a particular
theoretical finding? Do we find interconnections between theory and practice?”
(p. 72).
Although these questions were raised in the context of general counseling,
they are applicable to pastoral counseling as well. Issues of identity, adjustment
in a new culture and the need for proper intervention are important in providing
pastoral care and counseling to foreign students (Luzio-Lockett, A, 1998; Komiya
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L & Ells, T, 2001; Watkins, C 2001). The questions are intended to challenge
counseling professionals to think and develop effective interventions for students
from backgrounds that are different from the dominant or local culture. The
cultures represented by international students remain a formidable challenge to
the counseling profession.
In the last two chapters the discussion was on counseling issues related to
entering a foreign culture as well as reentering the culture of origin. The focus of
this chapter is the uniqueness and the challenge of applying pastoral care and
counseling to those from other countries seeking to study in the USA. First it is
important to understand that providing pastoral care to foreign students is a part of
multicultural challenge that counseling professionals need to address. Counseling
disciplines must learn to incorporate multiculturalism in their training. This
constitutes a challenge to the traditional approach to counseling.
A Challenge to Traditional Counseling Approach
Pedersen (1991) made a strong statement regarding the need to incorporate
multicultural issues in preparing professional counselors. “The world is changing
quickly. Multicultural issues have suddenly become critically important.
Disparities that could long be overlooked are now urgently important” (p. vii).
His emphasis is that the counseling profession has waited too long to
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incorporate the subject of cultural issues in the professional training. He further
saw the need to persuade counseling professionals who are skeptical to see the
need and the benefits of learning to and developing skills for multicultural
counseling.
The need for multicultural training for pastoral care and counseling
professionals is well stated by Augsburger (1986). “The time has come for the
pastoral counseling movement to function from an expanded, intercultural
perspective. The counseling theories and therapies that have emerged as modes
of healing and growth in each culture, useful and effective as they are in their
respective locales, are too limited, too partial to serve human needs in a world
community where peoples of many cultures meet, compete and relate” (p. 13).
His statement reflect the complexity of dealing with cultures that are from around
the world and yet have to find life meaning in a context of co-existing and relating
with one another in spite of differences in world views and interpretation of
reality.
The reality is that pastoral care counselors can no longer rely on traditional
approach to counseling developed to address issues from the western cultural
perspective. The profession must seek to adjust its method of providing
counseling to the various cultures that continue to grow particularly in the United
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States. Among these cultures are the international students who represent many
subcultures. Counseling needs for international students present multicultural
challenges for the pastoral care and counseling professionals. Their needs require
a reevaluation of the current counseling approaches and theories
In discussing counseling issues for international students, Oropeza,
Fitzgibbon and Baron (1991) found that counseling needs for international
students constitute challenges that are felt even on campuses. They found that
mental health crisis pause the greatest challenge. They concluded that “The legal,
ethical, and psychological intricacies in dealing with the emotional problems of
foreign college students create demands on a variety of services including foreign
students affairs offices, student health services, counseling centers, and student
residence and student life services” (p. 280).
The demand created by the mental needs of the foreign students is
complicated by the fact that the students come from diversity of cultures and that
they are away from home. The above statement reflects the complexities of issues
one faces when counseling foreign students. They also demonstrate the need to
incorporate multicultural training for all counseling providers. Such integration
require the profession to take into consideration the unique issues represented by
the foreign students. It is a challenge to reevaluate an old custom in order to
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adopt a new approach. It forces the profession to a new way of thinking and
practicing counseling.
Specific Unique Challenges
Providing counseling service to international student requires a unique
approach in counseling. The reason is that the needs represented by the foreign
students are different from the psychological needs experienced by clients born
and raised in an American society. Several factors make it a unique experience to
provide counseling to students from around the world.
To develop and apply effective methods of addressing counseling issues
for international students require a clear understanding of the challenges involved.
These issues include diversity of cultures, limited or lack of training for
counseling professionals, cultural perceptions of counseling, diversity of religious
beliefs, cultural attitude towards and interpretation of mental illness and
economical realities. They represent the issues discussed in this chapter as
making it a challenging experience for pastoral counselors to provide counseling
services to international students. These factors are a challenge not only to
individual counselors but also to counseling as a discipline.
Diversity of Cultures Represented
Providing pastoral care and counseling to a multicultural group is a
formidable challenge. Lee and Richardson (1991) captured the enormity in their
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statement that “The rise of cultural pluralism has had an important impact on the
counseling profession.” They further stated “Major changes in population
demographic have been the impetus for the evolution of multicultural counseling
as a significant discipline within the helping profession” (p. 3). Diversity of
cultures is here to stay and counseling profession must address. The presence of
many cultures in the USA constitute a challenge because they bring differing
value systems and ways of interpreting reality that each professional cannot
ignore. In essence each client requires the counselor to consider possible new
approaches in the counseling process.
The implication is that each individual in these groups comes to the
counseling session with unique experiences that complicate perception of issues
affecting life in general. This means they represent enormous challenge, which
pastoral care providers face when dealing with international students who are
from diverse ethnic, racial, national and religious backgrounds. Diversity of
cultures can be complicated first by the issue of Macro and Micro culture that
tend to converge in one person. Second there is the issue of multiplicity of the
cultures that the counselor has to address. Thirdly, there is the tendency to
stereotype the students from particular countries.
In this study, the terms “Macro” and “Micro” are used relatively to
describe grouping of cultures. “Macro Culture” refers to groups of cultures that
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maintain distinctive differences while they share some commonalities. The
individually distinct cultures are referred to as “Micro Cultures.” The terms are
relative. For example a country can be considered a Macro Culture with the
ethnics considered “Micro Cultures.” At the same time one can consider a region
like Asia as “Macro Culture” and the countries in the region as “Micro Cultures.”
Convergence of macro and micro cultures
Bogis (1979) supervised a Clinical Pastoral Education with students from
different cultural backgrounds. The group included a new student from Taiwan,
one priest from India, a third generation Japanese-American woman from
Nebraska and two black American students, a woman from California and a man
from Detroit. He observed several factors relating to complications of cultures
and sub-cultures.
The Japanese-American student always considered herself an American
with no foreign cultural influence. To her surprise during the CPE program she
discovered that she identified with the Taiwanese student in some aspect of her
cultural values and experiences. For example, in her relationship with other
adults, she always saw herself as a little girl needing to grow up. She thought that
was simply an issue of her personality trait. Participation in this CPE program
helped her discover that the concept emanated from the oriental culture, which
emphasized that she needed to respect elders and consider herself as young.
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In this case, macro culture, which is her Asian heritage enabled her to
identify with the Taiwanese student who is an Asian. Her micro culture, Japanese
heritage, was a part of this macro Asian culture. Though she was an American
and felt that culturally she identified with the American culture, she was not
totally divorced from her Japanese and Asian cultures. In a sense one can say she
had two macro cultures, Asian and American.
The student was dealing with the reality that she was a part of a foreign
culture, and the fact that this same foreign culture was a part of multiple subcultural experiences that helped shape her perception of self. Some of her
Japanese experiences found identity with the other Asian experiences, which
made it possible for her to identify with the Taiwanese student. The complication
is that the trainee did not understand that she was a part of several cultures
including the American culture, a larger oriental culture and smaller family
culture. It took the CPE experience for the student to discover that three cultural
values were a part of her personality.
When diversity of cultures converges into one individual’s experience,
complications can result especially during counseling session when one is dealing
with issues of relationships and personal growth. Each cultural aspect affects the
way the individual perceives issues in different circumstances. What makes it
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even more challenging is the fact that, like in the case of the Japanese American,
the individual is not aware of the multiplicity of cultural heritage in his or her life.
In this one case CPE was instrumental in helping her discover the complexity of
her cultural upbringing.
The study discovered also that the black students from California shared
some major differences with one from Detroit. “It was with some sense of
surprise, for example, that the two black students revealed to the rest that they
experienced some vast differences in their own backgrounds and family values.
In fact, as the group developed, it became evident that there were some major
differences between the two, although, on the surface, both shared the same
national heritage-that of being Americans” (p. 23). The American heritage was
the macro cultural experience that the two shared in common. However the
geographical separation created micro cultural experience that separated the two,
though they shared the commonality of being Americans from the same black
minority group.
The point is that even people who share the same nationality and the same
language find themselves separated by diversity of cultural experiences. But in
the case of the Japanese-American, those who think they share no cultural
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identity, may actually have much in common. The larger cultural experiences
always influence the way one interprets his or her values from the sub-cultures.
The matters become more challenging when dealing with international
students coming from difference countries representing different ethnic
backgrounds. The pastoral care counselor faces the challenge of taking into
account the identity represented from the larger culture as well as that which
emanate from the sub-culture. He or she must also deal with those who are
confused because they have become multicultural in their own experiences but are
not aware as in the case of the Japanese American student.
Multiplicity of cultures
International students represent many nationalities. Each nationality
comprises of diversity of ethnic groups that differ in terms of culture and world
views. According to Marks (1987) there were 338,894 international students
studying in 2,498 universities and colleges. Pedersen (1991) reported that “By the
year 1988-1989, there were 366,354 international students from 186 nationalities”
(p. 11). In 1991 407,530 international students represented 193 countries
(Smolowe, 1992). Spencer-Rogers (2000) put the number of international
students at 450,000 representing over 180 countries in 1995.
This number of countries represented in the foreign student population
requires new thinking about counseling, for the professional counselors seeking to
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provide service for the sojourning students. While they share a commonality by
the fact that they are trying to adjust during their learning in a foreign country, the
reality is that their cultures differ from country to country and from one ethnic
group to another. To complicate matters the fact that students from a particular
country may share similar norms and customs, does not mean they all share
exactly same cultural values. Individual nations have distinct ethnic groups with
different cultural values (Spencer-Rogers, 2000).
While acknowledging the impossibility of training counselors to
understand every country represented by students, Fouad (1991) states that the
countries allowing students to come to the United States “multiplies the number
of cultures that counselors may encounter particularly those in a university
counseling center” (p. 67). He gives an example of one university, which, in
September 1986, had a population of only 183 foreign students, and yet they
represented 36 countries. Students from each of these countries may have come
from diversity of ethnic groups with unique value system represented by each
ethnic group.
The uniqueness, of each culture represented by the students, pauses a great
challenge to any professional seeking to provide counseling services while
remaining culturally sensitive. How can a counselor prepare to meet the needs of
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each student from such diversity of cultures? Each individual interprets reality
and experiences according the cultural perception instilled from childhood.
Discussing heterogeneous society Silva-Netto (1992) warns that, “it is essential to
look into the various culture-personality systems of the many ethnic groups which
comprise that society” (p. 132). By culture-personality system he means the
“human system composed of cultural determinant and cultural expressions of
personality, the interrelationships of which produce a dynamically organized selfstructure within the individual’s own unique adjustment to the environment, as
well as that shared by the community” (p. 132).
Multiplicity of cultures is a complex issue that pastoral care counselors
must address. The implication is that when a client comes for help he or she is
bringing perceptions of reality influenced by culture which determines how the
individual experiences and interprets issues of concern in the counseling process
(Hinkle and Hinkle, 1992; Shimabukuro et al, 1999; Johanson 1992). When
dealing with international students the reality is complicated by the fact that even
those from the same country may represent diversity of cultures according to
ethnic groups. With so many countries, each represented by culturally different
ethnic groups, counseling international students is a uniquely challenging process.
Pastoral counseling must remain deliberate and creative in finding ways to
meet the needs of the sojourning students. The task confronting the profession is
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how to design a counseling approach to a population of such a diverse
background. Expressing the same concern Wehrly (1988) sited the fact that the
international student population was on the increase and most of those entering
the universities and colleges are from non-western countries. To him this rapid
increase “brought the needs of these individuals to the forefront of challenges
facing college and university student personnel workers” (p.4).
The fact that the university campuses feel the responsibility and the
pressure to meet the counseling needs of these foreign students legitimizes the
urgency for pastoral care & counseling professionals to provide their services to
the same learning sojourners. It is therefore critical that pastoral care providers
consider new and effective ways of meeting the counseling needs facing the
international student population. The problem is how to meet needs represented
by a people with differing world views and interpretation of reality. The
challenge is for pastoral care to redefine its approach so as to address the issues of
communicating care and counseling to clients who are foreign to the counseling
process and represent cultures that are foreign to the counselor. This calls for a
unique preparation on the part of the counselor.
Tendency to stereotype
One way to stereotype an international student is to treat all international
students as one cultural group. Pedersen (1991) warns against such an approach
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that treats foreign students as though the only difference is between them and the
American students. He stated, “There has been a tendency to confine
international students to a rather narrowly defined role, isolated from their peers,
when, in fact, there is probably as much difference between any two international
students from different countries as between either of them and any American
student” (pp. 13-14). The argument is that the professionals tend to look at the
issues as representing two sides. One is the American culture and the other one is
the culture of the international community. Such thinking denies the reality of the
unique needs of the different cultural backgrounds that exist from student to
student.
Wehrly (1988) spoke of the importance of dealing with each student as a
unique individual with unique a cultural background. He states that it is “very
important that counselors not stereotype the international student who comes for
help” (p. 5). Developing a counseling theory appropriate for this culturally
diverse student population is a problem not only for the counselors but also for
those seeking to do research. Pedersen (1991) decrying lack of theoretical
consistency for counseling the sojourning students says the problem is that
“international students are such a diverse population, even when the same issues
are researched, the findings are often contradictory” (p. 14). Stereotyping
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represent a failure to acknowledge the existence of cultural diversity among
international students.
Diversity of cultures represented by the foreign student population is a
challenge for any professional seeking to provide counseling to educational
seekers from other countries. They represent needs and concerns that are diverse
and different from the counselor who is trained to work with the American
population. Their emotional and social issues are affected and sometimes caused
by factors that are culturally foreign to the western counselor. The stresses they
encounter are influenced by their worldviews affected by diversity of cultures and
experiences. Such factors include “tradition of student’s country of origin and the
openness and tolerance of the host country, and individual factors such as
preparedness, self esteem, independence, emotional stability, endurance and
maturity” (Huxur et al, 1996 p.7)
Another danger of stereotyping in multicultural counseling emerges from
the tendency to group the students according to the country of origin. Such
stereotyping according to Silva-Netto (1992) is unscientific and a product of
failure to take the time and energy to do the hard work. He defines the
understanding of a particular culture to mean ”knowing the group-specific value
systems, typical patterns of personality, social structures, systems of beliefs, legal
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codes that prescribe and proscribe behaviors, cultural goals and other cultural
processes and products” (p. 136).
The problem with the above definition is that he does not explain how one
can become competent in all of these cultures while dealing with a population of
people with such a number of culturally diverse demographics. In other words
does a counselor need to know each client’s cultural influences, value systems
and their world-views in order to be effective? Obviously, it will take more than
energy and willingness. Time is a factor that makes it near impossible. He is
right in acknowledging the complications of the issues by stating that it takes hard
work and not many have the energy to invest. The challenge for the professionals
in the field is to design a practical way of addressing the problems. While
stereotyping may be a sign of laziness, one cannot claim that mastery of the
client’s culture is the answer. With so many cultural groups emanating from
individual countries a different strategy is required.
There are many factors that must be considered when dealing with people
from a particular country or ethnic group. Even those from a homogeneous
society must consider the fact that “differences in value orientations are reflected
in generation gaps, economic stratification, differences in religious orientations,
political associations, and many other manifestations” (Silva-Netto, 1992, p. 136).
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Stereotyping of students according to countries of origin is an issue that
complicates the counseling process for those desiring to provide therapy.
For foreign students to receive pastoral care and counseling help, the
providers must consider cultural issues that each student will bring to the
counseling relationships. Students from one country may share some similarities
in the way they interpret and view life issues. However ethnic and family
differences affect how each client perceives and interprets reality from the same
experiences.
All these variations, deeply affected by cultural values, complicate the
process of providing counseling service to the international population seeking
education in a foreign country. The absence of founded theoretical framework for
counseling international students remains a challenge in the field of counseling in
general (Fernandez, 1988). It remains a challenge that pastoral care and
counseling professionals must address in order to provide services to the
international community (Augsberger, 1976).
Warning against stereotyping is not a total rejection of generalization. It is
legitimate and sometimes necessary to generalize. As Althen (1991) observed,
“For counselors to foreign students, the important thing is to be aware of one’s
own generalizations or stereotypes, to use them cautiously as a starting point, and
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to be ready to modify them or hold them in abeyance in any given case” (p. 63).
For example international students share similar experiences in the sense that they
are seeking education in a foreign soil away from familiar surrounding, culture
and support system (Arthur, 1997; Triandis, 1991; Yoo & Thomas, 2001). This is
a common experience that can apply to foreign students in general. But as stated
above it is only a starting point.
This makes it appropriate to apply generalization as long as the counselor
is aware and able to modify enough to meet specific needs represented by the
client with a unique cultural understanding (Lee & Richardson, 1991). The issue
is balance. Generalization has a place in the counseling process. But it must not
cloud the importance of unique cultures represented in a particular population.
Althen (1991) emphasized the importance of acquiring general knowledge on
issues relating to adjustment in the foreign culture. But he also suggests that
moving to more specific issues such as “values, communicative styles, and habits
of thought of students from particular countries, can help counselors establish
rapport with those students, approach their problems sensitively, and respond in
ways most likely to be constructive” (pp. 63-64).
Avoiding stereotyping is in itself a challenge because it calls for approach
to counseling that must deal with each individual uniquely (Augsburger, 1976;
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Lee & Richardson, 1991). Given the fact that the uniqueness is affected by
cultural backgrounds and other variations, the process can be a difficult when one
tries to provide pastoral care and counseling for the foreign students. It requires
the professional counselor to approach the counseling relationship with the reality
that the individual client’s needs may be clouded by variety of cultural
experiences and values. All of these must be taken into account for the
counseling to be effective. While foreign students share some commonality by
the fact that they are foreigners studying in a foreign soil, they have unique
experiences as they are coming from different nationalities with differing cultural
upbringing.
Pastoral care and counseling professional desiring to provide service to
foreign student is constantly facing a challenge. He or she is dealing with a
population whose cultural interpretation of reality is outside the traditional
training that counselors receive in North America. Cultural consideration must
include diversity of cultures from national, ethnic and personal perspective.
Intercultural and interpersonal problems must be taken into account when dealing
with students from overseas (Khoo, P. L. S, & Abu-Russian (1994). Lee &
Richardson (1991) warns against professional counselors who tend to treat clients
from a particular group as if they all share commonality in the way they
experience and interpret reality. To them professionals who think that way “run
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the risk of approaching clients not as distinct human beings with individual
experiences, but rather merely as cultural stereotypes” (p. 6).
Limited or Lack of Training for the Counselors
Lack of training for counselors is an issue affecting counselors in general.
But pastoral care and counseling profession in particular face the same problem.
Each of the two categories will be discussed.
Lack of training for counselors in general
The reality of inadequate training for professional counselors is well
demonstrated by Parker (1988). Describing his experience in multicultural
counseling after his graduate training, he discussed three cultural encounters that
shaped his counseling approach. The first encounter was with a college student
who was a Cuban immigrant. The issue for the student was that overcrowded
conditions in her home distracted her from studies. Though she was a college
student she still lived with her parents. The techniques Parker learned in training
were not helpful to the dilemma the student was experiencing. He interpreted the
student’s problem as that of codependency with overprotective parents.
In the western culture individualism demands that a college student should
be able to live independently and therefore the complaint of overcrowded home
made no sense to Parker. In his admission, he was interpreting the issues from the
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western cultural perspective. He discovered that the counseling relationship
lacked the understanding of the cultural aspect of the Cuban nationals, which
value young people living with their parents until marriage. His training in
counseling did not prepare him for this experience.
His second experience occurred when he attempted to train black peer
counselors. He lost the group as he tried to insist on client-centered approach to
therapy. Again, his approach was based on a theory developed according to his
western cultural perspective in life. His training did not prepare him for the issues
encountered by the black counselors. Through his failure to retain his students he
learned that black students were dealing with issues that were different from the
issues his education and preparation addressed. Perhaps there is room for
applying client-centered therapy cross-culturally. However it was obvious that he
was not able to use it or make appropriate application in this case. All the
education he received as a counselor did not help him apply the counseling
technique effectively as he dealt with the experiences of these students.
There was yet another experience. This time it was a black doctoral
student seeking help on how to deal with an all white committee. The student felt
that the committee was not supportive of his success in completing his degree
program. Again he tried to apply his counseling techniques in helping this
student. Like the previous cases he lost the counseling relationships because the
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student felt he was not sensitive to his issues as a black individual in an all white
campus. Parker learned the hard way that his preparation to be a counselor did
not equip him to address adequately the issues and the experiences of this
minority student attempting to complete his education while dealing with a
committee that did not seem to understand his needs.
It is quite possible that the problem was the student’s misinterpretation of
the professors’ behavior and attitude. The reality is that the student was
experiencing emotional problems not identified or addressed by the counselor’s
training. Parker then concluded that, “Through these three incidences, I became
aware that I was not prepared to work with ethnic minority clients, nor did I know
what to do to grow and change” (p. 93). Parker’s experiences demonstrated lack
of preparation for counseling professionals in dealing with the uniqueness of
counseling needs for the clients from multiple cultural backgrounds and
experiences.
While the participants in the above given examples do not represent
international students, they demonstrate the complications of providing
counseling services in a multicultural setting. More importantly, they
demonstrate the need to prepare counselors to go beyond the traditional training
and include the cultural sensitivity skills in the training programs. Multicultural
counseling addresses, not only cultural perception of counseling, but also how
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needs and issues are perceived culturally. Perceptions of the counseling process,
other issues and needs affect the expectation the client will anticipate during the
counseling relationship. In his discussion on counseling individuals from another
culture, Werhly (1988) stated that “The challenge for cross cultural counseling is
how to gain a perspective on what it is that this person from another culture
expects and how to work with that person” (p. 6).
Psychologists, counselors and other professionals providing counseling
services are becoming extremely aware of the need for training in multicultural
counseling (Merta, Sringham, and Ponterotto, 1988; Constantine & Gloria, 1999).
The American Psychological Association places much emphasis on the
importance of multicultural counseling to students during internship and considers
it unethical for anyone to practice counseling without training in multicultural
sensitivity (Foud, 1991; Constantine & Gloria, 1999).
While it is a positive move that the subject matter is attracting the
attention of professionals in the fields of counseling, the issue cannot be
addressed effectively unless training programs for counselors incorporate cultural
issues. Fouad (1991) acknowledged that “Counseling psychologists currently are
not trained to cope effectively with the myriad unique concerns that international
students encounter” (p. 67). These concerns are affected by the cultural values
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that are diverse in nature. Corey (1986) expressed similar concern when he stated
that “Too often, minority-group issues have been studied from a White middleclass perspective” (p. 349). He stresses that training programs fail to address
mental illness as experienced by minority cultures. It is definitely an important
issue in the field of counseling in general.
Shimabukuro, Daniels and D’Andrea (1999) expressed the same concern
over lack of multicultural training for counseling professionals. They stated
“Although spiritual beliefs and traditions play an important role in the
psychological development of people from diverse cultural ethnic-racial
backgrounds, it is distressing to note the lack of attention that has been directed to
this aspect of human development by counseling theorists, researchers,
practitioners, and educators” (p. 224). Their emphasis on spirituality is that it is a
part of cultural reality. This statement underscores the fact that counseling
professionals are not adequately prepared to address the issues affecting
international students who represent diversity of cultures.
Lack of training for pastoral counselors
Along with attracting psychologists and other professional counselors the
issue of multicultural counseling is also in the interest of professional pastoral
counselors. However, in this research the literature addressing the subject in
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depth is very limited. The most comprehensive study I find in the field was done
by Augsburger (1986) who spent five years doing extensive research that
involved interviewing and learning from different cultures in thirteen nonwestern countries. He advocated the need for pastoral care and counseling to
become multicultural in every aspect of their discipline. To him time has come
for mankind to acknowledge the inevitable interdependency that exists globally.
The reason for this international interdependency is that “A new
nationalism is evolving that expresses a people’s longing to live self-directed
political lives in concert with other nations, to protect their interests against
imperialism from other nations” (p. 19). The warning is that while people want
to protect their independence and cultural heritage, no culture can live in isolation.
Interdependency means that mankind must learn to relate and communicate with
one another in spite of cultural differences. Thus he further states that “Ethnic,
cultural, religious, and racial backgrounds can become heritages to be prized,
protected, nourished, and cherished, as guides for life-style, but not as boundaries,
barriers, or blocks to communication and cooperation between peoples” (p. 19).
Pastoral care and counseling professionals must view cultural differences as
prized commodity to be used to promote harmony and unity.
Augsburger’s research, that he did overseas, lead him to conclude that
“The training of pastoral counselors must be broadened to include alternative
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worldviews.” His reasoning is that “The world has changed around us, while we
in the Western education have persistently continued to teach as though Western
models, values, and views of human nature and community were normative” (p.
14). Any profession desiring to thrive and affect change must adjust to the
dictates of the society. In this case we are dealing with demographic changes
which necessitate learning how to service people represented by diversity of
cultures.
It is therefore critical that the western professionals recognize the reality
that issues affecting human beings can be seen from different cultural
perspectives and are affected by differing worldviews. The call by Augsburger
(1986) for pastors to receive such a training, indicate that the issue remains a
unique challenge for those seeking to provide pastoral care and counseling to the
multicultural population. The need can be even much more complicated for
international students whose stay in the USA is temporary and must adjust to the
foreign culture and then return home for another adjustment in their home
countries (Isa, 2000; Marks, 1987; Tartar & Horencyk, 2000). Without proper
training it is impossible for the pastoral care and counseling professionals to
effectively provide service to the sojourning students.
When Bogia (1979) wrote about multiculturalism in Clinical Pastoral
Education, he gave the impression that it was a new experience. He stated, “we
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have recognized that every group is influenced by cultural factors, even when all
members appear to share the same background” (p. 26). The fact that he found
the concept to be new to him in 1979, means that his training did not expose him
to this reality of multiculturalism in the American society. The statement
underscores the reality that the profession needs to keep up with the cultural
changes in the society.
Acknowledging the reality and complexity of cultural issues in pastoral
counseling, Silva-Newton (1992) includes the Church and other mental health
organizations. To him these agencies are becoming aware of the importance of
setting ethnocentric goals but these “goals have often precluded recognition of the
boundless variety and creativity of the human community and the limitless
avenues through which God participates in the histories of societies and the
biographies of persons” (p. 131).
His statement indicates that he recognizes the failure within the Church
and professional counseling field to address the ethnocentrism, which is a
hindrance to the incorporation of cultural issues and values in the counseling
process. He further issued a challenge to the pastoral counseling professionals by
stating “As our society evolves into a truly heterogeneous and pluralistic
community, in both demography and intense consciousness, we as pastoral
counselors are called upon to examine seriously the basic assumptions of our
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ministry” (p. 131). It is obvious that he sees the issue of shaping the pastoral care
and counseling approach to adapt the changes in society as critical. These
changes include the growing cultural diversity within the society. The increasing
number of international students contributes to this trend that is changing the
demographics of the United States population.
In spite of the acknowledgement of the need to address cultural values in
pastoral counseling the issue remains a challenge. Much more remains to be
done. For example, Augsburger (1992) decried lack of dialogue between
different counseling professionals and those with other worldviews. He stated
“Yet the rarity, the paucity, the oddity of such conversations is a puzzle-perhaps a
clue to our mono-cultural capacity as counselors” (p. 97). His concern is that
pastoral care and counseling as well as other professionals in the field of
counseling are doing very little to address the issue.
Thus, he further states “We have published little, invested little, risked
little in holding our counseling theories, theologies, and therapies under the light
of other worldviews. If one knows but one culture knows no culture, then the
therapist who understands only the values of her parent culture or the therapies of
his native community does not understand value, culture, therapy, or community”
(p. 97). Lack of efforts in developing theories of multicultural counseling remains
a unique challenge in the field.
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The fact that professionals in the field of pastoral care and counseling
acknowledge the absence of cultural consideration in the counseling practice,
suggest that the profession is not providing necessary training for the counselors
to address multicultural issues, especially those of international students
If cultural issues in general remain a challenge to professional counselors,
counseling issues for foreign students are even much more complicated. Without
proper training to address the problems affecting those who are studying away
from their countries of origin, pastoral care and counseling professionals will miss
the opportunity to affect change in the lives of those training abroad and away
from their cultural upbringing. Unless the discipline recognizes this issue the
training institutions for pastoral care counselors may become obsolete in the face
of changing society (Augsburger, 1986). Moreover the results will be that the
profession will fail to meet the needs of these students who have the potential of
affecting global change as future leaders in the world.
Cultural Perceptions in Counseling
The perception that the counselor and the client bring into the counseling
relationship is critical to the outcome of the counseling process. Cultural
upbringing affects the way one perceives reality as it affects issues of personal
and interpersonal relationships (Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Pedersen, 1991). For
example, using the parable of the Samaritan woman Hinkle and Hinkle (1992)
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discussed ways the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:30-35 can be
interpreted according to cultural perception.
They illustrate the cultural interpretation with the way a Filipino
individual would interpret the parable. In the Filipino culture helping someone in
need is a business because the person helped becomes indebted for life to the
individual providing help. In this case the western culture may see the Samaritan
as a good person while the Filipino culture will see the action as selfish and aimed
at taking advantage of the wounded traveler.
The religious leaders would be considered the good people because they
put aside their personal ambition and allowed the wounded Samaritan to help
himself and thereby retain his freedom. They see the story as illustrating “the
qualitative shift that can, and usually does, occur when a Western viewpoint is
moved outside of Western culture, a shift out of monocultural encapsulation” (p.
104). The shift takes the individual beyond learning the meaning of words into
experiencing an unfamiliar universe with complete sets of values and
interpretations
According to Hinkle and Hinkle (1992) there are three levels of cultural
interpretations of reality. One is egocentrism in which the focus is the self. In
this interpretation the reader asks what the parable means to him or her
personally. It is descriptive of a person who refuses to look at or understand
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issues from the perspective of another culture. Personal consciousness dictates
the way egocentric person interprets the world of reality. An egocentric person
would interpret the parable of the Good Samaritan according what it means to her
or him.
The second interpretation moves the interpreter beyond egocentrism into
ethnocentrism. The ethnocentric person remain culturally encapsulated and “is
unwilling or unable to address experience outside of a particular ethnic heritage”
(p. 104). The interpretation of reality is dictated by the individual’s ethnic or
cultural interpretation. An example given is that of a European American’s
“inability or unwillingness to understand the perspective of an African-American
female from the urban northern United States” (p. 104).
Egocentrism and ethnocentrism become problematic when dealing with
culturally different client. In egocentrism the counselors tend to mold clients into
their own personal images, while in ethnocentrism the counselor molds the client
into his or her own cultural image. These dangers are rooted in the ego ideal
developed through the influence of the cultural upbringing.
The result is that “if an ethnocentric, culturally encapsulated western
therapist were working with a non-western Filipino client, the therapist would
likely see the client’s family orientation (a sociocentric or, in this instance,
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family-centered self) as evidence of a pathologically underdeveloped (i.e.,
undifferentiated) self” (p. 105). Here the danger is for the therapist to treat this
cultural difference as a psychological malady. Without proper training, it is easy
for counseling professionals to make such a mistake.
Multiculturalism, the third level is descriptive of the relationship in which
the interpreter considers the cultural perception the client brings into the
counseling process. The counselor operating at this level is open to differences in
interpretation of reality and different ways of understanding life issues. This
requires the therapist to acquire skills that enable him or her to enter into a foreign
culture and still return to his or her own culture of origin (Augsburger, 1976).
The process is not easy as it “involves intense, ongoing, and comprehensive
submersion in the ‘otherness’ of an alternate culture’ reality, to the point where
the individual begins to experience him – or herself as the ‘other’ within the
normative reality of that culture” (Hinkle and Hinkle, 1992, p. 106). The reality is
that one cannot achieve this level of multiculturalism by simply reading or
intellectualizing the issue. It takes commitment and personal experience.
After working with Mexicans as well as Mexican Americans, Karaban
(1990) experienced problems that led her to conclude that cross-cultural
counseling may not be the best way to provide counseling help for the minority
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cultures. This conclusion is incompatible with multiculturalism as promoted by
Hinkle and Hinkle (1992). One of the problems she encountered was her
tendency to judge the culture of the clients. To her it is impossible for a counselor
to avoid being judgmental when interpreting the cultural understanding of the
client. “No matter how understanding or empathic one tries to be, a counselor is a
human being and as such is not value-free, but carries with her/him the values of
her/his culture which she/he assumes to be good” (p. 221). She proposes that
counselors redirect their effort to helping the minority individuals provide
counseling for their people.
Her conclusion is that “Counseling itself-as practiced by Western, Anglo,
middle class, Anglo counselors-may not be appropriate to certain cultures.” To
her “This type of thinking assumes that it is the Anglos who are/should be the
helpers and it is the minority person who is likely to be the helpee-a very classist
if not racist way of thinking” (p. 223). In making this statement she contradicts
herself for in one hand, she is advocating that counselors only counsel people
from their own ethnic backgrounds while suggesting that the same white
community train the minority counselors who in turn will help their own people.
One has to wonder, if it is not possible for counselors to develop
sensitivity to the culturally different, how can the same counselors train culturally
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different individuals to be good counselors to the people of their own cultural
groups? If it is considered racist or “classist” for the white culture to provide
counseling to the minority population, how is it different if the same white
counselor assumes the responsibility of training the minority counselors?
Whether one is training a minority counselor or providing counseling service to a
minority client the need to be culturally sensitive remains the same.
Voss (1992) sees a broader issue in Karaban’s conclusion. He sees the
conclusion as based on the assumption that “cross cultural counseling is a distinct
counseling method in which one either does or does not engage” (p. 253).
According to Voss the ‘cross cultural counseling’ is a psychological hermeneutic
rather than a distinct method of counseling. To him this broader definition
provides “an important meta-framework to discuss the need for expanding our
theoretical assumptions about human meaning contexts, and developing more
interdisciplinary, multi-method, inter-cultural approaches to counseling that
challenge the profession’s mainstream alignment with the dominant culture” (p.
255).
In other words the counseling professionals must accept the challenge to
change and incorporate other methods that will enable them to expand their client
base so that they include the culturally different. The challenge to change means
remaining ready and willing to address issues represented by the clients whose
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perception of counseling is different. Pastoral care and counseling providers must
maintain relevance by keeping up with demographic changes in the population.
Perception of the counseling process by the culturally different client should not
be a hindrance to an effective counseling experience.
Diversity of Religious Beliefs
Augsburger (1992) made a strong statement regarding pastoral counselors
that “We are heirs to a multi-age-multi-cultural-multi-faith –multi-persuasion
movement of healers and caregivers who touch others as the finger of God” (p.
97). Dealing with faith or spiritual issues in counseling is gaining popularity as “a
number of professions have demonstrated increased interest in understanding how
issues related to spirituality affect human development” (Shimabukuro, Danels
and D’Andrea, 1999, p. 221). By spirituality they mean “the unique ways that
people integrate their beliefs about a transcendental, extraordinary reality into
their worldview and personal identity” (p. 222). Such interests demonstrate the
fact that these professionals see the value of spirituality in human development
and understanding of issues (Malony, 1993; Hand, 1978, Augsburger, 1992).
The question here is why is it that historically counseling profession has
avoided the issue of spirituality? Shimabukuro et al (1999) points out four factors
that have contributed to the absence of spiritual emphasis in counseling. One is
the failure for the contemporary counseling theories to recognize spiritual
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influence on psychological issues. Secondly, education programs for counselors
do not address spiritual issues for their clients. Thirdly, due to lack of training,
counselors are unable to see the relationship between spirituality and belief
systems and how both affect the way clients find meaning in life. Fourthly, lack
of knowledge on how different cultures use spiritual beliefs to deal with issues in
life.
Spiritual issues should be of special concern for pastoral care and
counseling professionals because the profession is rooted in theological
understanding and interpretation of reality. Gerkin (1986) expressed concern
about the possibility of the discipline losing its theological roots. He stated, “And
yet it is the fact that the latest fashion among pastoral counselors is to talk about
recovering pastoral counseling’s theological identity.” To him, “This suggests, of
course, that in the time just past there were other concerns that were more
fashionable: family systems theory perhaps, or the appropriation of object
relations theory in pastoral counseling practice” (p. 3). The fact that there is a
discussion on recovering the theological identity implies also that the identity was
not totally lost.
Smith (1990), however, argues that pastoral counseling has lost its identity
and it is no longer different from psychotherapy. To him the fact that pastoral
counselors meet in professional offices, charge a fee from their clients and are
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distant from the Churches means that they are no longer distinguishable from
other psychotherapists. He goes on to argue that if pastoral counseling is
Christian then psychotherapy is Christian. “To recognize the identity between
the theories and practices of the psychotherapeutic and pastoral counseling
profession is to realize that the question of the theological justification of pastoral
counseling is actually a question about whether the current practice of
psychotherapy is truly pastoral” (p. 102).
While it is true that pastoral counselors have borrowed from the field of
psychotherapy and vice versa the reality remains that pastoral counseling has its
roots in theological understanding (Gerkin, 1986, Shimbukuro et al, 1999). One
needs to realize that pastoral counseling, like any other ministry of the Church,
has to address issues affecting society and in the language of the present culture
(Augburger, 1992).
To do so the discipline has to borrow languages and approaches relevant
to the society. In this case psychotherapy is a current means of helping people
with psychological and spiritual malady. For example on the importance of
language, Gerkin (1986) states, “It is by language that we express our sense out of
what we experience. It is by language that we express our relationships. It is by
language that we give things significance. To be human is to have language. It is
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by language that our world of meaning is disclosed” (p. 5). If the language of
psychology is acceptable and understood by society then pastoral counselors can
use the same language.
Fowler (1985) saw this as a necessary reality in society that is culturally
diverse. He stated that, “In the pluralistic society, theology is under increasing
pressure to speak a language that is faithful to the Christian story and vision, and
at the same time addresses the felt experience and the recognized and
unrecognized hungers of contemporary people” (p. 3). The implication is that
meeting needs in the society is the goal and language is simply the means.
In order to help people in need, the pastoral counselor cannot ignore the
language recognized by the society. The same language may be developed or
initially adopted in the field of psychotherapy or any other field. According to
Pruyser (1968), it is a reality that one cannot avoid psychological language as it
has become a part of the society. The fact that society has accepted the language
of psychology in literature, arts, press and medicine make it impossible for the
Church to avoid. To him “it is inevitable that some degree of psychological
mindedness affects even such logical enterprise as dogmatics, which used to sit on
her regal throne raised by faith and reason above all other human concerns” (p.
22). If pastoral counselors are to affect people’s lives they must use concepts and
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words understood and accepted by society as channels to healing. Using the same
language as the other therapists does not necessarily mean that the discipline
looses its identity. Neither does it mean that it ceases to be theological in its
understanding of issues facing clients.
The only danger is for the profession to water down the significance of the
spiritual or theological realm in the practice. While that may have happen in the
past (Hinkle and Hinkle, 1992, Augsburger, 1992), it is obvious that the discipline
is recognizing the need to reclaim that identity if some of it has been lost.
According to Bozzo (1970), theology is a reflective aspect of religion and
it “is concerned with aiding and fostering lived faith.” To him “It does not exist
as an end in itself; its purpose is ultimately practical, dealing with possibilities and
obstacles encountered in living a life of creative fidelity” (p. 420). If counseling
means helping people overcome issues and improve their lives, then theology
plays an important role in addressing these issues especially when the counseling
involve issues of religion and faith.
Gerkin (1986) acknowledges the fact that the desire for counselors to go
back to their theological identity means that the discipline has its roots in
theological foundation. He sees faith as fundamental to the pastoral counselor
and can be a part of therapeutic process. The question that Gerkin sets to address
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is how one can reconcile faith and therapy. In other words how can one reconcile
psychology and pastoral counseling? Gerkin’s answer is that “It occurs as they
find in the immediacy of the therapeutic context, metaphorical images and
themes, attitudinal postures and gestures, that somehow combine (critically
correlate?) the deepest metaphorical meanings of the faith tradition in which their
ministry is grounded and the best of psychological insight and adjustment” (p.
14). He goes on to conclude that “Thus faith and praxis are integrated in the
liveliness of the responsibly careful, but spontaneously free interaction between
counselor and counselee. Whenever that occurs pastoral counselors will have
been faithful to both their faith and their therapeutic practice” (p. 15).
Gerkin’s point is well taken. However, pastoral counseling cannot be
confined to simply letting the faith of the counselor manifest itself through the
web of the counseling process. This theory makes it sound as if the theological
aspect of the counseling process occurs accidentally or by osmosis. The pastoral
counselor must come to the counseling session prepared to do counseling from
psychological and theological perspective. The counselor must be deliberate in
applying theological understanding of human suffering. Schlaugh (1987) argued
the same point by stating that the discipline “involves the intentional integration
of psychological, theological, and ethical resources in an authentic, consistent,
and coherent manner” (p. 325).
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The client coming to a counselor recognizes that the pastoral counselor is
different from other therapeutic counselors and therefore the professional must
meet that expectation. Malony (1993) argues against counselors being too rigid to
consider addressing the issue of religion. To him “Counselors do well to go
beyond any penchant they might have for individual self-determination and
consider the strong possibility that those who come to them for help do indeed
identify with the religious traditions available to them just as surely as they reflect
the ethnic and cultural realities in which they live” (p. 242).
The above statement is in agreement with the study by Henderson et al
(1992). The study compared clients that seek counseling from social workers and
those that go to pastoral counselors. The results revealed that while the clients for
both disciplines shared similarity in symptoms only clients that went to pastoral
counselors were referred by clergy. The social workers received more referrals
from psychiatrists and psychologists. The study further demonstrated that “the
religious commitment of the client and counselor are factors in influencing the
choice for a pastoral counselor” (p. 216). It is evident from the study that clients
who seek counseling help from clergy irrespective of the issues,
value spiritual aspect of the counseling and expect it from the pastoral counselors
who should be best suited to meet spiritual needs of the clients.
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The pastoral counselor approaches his or her profession with the
understanding that the clients bring spiritual as well as emotional needs that may
be integrated in some form or another (Malony, 1993; Jensen, 2003; Schlaugh,
1987). Jordan (1997) suggested that pastoral counselors pay attention to religious
beliefs of the clients, appeal to spiritual resources, which include the religious or
church community and make use of other resources such as prayer, scripture
reading and other practices related to religion and spirituality.
Pastoral care and counseling is rooted in theology and must not abandon
its theological foundation. Integration of psychotherapy or other forms of
counseling is simply adopting methods and means of accomplishing its purpose of
caring and affecting positive change in society (Evans, 1958). Talking about the
practicality of theology, Hunter (1980) suggested that it should be looking for
ways to apply it to issues people face in life. To him practical theology should be
“concerned with developing practical religious knowledge about caring for others,
that is, how to care for others in their concrete contingencies and problems so as
to stimulate or enable their life of faith and practical knowledge of God” (p. 69).
In other words practical theology addresses the issue of applying faith and
knowledge of God to every day issues of life.
Hunter goes further to state that practical theology in which religion and
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theology are effectively integrated can have a wider effect of changing society for
the better. He states, “An approach to these practical concerns undertaken with
religious seriousness and theological perspective may be precisely what is needed
for helping our civilization develop more humanly rich and fulfilling traditions of
the art of life, beyond the very superficial moral and religious methodologies that
presently prevail” (p. 69). The inclusion of practices developed in other
disciplines such as psychotherapy does not negate its theological foundation. It
simply means that the profession is using every available resource to address
issues affecting humanity.
It is therefore important to expect pastoral counseling to address the
spiritual needs of their clients as these needs affect their lives. This is especially
important for counselors dealing with a multicultural population as “multicultural
experts have stressed that spiritual issues play a particularly important role in the
psychological development of people from diverse ethnic-racial groups”
(Shimabukuro et al, 999, p. 224). This makes it of critical importance that the
training of pastoral counselors includes developing skills necessary for addressing
the spiritual needs of their clients especially those from diversity of cultures.
International students come from diversity of cultural and religious
backgrounds, which require careful consideration when dealing with their
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spiritual and emotional needs. For example, Naughton, Ed and Others (1985)
discussed the effects of religious beliefs on how they respond to patients who
attempt suicide. They sight examples of Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam.
According to their finding, all these major religions teach that suicide is wrong.
However, Buddhism, and Hinduism do not condemn the individual who attempts
suicide. But in the Islamic belief system, suicide is a crime that deserves
punishment. It is however, different if the person attempting suicide is doing so
as a sacrifice to help someone else. When suicide is self-sacrifice it is considered
an honorable act. This is just one example in which one particular issue can have
interpretation that is different from one belief system to another.
The examples demonstrate the challenge the pastoral counselors must face
in helping international students adjust in the United States. Religious issues
must be taken into consideration. The problem is that they represent a diversity of
faith traditions with differing value systems (Naughton, Ed and Others, 1985;
Johnson, 1992). It is therefore important that, in their training, pastoral
counselors must acquire competencies that will help them address the spiritual
issues of clients representing diversity of cultures. Acquiring such competencies
is necessary for the effectiveness of the Pastoral counseling professionals
(Shimabukuro et al., 1999).
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The adjustment needs of the foreign students cannot be divorced from The
adjustment needs of the foreign students cannot be divorced from The adjustment
needs of the foreign students cannot be divorced from their spiritual and religious
issues. The spiritual issues the students bring to counseling process require the
attention of the counseling professional. The challenge is how to address these
needs when each client brings different value system based on his or her religious
and cultural upbringing. This is one of the challenges that make counseling
international students a unique experience.
Cultural Attitude Towards Mental Illness
One problem in counseling people from different cultures is the danger of
the counselor misinterpreting certain behaviors as psychological illnesses when in
the client’s culture it is not the case. Torrey and Knable (2002) stated that some
manic-like behaviors may be acceptable in some cultures and may have nothing to
do with mental illness. After observing several examples from Africa and the
Caribbean islands they concluded that “Many cultures have developed culturespecific means of expressing anxiety, fear, enthusiasm, and joy-expressions that
may appear strange to individuals from other cultures” (p. 77). The challenge for
the professional providing service is to differentiate between mental illness and
culturally acceptable means of expressing different emotions and attitude.
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Pastoral counseling professionals need to understand that mental illness is
culturally defined. Augsburger (1986) stated “The intercultural pastoral counselor
is aware of the cultural shaping and labeling of mental illness”. He goes on to
state that “What is normal and normative in each culture varies significantly, as
does what is abnormal behavior in each setting” (p. 345). Providing counseling
service to foreign students means learning to suspend judgement about what may
seem like unacceptable behavior until there is a cultural interpretation of the same
behavior. Likewise mental illness can only be defined from cultural
interpretation. In this case one cannot rely on traditional method of diagnosing
mental illness. Culture must be taken into account. This is a challenge when
providing counseling in a multicultural setting.
Economical Realities
Counseling profession in the United States involves fees paid by the
clients seeking counseling because the professionals offering the services make a
living by the practice (Smith 1990). The expectation is that the counselor has an
office and the clients come to him to seek counseling help (Smith, 1990; Stone,
2001; Jordan, 1997; Voss, 1992). Pastoral counselors must concern themselves
with, not only earning a living, but also protecting themselves from possible suits
of malpractice (Thomas, 1997). Thus charging a fee for the services is a necessity
for survival of the discipline and the individual professionals.
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Describing financial reality and the dilemma facing the pastoral
counselors Smith (1990) points out the fact that some pastoral counselors charge
sliding fees for their services. However, he warned that “because of their
dependence on fees, no pastoral counseling center can no longer survive if more
than a small percentage of its counselees are paying small fees” (p. 103). He
concluded that it is the reality of these economical circumstances that force most
pastoral counselors to open their centers in communities with means to pay for the
services. This leaves out the poor willing to seek help but unable to pay.
For Jacob (2001), financial issues created tension between his professional
responsibility to the client and the need to satisfy the requirements of Health
Maintenance Organization (HMO). The demands HMO placed on his
professional practice proved too much that he finally decided to end his
relationship with the organization. However, that did not free him from worrying
about financial survival of his practice and that of his colleagues. “Our survival is
an underlying component. If we cannot pay our bills, feed and educate our
families, and provide something for retirement, we become needy craftsmen” (p.
284).
He goes on to ask “How long can we or our agencies survive as pastoral
counselors when our experiences or reduced compensation from HMO contracts
greatly outnumber those of increased compensation” (p. 284)? This struggle
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demonstrates the economical reality that pastoral care and counseling
professionals must address in order to provide services to the needs of those who
are without financial resources.
The reality pauses two major challenges for the professionals seeking to
provide services to the foreign students. One is that foreign students have limited
financial means and therefore, may not have sufficient funds to pay (Chen, 1999;
Idowu, 1985; Oropeza & Fitzgibbon, 1991). Arthur (1997) noted that
international students in Canada faced similar financial hardships especially those
who depend on their families for support. In his discussion on social and cultural
causes of stress for international students, Chen (1999) stated “Financial concern
is a practical and critical issue in international students’ daily lives.” To him
“Without adequate financial resources, basic survival becomes an issue” (p. 55).
Given this reality that financial survival is of a major concern for the foreign
students, the thought of paying for counseling services remain inconceivable. It is
an issue that pastoral care providers must face if they are going to serve the
international student community.
Inability to pay is only one part of the issue. The second challenge facing
the pastoral care and counseling provider is that foreign students are unlikely to
voluntarily seek counseling from a professional (Boyer & Sedlacek, 1989;
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Komiya N. & Ellis, T, 2001; Wehrly, 1988). This complicates the matter because
one has to be convinced that he or she needs a service in order to consider paying
for it.
Bontrager, Birch and Kracht (1990) did a research on mental health needs
of international students in the universities. One of the conclusions of the
research was that “Though U.S. students typically go to a student counseling
center for help with their concerns, international students tend not to take
advantage of this service” (p. 25). The study concluded further that the foreign
students do not even “utilize fully the counseling function of the international
student advisor” (p. 25). The fact that pastoral care counselors are seeking clients
willing and able to pay, means that foreign students will not receive help unless
the profession come up with creative ways of providing and funding their
services.
Summary
International students encounter emotional and psychological needs that
affect their lives as they try to adjust to living and studying in a foreign soil
(Fernandez, 1988; Fouad, 1991; Luzio-Lockett, 1998; Wehrly, 1988). They need
help during this adjustment period. Pastoral care and counseling professionals
desiring and willing to provide counseling services for them face some unique
challenges. Diversity of cultures, lack of proper training, cultural perception in
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counseling, diversity of religious beliefs, cultural attitude and understanding of
mental illness and economical reality remain strong obstacles to the professionals
seeking to serve the international students community. These are issues that need
addressing if pastoral care and counseling is going to meet the needs of the
foreign learners.
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Chapter 7
Competencies Necessary for Providing Pastoral Counseling for
International Students
In order to provide adequate pastoral care and counseling to foreign
students the issue of competency for the care providers must be addressed.
Addressing the competency issue takes the challenge to the training of the
counselors in the field. In chapter five the discussion focused on the unique
issues one faces when counseling international students. This chapter will discuss
suggested competencies that will help the profession enhance its effectiveness in
providing counseling services for the foreign student community.
What then are competencies necessary for providing pastoral care and
counseling to foreign students? Tartar and Horenczyk (2000) did a study on
counseling foreign students in an Israeli University. They concluded by stating,
“It seems important to reexamine the nature and effectiveness of counselors’
multicultural competencies in dealing with international students. These
competencies refer in general to counselor awareness, belief, knowledge, and
skills related to working within multicultural counseling contexts” (p. 59). Arthur
(1997) stated that in addressing multicultural issues the counseling profession
fails to equip the counselors for helping international students.
Yoo and Skovholt (2001) did a comparative study of depression,
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expression and seeking help among American and Korean students. One of the
conclusions of the study confirmed the fact that there is a great need for training
counselors, staff and health practitioners in the area of multicultural issues. The
study revealed that Korean students responded better to counselors with cultural
sensitivity. The implication is that it if of great importance that practitioners
possess competencies necessary for meeting the needs of the clients represented
by students from diversity of cultures. Other studies draw similar conclusions
(Constantine, M. G. & Gloria, A. M, 1999).
In order for the pastoral care and counseling professionals to address the
issue of counseling foreign students the discipline must deal with the problem at
the training level. Those preparing to provide services for the sojourning learners
must poses competencies that will enable them to serve effectively. The
necessary competencies suggested in this study include cultural awareness, ability
to identify and utilize community resources, ability to adopt flexible approaches
in counseling, ability to provide spiritual care in the midst of diversity of belief
systems and ability to prepare students for readjustment to culture of origin. Each
of these competencies will be discussed below.
Cultural Awareness
According to Augsburger (1986) to be an intercultural person is not to be
culture free. Rather it means being culturally aware. Cultural awareness comes
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in two levels for the counselor seeking to be multicultural in his or her profession.
One is awareness and appreciation of own culture. Secondly, awareness of the
differences between own and the foreign cultures.
Awareness and Appreciation of Own Culture
Self-awareness is essential for anyone seeking to provide counseling to
multicultural clients (Bolton-Brwonlee, 1987; Toropek & Reza, 2001 and Evans
& Larrabee, 2002). First, self-awareness helps the counselor understand how
cultural upbringing has influenced his or her understanding and interpretation of
reality. In order to address the subject effectively it needs to be addressed from
personal and professional level. It is not enough to address the issues from
professional level. Counseling is a relationship and personal issues are critical in
the counseling process. Silva-Netto (1992) uses the term ‘culture personality
system’ a concept which he defines as “a human system composed of cultural
determinants and cultural expressions of personality, the interrelationships of
which produce a dynamically organized self-structure within the individual
human”. To him, “This self-structure reflects the individual’s own unique
adjustment to the environment, as well as that shared by the community” (p. 132).
In essence, cultural values determine how an individual perceives and
experiences reality as an individual and as a part of a community. The way one
perceives reality and relates to society is the product of cultural upbringing. An
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effective multicultural pastoral counselor must have an awareness of cultural
influences in his or her life. This means making every effort to examine personal
pattern of thinking and perception in the light of cultural background. It is selfexamination that helps the counselor understand his or her behavior, attitude and
relationships as influenced by culture (Chen, 1999; Pedersen, 1995). Without
such an examination one faces the danger of inability to treat clients from diverse
cultural backgrounds without being judgmental and prejudicial (Arredondo &
Arciniega, 2001; Evan U Larabee, 2002; Toporek & Reza, 2001).
Secondly self-awareness helps counselors understand subconscious attitudes
that can be detrimental to the counseling relationship. According to Toropek &
Reza (2001) self-awareness is more than knowing one’s own culture. It involves
awareness of biases and prejudices that occur outside the professional life. They
worn that “When a counseling professional examines their beliefs, values, and
biases only at a professional level while ignoring their personal level, interactions
with clients will be affected” (p. 20). They decry the fact that often awareness
focuses only on professional aspect of ministry and not the beliefs of the
counselor.
To illustrate the point they site an example of a female college counselor who
believes that she treats the Latino clients professionally. However she may not be
conscious of the fact that on the streets she tends to walk with caution when she
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sees Latino men. Thus, on professional level she may be treating the Latino
clients without prejudice. However, on personal level she, unconsciously, does
not trust Latino men. Such mistrust, if unchecked, can affect relationships
between counselor and client.
Thus in developing competencies for professionals dealing with international
students or other cultures it is important to address the issue from both
professional as well as personal level. Unconscious personal attitudes can affect
relationships during counseling sessions. Self-awareness in counseling foreign
students is essential because cultural and personal assumptions affect the way one
relates to the clients from other cultures. In order for a professional counselor to
provide service without prejudice or bias attitude he or she needs to be aware of
the existence of such attitudes towards other cultures and races. It is necessary if
one is to be open minded to other worldviews represented by the multicultural
clients (Althen, 1991; Pedersen, 1991; Toporek & Reza, 2001).
Thirdly, self-awareness enables the counselor to deepen his or her
understanding of other worldviews. In order to properly interpret meanings from
other worldviews one has to understand his or her own worldviews (Arredondo
and Arciniega, 2001). Chen (1999) considers counselor’s attitude and expertise
as most important in providing counseling to foreign students. To him the
effectiveness of the counselor depends on his or her ability “to recognize the
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necessity of challenging the cultural bias of her or his own untested criteria in
counseling encounter or helping relationship” (p. 58).
Pedersen (1991) advocated the need for counselors to examine their own
value system before attempting to provide counseling to foreign students. He
stated that “Counselors need cultural self-awareness and sensitivity, an awareness
of assumptions or values, openness to and respect for differing value systems,
tolerance to ambiguity, willingness to learn with and from clients and genuine
concern for people with different values” (p. 15). Ability to understand other’s
worldview depends on ones ability to understand the difference between own
culture and other cultures.
Fourthly self-awareness enhances the counseling relationships by
challenging and helping the counselor develop accepting attitude. Awareness of
self, enables the counselor to confront his or her personal values and biases
(Bolton-Brownlee, 1987; Evans & Larrabee, 2002). By confronting such attitudes
the counseling professional is then able to address areas where his or her attitude
affects the counseling relationships with clients from other cultures. In describing
counselors with self-awareness, Corey (1986) states “They are aware of their own
values, attitudes, and biases and of how these are likely to affect minority clients”
(p. 350). A counselor who is opened to self-scrutiny is more able to accept others
with different values and interpretation of reality.
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The main purpose is to minimize the danger of biases, prejudice and
misdiagnosing the client’s issues during counseling session (Chen, 1999; Jacob &
Greggo, 2001; Toporek & Reza, 2001). For one to accept and understand other
world views he or she needs freedom from the cultural and professional
limitations. Such limitations are based on narrowly defined approach to
relationships that is understood only according to western worldviews (Arredondo
& Arciniega, 2001; Beek, 1987).
Fifthly, self-awareness helps the counselor appreciate other cultures.
Accepting other cultures is not enough. One needs to see and appreciate value in
the way other cultures interpret reality (Augsberger, 1986). Speaking from
personal experience as pastoral counselor in a multicultural setting Silva-Netto
(1992) stated, “In multicultural setting I have been persistently compelled to
examine my ‘perceptual blinders.’ In the process of doing this, I find myself
developing new conceptions of reality, new images of our collective selves and
our shrinking world, and some enthusiastic determination to grow beyond my
cultural limitations and become truly ‘cosmopolitan’” (p. 138). It appears here
that examination of one’s own cultural upbringing is key to understanding and
appreciating other cultures and recognizing the limitations of own culture.
While developing self-awareness to his or her own culture the counselor
must constantly remember that different cultures have other genuine ways of
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understanding and interpreting reality. Therefore the counselor’s culture cannot
be regarded as being more superior than that of the clients. According to
Augsburger (1986) pastoral counseling personnel who are aware of their own
cultures are also “fully aware that others may hold different values and
assumptions, which are legitimate even when they are directly opposite to their
own” (p. 20). Lee (1991) stated that “in order to become culturally skilled as a
counselor, one must become more fully aware of his or her own heritage as well
as possible biases that may interfere with helping effectiveness, gain knowledge
about the history and culture of diverse groups of people, and develop new skills”
(p. 210). Such skills involves the ability to appreciate the values different cultures
bring to the counseling relationship.
Finally self-awareness is necessary if a counselor is able to enter into the
experience of the culturally different client. Discussing the ministry of presence
Augsburger (1986) stated that “Presence requires an integration of self-awareness
with an awareness of the other” (p. 37). Self-awareness enables the counselor to
be aware of the obstacles in his or her life that can hinder effective counseling
relationships with the client from another culture. It makes it possible for the
counselor to be genuinely transparent and address issues of superiority complex
while allowing the care provider to enter into the experience of the culturally
different client. “Such self-awareness permits more complete attending to others
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and a willingness to perceive as much of the other’s experience as he or she is free
to reveal” (Augsburger, 1986, p. 37). It is an absolute necessity for pastoral care
provider wishing to empathize with the culturally different.
Implementation of self-awareness in the training of counselors is
necessary if care providers are to be effective in counseling international student
populations (Althen, 1991; Jacob & Greggo, 2001 Merta et al, 1988). However,
Evans and Larrabee (2002) see challenges in providing training on self awareness.
First, the counseling students may be forced to accept the reality of oppression in
which she or he may have participated. The prevailing attitude is to deny it.
Secondly, there is “the comfort students feel when they retreat to old, more
familiar behaviors when the multicultural training is usually designed to break
down these barriers by encouraging effective self-examination” (p. 27).
While the challenge exist, it remains essential that all counseling
disciplines face and address the issue when training professionals to provide
counseling service for the culturally different clients (Arredondo & Arciniega,
2001; Bolton-Brown Lee, 1987); Evans & Larrabee, 2002 ; Toporek & Reza,
2001). Based on their years of experience in teaching career development, Evans
and Larrabee (2002) concluded that self examination is essential for counseling
professionals wishing to provide counseling to the culturally different clients. To
them “enhancement of instruction has a higher likelihood of being successful if it
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uses as a foundation, the personal examination of one’s own career development
patterns, personal attitudes, values, and biases that permeate current approaches to
counseling” (p. 27).
Awareness and Appreciation of Cultural Differences
Silva-Netto (1992) observes that “the functional integrity of a society is not
preserved by developing and spreading a single set of closely related cultural
systems over the entire country.” To him “The American experience suggests
that the functional integrity is maintained by recognizing the importance of
diversities in subcultural systems and by including these differences in functional
ways within the system” (p. 133). By making this statement he was challenging
pastoral care and counseling professionals to adjust to the reality that they need to
develop ways of addressing cultural differences in the profession. Promoting the
concept of allowing and accepting diversities to be the norm for the society means
that the dominant culture must accommodate its services to all the emerging
cultures. International students represent one of the cultures that need the services
of pastoral care and counseling professionals.
In challenging pastoral counselors to change and adopt new methods of
reaching the minority or the culturally different clients, Voss (1992) wonders if
pastoral counselors have lost their passion for the culturally different. He asks,
“Has the ‘professionalization’ of ministry, specifically, of pastoral counseling,
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injected a set of values and methods of helping which have not been based on any
special love of or commitment to minority and poor people” (p. 257)? His
concern is that the methods of helping promoted by the profession may be barriers
to the changes necessary for the discipline to effectively provide counseling help
to the culturally different. An effective multicultural counselor has to cross these
barriers of methods that were not developed with diversity of cultures in mind.
The challenge is how one can achieve this level of competency.
In their study of Asian students’ rating of counselors, Zhang and Dixon
(2001) found that cultural sensitivity played an important role for counselors who
were successful in achieving positive results. The study demonstrated that Asian
students responded favorably to the counselors who were more sensitive to
multicultural issues. They responded less positively to counselors who lacked
multicultural sensitivity “on the social influence variables of expertness,
attractiveness, and trustworthiness” (p. 259). To them the study clearly
confirmed that clients from other cultures have a better experience in counseling
relationship when the care provider is competent in cultural sensitivity.
Awareness of the cultures represented by the foreign students is important if the
profession is to reach out to them. However, several factors need to be taken into
account in discussing the need for the awareness of the cultures represented by the
clients.
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First, Awareness of other cultures does not mean each counselor can
master every culture she or he encounters (Fouad, 1991; Zhang & Dixon, 2001).
That will be impractical. Fouad (1991) sees the impracticality from the training
perspective. He states, “We cannot offer a course in counseling for each and
every country counseling psychologists are likely to encounter, but we can help
them to become familiar with some general cultural differences that will greatly
impact on international students’ adjustment to life in the United States” (p. 67).
The implication is that training should focus on general issues that have
universally cultural implication when dealing with students studying overseas.
Silva-Netto (1992) agrees also that the task of mastering individual
cultures is impossible. He sights the fact that American society “is composed of a
massive stream of humanity speaking all kinds of languages and representing the
incredible variety of nationalities, races, and religions that crossed oceans and
continents, leaving home for vision of hope” (p. 132). With such a large number
of cultures represented no counselor will have enough time to learn each
individually. As such there must be a better and more practical way for
counselors to gain enough knowledge that will be the bases for growth and
development in learning to provide adequate service for the foreign learners who
need the help of the pastoral counselors.
Secondly, Awareness and appreciation of other cultures is more than just
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knowing about the differences that exist in these cultures. For pastoral care
professionals, it is a call for personal and professional commitment to learning
and growing to be a multicultural person (Bogia, 1979; Lee et al, 1999; Locke,
1993; Arrdondo & Arciniega, 2001). This means personal change for the
professional counselor who must be impacted enough by differences in cultures
that he or she becomes multicultural in his or her thinking. In essence the
professional counselor sees the differences as positive contributions in the
counseling relationships and personal development.
Augsburger (1986) advocated that a truly multicultural pastoral counselor
is one who is able to enter into another’s culture and return to his or her own
culture. “They can go beyond empathy, which assumes a common cultural base,
and feels at home on the boundary between worldviews. They can enter into
another’s world, savor its distinctiveness, and prize its differentness while holding
clearly to the uniqueness of their own” (p. 20). Silva-Netto (1992) described the
experience as becoming a cosmopolitan, which involves moving from the
limitation of cultural upbringing and learning to being a part of the society that is
multicultural in nature.
Awareness and appreciation of other culture requires skills and attitude
changes that impact the thinking of the counselor. The impact must go beyond
simple knowledge of the foreign culture. They must impact the counselor
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experientially. For example according to Toporek and Reza (2001) a white
counselor may be aware of his or her privileges in society but “may not recognize
and acknowledge the impact of this privilege on an affective level” (p. 17). The
changes must take place in the counselor’s attitude. According to Voss (1992)
these changes are conversions in the sense that “they take place well within the
person of the counselor, transcends technique or strategy, and provides a
transcendental hermeneutic of what pastoral counseling require of the pastoral
counselor” (p. 258).
Thirdly, to become a multicultural pastoral counselor requires one to take
special interest and time to learn and develop an appreciation for such an
experience (Voss, 1992; Zhang & Dixon, 2001). If awareness of other cultures
requires personal change, then one must be interested enough to take the time to
be immersed in the foreign cultures. Based on his experience Silva-Netto (1992)
concluded by stating, “I also feel the irresistible need to grow in the area of crosscultural sensitivity and competence, being able to function effectively and
creatively within a wide variety of cultural contexts.” To him “This means being
able to enter into the world of meaning and significance of other people, grasp
their point of view, their hermeneutics of life, and realize the vision of their
world” (pp. 138-139). One cannot achieve this level of understanding and
experience without hard work and dedication
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A pastoral care and counseling professional must be competently aware of
other cultures in order to understand issues from the cultural perspective of the
client. Augsburger (1986) goes further and proposes what he termed
“Interpathy”, a concept of combining sympathy and empathy and taking both a
step deeper in understanding the counseling issues of another individual. He
defines the concept as “an intentional cognitive envisioning and affective
experiencing of another’s thoughts and feelings, even though the thoughts rise
from another process of knowing, the values grow from another frame of moral
reasoning, and the feelings spring from another basis of assumptions” (p. 29). He
further states that “In ‘interpathic’ caring, the process of ‘feeling with’ and
‘thinking with’ another requires that one enter the other’s world of assumptions,
beliefs, and values and temporarily take them as one’s own” (p. 29).
The problem with this assumption is the practicality. How long will it
take for a counselor to develop the ability think and feel like a client from a
foreign culture? In dealing with multicultural situation the purpose is to prepare
counselor to respond to diversity of cultures. The profession must be practical in
proposing the necessity of training counselors to function effectively in diverse
populations. Cultural experiences are products of years of one being brought up
in a particular culture (Luckmann, 2000; Spector, 2004). A year or two years of
training cannot bring a counselor to the level of experiencing another culture as
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one’s own. However, it is possible for the counselor to develop the ability to
connect with people of diverse cultures by learning to delineate the cultural
aspects to the issues presented by clients.
The point here is not to totally reject the concept of “interpathy” as
envisioned by Augsburger. It may not be possible for one to gain the experience
necessary to completely feel, think and view the world from another culture.
However, it is possible for one to learn and develop the basic understanding of
how cultures inform, shape and determine the worldviews. Such a basic
understanding will then help the counselor become skillful in connecting with the
issues raised by the clients from other cultures. I agree with Augsburger that as
members of human race we share much in common. Also that pastoral
counseling involves presence which communicates grace through dialogue.
Remaining open to receiving the client’s beliefs and worldviews without
judgment is indeed a part of the ministry of presence. Thus Augsburger is right
when he states “Presence requires an integration of self-awareness with awareness
of the other” (p. 37). The only issue of my disagreement is the extend to which
the counselor is expected to go in the training. In this case ‘interpathy’
is practical only if it is viewed as a life long process of learning and growing for
professionals interested in multicultural counseling experience.
Fourthly, for a professional to fully immerse himself, or herself in learning
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and growing to function effectively in a multicultural setting, field experience in
the training and motivation is necessary. The training must go beyond the
classroom setting and include actual experience with other cultures. Diaz-Lazaro
and Cohen (2001) did a study on importance of personal contact in multicultural
training. Their research suggested “that a multicultural counseling course with a
strong cross-cultural contact component was effective in augmenting trainees’
overall multicultural counseling competencies” (p. 52). The participants in the
study were students required to chose and work with a cultural group unfamiliar
to them. The study concluded that “Both cross-cultural contacts and cognitivedidactic experiences are strategies that should go hand-in-hand in the
development of multicultural counseling competencies” (p. 55).
In another research study Jacob & Greggo (2001) studied a university
program that required counseling students to interact with international students
on campus as part of their learning experience. One of their conclusions was that
“International students offer an immense resource of information regarding
counseling along with cultural and academic practices around the world and it is
crucial to include them as valuable resource in sensitivity training with counselortrainees” (p. 87). This means that through contact with international students
counselors are able to gain knowledge and experience of worldviews that are
different from the western perspective.
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The emphasis is that counselors desiring to provide care for foreign
students must understand the worldviews that affect the students as they adjust to
life in American universities. Thus making interaction with students a part of the
training program is an effective tool in preparing the same counselors to provide
service for the same culturally diverse student population. In essence it is a
mutual benefit as the counselors learn from the students and develop skills that
they can use to help same students adjust to the foreign culture. In the study the
interaction with foreign students gave the counselors a first hand experience of the
cultural issues that the sojourning learners bring to the host country.
Thus they concluded “If counselor educators recognize international
students as a culturally diverse group in need of sensitive counseling
interventions, then there are opportunities to provide mutually meaningful
interactions for counselor-trainees and international students on campus” (p. 86).
In this case the counselors in training are able to experience and appreciate
cultural issues while the foreign students get help in their adjustment to the new
country.
Another way to provide opportunities for counselors to gain experience in
dealing with other cultures is through internship. Lee et al, (1999) did a study of
sites that provide multicultural counseling training. Their study indicated that
although the clinical supervisors play the primary role in assessing the
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multicultural competency, they found no indication that the same supervisors
were competent in the area of multicultural counseling.
In explaining the reason for the lack of practical multicultural training for
the counselors, Evans and Larrabe (2002) stated that one of the problems stems
from the reality of demographic. To them “Some counseling programs are
isolated and do not have culturally diverse student body nor is there easy access to
a culturally diverse clientele” (p. 32). This concern raises two issues. One is that,
though training centers exist for providing practical training, the interns needing
multicultural training may not receive adequate supervision since some of the
supervisor have less culturally diverse experience and may not be skilled enough
to supervise and evaluate the progress of the learning counselor in the field.
Secondly, there is the issue that the trainees can have difficulties finding
culturally different clients.
However, Lee et al (1999) challenged the second notion of unavailability
of clientele. Their study showed that “most directors of programs estimated that
only 70% of their clientele were White/European American” (p. 71). They insist
that there are other forms of cultural diversity which include different religions,
disability, economic status and many others that can provide opportunities for
counselors to experience and learn how to deal with culturally different clients.
They conclude “It may therefore be a red herring for directors of programs to
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claim that lack of diversity in clients was a major reason for not providing better
training in multicultural counseling skills. It may also be that directors of
programs are not aware of the diversity that does exist on their campuses because
their own definitions of diversity are too limited” (p. 71).
Knowing the urgency of equipping counselors, especially pastoral care
counselors, to be competent in cross cultural counseling, the discipline must
design ways of providing the training and work out the means for overcoming the
obstacles (Augsburger, 1992; Silva-Netto, 1992; Triandis, 1991; Bontrager et al,
1990). Augsberger (1986) stated that “Movement from unawareness to awareness
is facilitated best by encounter with more than just information about another
culture” (p. 24). Cultural awareness of other cultures cannot occur without real
experience with the foreign cultures (Manese, Wu & Nepomuceno, 2001).
According to Augsburger (19886) the process of becoming truly aware of a
foreign culture is gradual. Over time and “with repeated encounters, the strange
becomes familiar, the exotic becomes accepted, the unbelievable becomes
believable, and then the second culture becomes a second home” (p. 25).
The reality is that, dealing with international students means addressing
issues of multiple cultures at the same time (Fouad, 1991; Pedersen, 1991;
Spencer-Rogers, 2000). It may never be possible for any counselor to find a
second home in any of the cultures represented by the students who come from
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many diverse cultures and some are here temporarily (Jacob & Greggo, 2001;
Zhang & Dixon, 2001). However, one can develop general principles and skills
that are helpful in understanding and engaging those who come with multiple
cultural experiences. In other words one may be able to find a home in dealing
with multiplicity of cultures and knowing how to connect with any culture even
without prior knowledge of the same culture.
Like other counseling therapists, pastoral counselors face the challenge of
providing services in a multicultural setting. Awareness and appreciation of other
cultures is essential if the discipline is to realize its mission to the poor and the
culturally different (Smith, 1990; Hinkle and hinkle, 1982). For pastoral
counselors to appreciate cultural differences, training must include internship in
which the trainees are immersed in cultures foreign to them (Arredondo and
Acriniega, 2001; Chen, 1999; Diaz-Lazaro and Cohen; Jacob and Greggo, 2001;
& Wu et al., 2001).
The training and experience will help the trainees understand and address
the issues of bias, prejudice and inability to understand the issues from the client’s
worldview or cultural understanding (Ancis and Sanchez-Hucles, 2000; Chen,
1999; Constantine and Gloria; 1999; Evans and Larrabee, 2002; Fouad, 1991; and
Parker, 1988). The training should only be the beginning as the learning must be
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a life time process.
This is a challenge for pastoral counseling discipline to make it a part of
the training for counselors to include internship that incorporates learning with
experience which involves working with multicultural clients (Jacob and Greggo,
2001; Lee et al, 1999; and Smith, 1990). Diaz-Lazaro & Cohen (2001) emphasize
the importance of combining both contact and knowledge in preparing counselors
for multicultural counseling. Awareness and appreciation of own culture and that
of other cultures are necessary competencies for pastoral counselors preparing to
reach to the international student community.
Ability to Identify and Utilize Community Resource
Multicultural pastoral counseling requires that the counselor apply new
methods of counseling according to the needs of the client population. The
discussion in chapter five addressed the economical realities as one of the great
obstacles for providing counseling service to international students. First it was
pointed out that limited financial resources is compounded by the fact that seeking
counseling is not culturally acceptable in most cultures represented by the foreign
student population (Mori, S, 2000; Boyer, S. P, and Sedlacek, W. E., 1989; Chen,
1999; Idowu, 1985; Oropeza & Fitzgibbon, 1991). Secondly it was pointed out
that pastoral counselors need to charge a fee for their services because they have
to earn a living from the services and because they need insurance to protect
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themselves from possible malpractice law suits (Jordan, 1997; Smith, 1990;
Stone, 2001; Thomas, 1997; Voss, 1992).
After acknowledging the importance of providing pastoral care at a
reduced rate Jacob (2001) acknowledges also that “The extent of the counselor’s
ability to contribute to the common good is connected to his or her ability to be
good to themselves” (p. 287). His argument is that one cannot take care of others
effectively if he or she cannot take care of himself or herself because “A linkage
exists between personal management of our care and our ability to affect the
common good” (p. 287). His experience underscores the financial struggle that a
professional pastoral counselor must address in order to continue the mission of
providing care to all including those not able to pay.
These economical realities necessitate that professionals seeking to
provide services for international students must find means of supporting their
services. Speaking about the multicultural pastoral counseling among the poor
Smith stated, “However, with the rise in medical and insurance costs and
reduction of benefits, a non-fee-based practice of pastoral counseling might
actually prove more helpful to larger numbers of such people” (p. 108).
Providing free service will be possible only if there is another way of funding the
practice.
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Given the realities of pastoral counselor’s personal care and the need for
insurance, the statement underscores the difficulty of providing pastoral care for
the economically disadvantaged. Pastoral counselors, who serve the poor, must
find ways of supporting their services. Foreign students are among those who
struggle financially because of their limited resources (Chen, 1999; Idowu, 1985;
Oropeza & Fitzgibbon, 1991). It is therefore a compelling need for the discipline
to look into the community for available resources for funding the services.
Hoover (1990) discusses the need for marketing pastoral care. His
description of marketing agrees with the concept of utilizing community resources
to meet the needs facing those providing spiritual care. He states: “Marketing
involve reaching into available resources to find answers for questions and
solutions for problems” (p. 53). The implication is that the community has
resources that pastoral care providers can use to meet the counseling needs of the
international students or other needy sectors of the population. The challenge is
for the provider to find ways of accessing these resources, which, in the case of
reaching international students, include finances and social support. Each will be
discussed briefly.
Financial Resources
In order to meet the needs of international students, who are not able to
pay, the professional counselor must learn to look to the community for financial
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help. One of these resources is the Church community. This is particularly
important because, in chapter two of this study, it was pointed out that pastoral
care and counseling has its historical roots in the Church. The same chapter
demonstrated also that pastoral care and counseling was a means by which the
Church community addressed psychological and behavioral issues afflicting the
humanity in general (Campbell, 1987; Ewing, 1990; Maddox, 19991). Providing
services for international students is in keeping with the same mission of meeting
needs of humanity.
Recognizing the pastoral counseling as a part of practical theology, Fowler
(1985) stated that, “Work in practical theology seeks to return to the dialectic
between the church’s normative memory and vision and its struggles toward the
action of Christian discipleship in the world” (p. 43). His emphasis is
that the Church needs to affect change in the lives of people in the society and in
the world. The Church can view the ministry of reaching out to international
students as a strategic way to impact the world for the better. This makes it
logical for the pastoral counselor to seek financial support in order to provide
services for the poor and, particularly, international students.
A second resource available for the pastoral care and counseling
professional is to seek financial help through grants and other resources that may
be interested in outreach to the poor. According to Voss (1992) this is a
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conversion that “involves political shift from being a passive community observer
to becoming an active community participant in the political and fiscal processes,
especially those that allocate funds and prioritize services in the local community”
(p. 259). In other words the pastoral counselor will need to make his ministry
known in the community. It goes back to the same concept of marketing because
it involves educating the community about the importance of the ministry to the
foreign students. Learning to write grants may be a necessary skill for a pastoral
counselor seeking to provide services to the international students (Voss, 1992).
Seeking financial help requires the counseling professional to convince the
potential donors and political community leaders that it is a worthy course to
invest in providing help for the international students. In chapter One of this
paper, it was pointed out that international students who attend universities in the
United States represent some of the brightest in their home lands (Holen &
Gibbons, 1993; Rosendahl, 1993).
This means that these foreign students are potential leaders who are likely
to end up in positions of leadership with the capacity to make decision that can
impact the rest of the world (Christian Century, 1962; Lau, 1982). The logic is
that helping foreign students can be a means to affect change in the world since
they are potential world leaders. The pastoral care and counseling professional
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can use this argument to seek grants to support counseling services for the
international students.
Community Support Network
Besides financial help, the pastoral care and counseling professionals need
skills to utilize the community for other ways of supporting the counseling
services for the foreign students. International students come from cultures where
for the most part counseling is met through extended family (Boyer & Sedlacek,
1989; Hayes & Lin, 1994). Professional counselors can meet the need for the
extended family by providing substitutes. This means one has to look to the
community for families, individuals and organizations that may be able to respond
to the challenge. Several resources are available for the counselor to utilize in
meeting the community support network for the foreign learners.
International students communities
One available resource is the international student community where the
more advance students can provide support and help to the incoming students
(Arthur, 1997; Bontrager, Birch & Kracht, 1990). Pedersen (1991) suggests
training international students to be peer counselors “as another approach which
has had some limited success” (p. 47). The challenge he sees in this approach is
that the students who are sought out for this purpose may not be interested in
going through training.
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However, studies continue to demonstrate that, for their psychological
wellbeing, international students need relationships with other fellow
internationals and American students (Bontrager et al, 1990; Boyer & Sedlacek,
1989; Foust, 1981; Pedersen, 1991; Siegel, 1991; Yoo & Thomas, 2001). In this
sense if the international students resist formal training, a different approach can
be applied. Rather than approach it as a formal training, the counselor can simply
create an atmosphere in which foreign students can learn to develop interest in
building relationship with and helping the incoming students. This will help the
student to learn without resisting the idea of being in a formal training. The
informal approach can serve the same purpose.
Research done at the University of Minnesota indicated that international
students seek help from fellow nationals when dealing with personal issues
(Pedersen, 1991). This is a strong indication that the students are replacing the
concept of the extended family with fellow international students. Thus a
counseling professional may need to facilitate groups or locate already existing
group organizations from different cultures and facilitate the student’s
participation in the groups’ social activities (Arthur, 1997; Boyer & Sedlacek,
1989). Siegel (1991) suggested that “the counselor has a vital role in helping to
build support network on campus and in the community” (p. 73). To him this
network means that the counselor always have resources available before a
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student faces crisis. This means that the pastoral care provider will have to make
an extra effort to locate the groups that may exist in the community so that when
need arises he or she will have the necessary connections.
Church community
According to Hulme (1981), “The congregation as a local community of
faith is the most unused, underdeveloped, and unorganized of all the unique
resources of the pastoral counselor” (p. 153). It is another resource for support
network available to the pastoral counselor. One can recruit individuals, from the
Church, who will provide support for the needy international students. Describing
the Church as an extended family Hulme further states that “In its family-like
shape there is the potential for intimate sharing, providing one with the security of
belonging” (pp. 153-134). In other words the Church can be a resource for
providing a sense of belonging for the needy.
Crabb (1975) saw the Church playing an important role in meeting in
bringing wholeness to the hurting individuals. He stated, “I am convinced that the
local church should and can successfully assume responsibility within its ranks
for restoring troubled people to full, productive, creative lives” (p. 16). To him
people who are hurting need love and the Church is best structured to meet such a
need.
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Another one of the reasons for international students not seeking
counseling help is strong family relationships which, for the most part, is the
means by which non-western cultures meet counseling needs (Beek, 1987; Hayes
& Lin, 1994; Kerl, 2002; Komiya & Ellis, 2001; Sedlacek, 1989; Yau, Sue &
Hayden, 1999; Wehrly 1988). This is because family relationship is very strong
in the countries represented by the foreign students (Foust, 1981; Tang, 2002).
The concept of providing a substitute family from the Church can be very helpful
to the international students needing family support.
In his study of South-east Asian Students Fernandez (1988) came up with
similar conclusion. He stated, “When working with individuals, counselors may
want to take systems approach. Asians have a holistic perception of themselves;
that is, individuals are considered a part of the larger family…Behavior of
individuals is normally in compliance with the wishes of the family” (pp 164165).
Agreeing with the same concept, Paniagua (1998) recommended family
therapy for Asian clients because family is more important than the individual and
privacy is foreign. In the absence of family, which plays such an important role
in a foreign student’s life, it is important to consider substitute family for the
sojourner. It is this family relationship that the students miss during their studies
overseas.
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Lee (1991) emphasized the value of understanding the family dynamics
when dealing with minority cultures. He agrees that it is because of family
relationships and support that many of these cultures do not seek counseling help
outside the family structure. To him it is critical to consider the role played by the
immediate and extended family. He concluded by stating that “Culturally
responsive counseling practice, therefore, must include an understanding of and
appreciation for the role of family dynamics in mental health and well-being” (p.
15).
Beek (1987) observed the strength of family ties in the Javanese culture
when he worked in a hospital setting. He found it almost impossible to provide
one –on- one- counseling. The reason is that “the family is very often present and
if it is not, usually patients in the neighboring beds take part in the conversation,
privacy being a largely alien concept in Java” (p. 118). This means that the
family is always a part of the individual’s life and counseling problems are
considered family issues. This is another example that demonstrates the value of
family relationship in non-western cultures (Paniagua, 1998). It is the reason for
the suggestion that a pastoral counselors substitute families to provide support for
the needy foreign students.
Kinast (1990) sees the utilization of the Church members as a great
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resource for providing pastoral care for the needy. To him pastoral care should be
provided, not only by trained pastors, but also by the common members of the
Church community. He defines pastoral care as liberating. To him, pastoral care
is an agent of the Church in “response to persons in their life cycle development
or in moments of crisis…”(p. 11). He further explains that this involves “using
resources of the person(s) cared for and the resources of the church in order to
facilitate the mutual integration of the persons and the community of faith” (p.
11). The Church should be a good resource for family support needed in order to
provide adequate service to the international student community.
According to Hoover (1990), Pastoral counselors can tap into these
available resources, which they can use to meet the needs of the international
students seeking psychological help. His vision of pastoral care goes beyond the
church community and have a global impact. He states, “What is received from a
pastoral care encounter is poured back out, through the members of the church,
into the world at large” (p. 18). This is a concept that fits well with international
students who end up, in literal sense, returning to their home countries around the
world (Huxur et al, 1996; Marks, 1987; Werhly, 1988).
Malony (1993) emphasized the fact that pastoral counseling has its roots
in the ministry of the Church. He states “Initially, let it be said that pastoral
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counseling is an integral part of the ministry of the church whether it be in a
counseling office or in a church building or in the homes and elsewhere” (p. 244).
Voss (1992) expresses the same concept when he states “Cross-cultural pastoral
counseling requires that the pastoral counselor be an agent of compassion and
caritas of the Church whose unity is based upon a radical embrace of diversity”
(p. 262). Utilizing Church help should therefore be a natural step for the pastoral
counselor seeking to extend services to foreign students.
One way to do this is to provide a host family for the student. Clinebell
(1981) agrees with the notion of the Church providing extended family especially
for those who do not have one. He argues that it is almost impossible for people
to deal with problems in their lives without the support of the family. He sees the
Church as a solution for those experiencing psychological problems and those
with family and personal issues that hinder their development and participation in
society. To him “an innovative strategy is needed to provide a variety of easily
available networks of caring and mutual nurture for individuals and families
within the community” (p. 229). He sees schools and churches as providing great
opportunities for providing such a network
Foust (1981) found that providing a host family for a sojourner is very
beneficial to the cultural adjustment. He states: “Families provide the further
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benefit of acting as extremely accurate cultural ‘barometers’ demonstrating as
society’s values and norms, as well as its common language usages”. He
continues, “In most cultures, the family represent the basic part of a social support
system; by providing this kind of support to someone from another country, it can
facilitate cross-cultural adjustment” (p. 20). This is consistent with the findings of
other writers (Huxur et al, 1996). To meet the need for extended family
relationship the pastoral care counselors can look to the Church for substitute
families for the student. As already mentioned in this chapter, the Church has
interest in meeting the needs of humanity in general (Campbell, 1987; Ewing,
1990; Maddox, 19991). Ministering to international students is an extension of
the same mission of meeting humanitarian needs.
It is interesting that Vos (1992) makes a strong appeal for pastoral
counselors to seek non-formal means of providing counseling. He lists different
resources but does not mention the Church as one of the key resources. Knowles
(1970) on the other hand sees the Church as the means by which psychological
needs are met. He states, “The Church, when it is the church, becomes the
redemptive, loving, healing fellowship.” He continues to appeal to the Church
that “If there is any place in the world where broken and estranged personspersons who do not know who they are and Whose they are – can find
themselves, the church should be that place” P. 34. In essence the Church is the
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refuge for the needy in every area of life. It is a resource that pastoral counselors
can utilize.
While he fails to identify the church as an alternative informal way of
providing counseling Vos (1992) makes a theological argument that the Church
has a responsibility of meeting humanitarian needs. He states that “This is
possible because God himself has plumbed the depths of His involvement in our
existence. He has done this not only in Jesus of Nazareth, but He seeks to do this
in and through the concrete, historical, contemporary Christian Community” (p.
34). The argument is that the Church is theologically obligated to meet the needs
of the suffering and the broken hearted. Doing so is doing that which God values
and is involved. Reaching out to international students is a part of that mission.
Churches spent a lot of money sending missionaries and aid workers
overseas. It is only sensible to inform the Church that reaching out to the foreign
students is one of the most inexpensive ways of reaching the nations with God’s
love and possibly changing the political climate that create the need for financial
aid. As mentioned in chapter one the reason is that international students return
home to their countries as top leaders. Some reach high political status including
positions of presidents and Prime Ministers (Christian Century, 1962; Lau, 1982;
Werhly, 1988).
This means that in some ways the future political world peace and stability
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in the nations that send their students to study overseas may well depend on the
attitude these foreign learners take back to their homelands (Pedersen, 1991).
Werhly states “Many of these students will return home and become leaders in
their own countries.” He continues “While they are studying abroad, however,
some of these young people are the marginal men and women of today’s world”
(p. 5). Pastoral counseling profession can make a difference by helping the
Church reach out to these potential world leaders.
The pastoral care provider need skills necessary for developing
relationships with the Churches and communicating the need for them to get
involved in meeting the emotional, social and spiritual needs of the international
students in the USA. Such skills include ability to raise awareness in the Church
and to provide training for the Church leaders and parishioners interested in
providing service to the foreign students. The training will facilitate the caring
ministry and encourage the church leader to “recruit, train and continue to coach
carefully chosen caring teams to provide better support for individuals and
families experiencing major life crises” (Clinebell, p. 230). While Clinebell’s
concern was the developing of growth groups in the Church the same principles
can be applied to the ministry for foreign students.
Religious and other organizations
The third resource where the pastoral care counselor can get
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support in helping foreign students adjust to the foreign culture include religious
and other organizations that focus on reaching international students. Voss (1992)
consider this a “professional shift from an autonomous, privatized model of
therapy to a more inclusive, collective, and collegial model of therapy” (p. 259).
A good example of Christian organization seeking to serve international
students is International Students, Inc. (ISI). Established in 1953 ISI now serves
in 300 cities, over 500 campuses and have more than 22,000 trained volunteers
(isionline.org). Its missions states: “International Students, Inc., exists to share
Christ's love with international students and to equip them for effective service in
cooperation with the local church and others” (isionline.org). ISI volunteers and
staff provide various services to students. Some of these services include teaching
them about American culture, helping them with problems needing a native
speaker, finding an American Christian mentor in their academic discipline, and
(if interested) teaching them about our Creator God and the Bible. The student
chooses the services that best meet his or her needs.
Ability to Adopt Flexible Approaches in Counseling
In chapter three the writer pointed out that international students do not
seek counseling because of the stigma attached to counseling and also because
counseling as understood in the western culture is foreign to the non-western
cultures (Arthur, 1997; Boyer & Sedlacek, 1989; Fernandez, 1988; Wehrly,
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1988). Arthur (1997) suggests the need for counselors “to explore the systems
and cultural practices used in the home culture to address problems” (p. 269). If a
pastoral care provider is to reach the sojourning learners an alternative approach
to counseling will be necessary. Key in this case is flexibility.
Flexibility means that counselors must think creatively of ways to apply
counseling skills outside the traditional approach. Corey (1986) discussed some
of the examples that explain why flexibility is the key to providing counseling to
foreign culture. To him, “many minority clients may prefer active and directive
counseling rather than a person centered approach.” The reason is that, “Because
of their cultural background, some clients may place value on authority of a
professional counselor” (p. 349). Other issues that may become culturally
inappropriate include insisting on self-disclosure, expression of feelings and many
others. Corey (1986) concludes that, “Counselors who hope to reach clients who
are culturally different from them must develop a basic respect for these clients’
experiential world” (p. 349).
Chen (1999) studied factors that cause stress among international students.
He concluded that “The counselor should be flexible and situational in using
helping methods and counseling techniques, that is, helping approaches need to be
framed and used within each particular context that is relevant to each individual”
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(p. 61). Providing counseling help to international students challenges the
discipline of pastoral care and counseling professionals to think creatively and
explore non-traditional means of delivering service in a multicultural setting
(Arthur, 1997).
Lai (2003) discusses cultural issues that affect how one can minister to a
Chinese client. He stresses that Confucianism is the key to understanding the
Chinese culture and behavior. As a result of Confucianism influence, “Chinese
people are expected to demonstrate high moral character, show respect for those
who are in authority, and strive for harmony in relationships” (p. 48). The
outcome of such a demand on behavior is a tendency for Chinese to safe face in
order to avoid making mistakes. Given this tendency a Chinese client is less
likely to discuss personal feelings.
Thus Lai continues to state “That is one of the reasons the North American
approach to pastoral care, which attempts to discover patient’s feelings through
conversation, is a frustrating experience for many pastoral care providers when
dealing with Chinese” (p. 50). He explains his reason for not being able to care
for his fellow Chinese by stating, “I now realize that I had been given a North
American pastoral care model (a culturally embedded model)” (p. 51). The
challenge Lai faced demonstrates the need for pastoral counselors to adopt
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different approaches when dealing with internationals. Approaches suggested in
this chapter include home visits and informal counseling.
Home Visits
One of the non-traditional ways of providing counseling help for a foreign
a student is for the counselor to visit the client at home rather than waiting for him
or her to come and visit in the office (Siegel p. 73; Smith pp 107-108; Voss,
1992). Speaking of multicultural pastoral counseling for the minority, Smith
(1990) made a strong appeal for the discipline to consider alternative approach to
counseling in order to meet the needs of those who are not able to come to an
office for help. One of his suggestions is that “pastoral counselors might revive
and develop the discipline of pastoral visiting” (p. 108).
In Chapter 2 it was demonstrated that pastoral counseling is a discipline of
practical theology that address needs of humanity from cultural, sociological and
psychological perspective (Boyce, 1960; Bozzo, 1970; Hunter, 1980; Maddox,
1990). Pastoral visitation is one way of meeting the needs of the troubled
international students and pastoral counselors need to consider it therapeutic
(Voss, 1992). This appeal is especially interesting because it is calling on the
discipline to utilize, not only the church community, but also using visitation, a
method already known and available in the Church. In this sense the counselor
can train and enable the Church volunteers to visit and assess the emotional needs
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of the students. This method allows the professional counselor to focus on
visiting the students that requires more intense professional help.
Droege (1995) participated in a study that involved visiting 16 cities and
meeting with over 500 community leaders interested in integration of faith and
healing. As a result of this study he argued strongly for the involvement of the
Church community in meeting healthcare needs especially of the minority or the
disadvantaged. In his conclusion he appealed to the Church to take advantage of
the opportunity of providing healthcare. To him the Church stood at a historical
moment with opportunities to “make a major contribution to health reform by
recommending ourselves to health ministry in congregations and communities
and by giving priority to the needs of those who bear the greatest burden of
suffering from preventable diseases” (p. 12). Promotion of healthcare
communities in the Churches supports the need for pastoral counselors to utilize
the Church for providing social and mental service to the international students.
Visitation is one of the effective ways to meet such a need.
Informal approach to counseling
The second suggestion for alternative approach to counseling is to make
the counseling experience more informal for the needy sojourner (Chen, 1999;
Komiya & Ellis, 2001; Mori, 2000; Pedersen, 1991). The challenge for the
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counselor is to be creative and flexible enough to adopt methods that may go
against the acceptable norms known to the counselor (Arthur, 1997; Pedersen,
1991; Voss, 1992). Arthur states that “Counselors must be willing to be more
innovative and to move beyond the boundaries of traditional counseling protocol
since these may be viewed as either intimidating or offensive by international
clients” (p. 269).
Komiya and Ellis (2001) did a study on international student’s attitude
towards seeking counseling. The findings supported the idea that international
students do not seek counseling on their own. Therefore he suggested the need
for counselors to “explore more nontraditional or culture-specific interventions to
make connections with international student” (p. 158).
One can make counseling less formal and more acceptable to international
students by applying direct and educational approach where the counseling
session appear more of a learning program than a mental health treatment
(Komiya and Ellis, 2001; Mori, 2000; Triandis, 1991; Yau, Sue and Hayden,
1992). According to Komiya and Ellis (2001) “These programs could also work
to dispel common misperceptions about counseling by informing international
students that in counseling, they will not be forced to engage in unwanted
emotional expressions, nor will they be asked intrusive questions that would
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inappropriately evoke emotions” (p. 158). Merta et al (1992), suggested that “A
review of the research in cross-cultural counseling reveals ample support for a
directive counseling style for use with culturally different” (p. 214)
The counseling may involve an informal visit with the student on campus
where the visit does not constitute traditional western counseling approach
(Siegel, 1991). Arthur suggests that “It is not uncommon for international
students to approach counselors in more informal settings such as hallways, on
campus, or public areas” (p. 269). Pastoral care and counseling professionals can
use the same method to accomplish the job of providing service to the foreign
students.
Panigua (1998) suggested that another way to hold counseling is to allow
extended family or friends to be present in the counseling session. He included
“African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, and American Indians” as among those
who value extended family systems (p. 14). He warns however against
stereotyping especially when defining extended family. His emphasis is that only
the client can define what extended family means to him or her. To him the way
to define extended family “is to listen to the client’s description of instrumental
and emotional supports provided by any member of the community” (p. 15).
Instrumental support includes material help like money and clothes. Emotional
support includes counseling and advice.
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Ability to Provide Service in the Midst of Diversity of Belief Systems
Dawson (1948) emphasized the strong tie between religion and culture.
He stated “Every culture represents a spiritual community and involves common
beliefs and common ways of thought. Consequent mutual interpenetration of
culture and religion. The cultural function of religion is both conservative and
dynamic: it consecrates the tradition of a culture and it also provides the common
aim which unifies the different social elements in a culture” (p. 46). This
definition illustrates the importance spirituality play in any given culture.
In chapter five of this study it was demonstrated that international students
represent diversity of religious belief systems. It demonstrated also that religious
issues are of special interest for pastoral care and counseling professionals
because of its theological and historical roots (Gerkin, 1986; Shimbukuro et al,
1999; Smith, 1990). Miller-Mclemore (1993) sees pastoral theology as a “field
that is still trying to clarify its identity in relation to the academy and the church
and its methods in relation to the social sciences” (p. 366). To her pastoral care
and counseling is a part of pastoral theology.
According to Malony (1993) pastoral counseling is a ministry of the
Church and it is identical with the ministry of the parish clergy in the sense that
they both address issues of faith, pastoral care and spiritual living. It is therefore
important to emphasize that pastoral care and counseling professionals have a
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special interest in addressing spiritual issues of the foreign students. In other
words when pastoral care providers function in a community in reaching the
needy it should be doing so as an arm of the Church community
Since foreign students represent diversity of spiritual beliefs the
professionals in the fields of pastoral care and counseling must be skilled in
providing care in the midst of religious diversity. This means that first the care
provider must understand the importance of religious faiths in the human
development and understanding of reality. According to Malony (1993) spiritual
living pertains primarily “to the insights and understandings which lie behind
attitudes and actions” (p. 144). Spiritual beliefs shape the way individuals
interpret reality and address issues of life in general (Malony, 1993; Shimabukuro
et al, 1999; Silva-Neto, 1988). Providing care and counseling for international
student populations require that the care providers learn to appreciate spiritual
dimensions the clients bring into the counseling relationship.
The importance of addressing these spiritual issues is well stated by
Shimabukuro et al (1999). He explains that since spiritual beliefs play an
important role in addressing personal and social problems in many cultures, “it is
very important that counselors understand how the construction of these spiritual
beliefs are linked to the way people react to problems they encounter in their
lives” (p. 234). In other words pastoral counselors cannot ignore spiritual beliefs
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when addressing problems encountered by the students. Their belief system may
be key to informing the student about the nature of a particular problem.
Paniagua (1998) warned that a clinician who does not understand functions of
religions might interpret religious expression as psychological malady.
A pastoral care counselor skilled in addressing religious issues is able and
must have the ability to articulate his or her own faith and how that faith and
belief system affect counseling relationships with clients of different faith
traditions (Naughteen, 1985; Shimabukuro et al, 1999). At the same time he or
she must develop the ability to identify spiritual issues presented by each
individual client and how that affects the client’s interpretation of reality. It does
not mean that a counselor will muster all religions of the world. However the
training must include study of major religions of the world and how they differ
from the counselor’s own belief system. Only then can a pastoral counselor be
effective in helping the international student community from spiritual
perspective.
Ability to Prepare Students for Readjustment to Home Culture
In chapter four of this study the focus of discussion was the descriptions of
the issues of reentry that a student encounters when he or she returns to the
country of origin. The same issues pause challenges to any pastoral care
counselor seeking to provide help to an international student. The counseling
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process does not end with the student’s adjustment in the USA. It was
demonstrated in chapter five that readjustment to home culture is more
challenging to the returning individual than the adjustment he or she encountered
in the foreign country (Frazee 1997; Isa, 2000; Marks, 1987).
The issue is that the counseling professional need to think ahead about the
student’s welfare upon returning to the country of origin, and how he or she will
adjust back home and find employment (Betina, 1993; Huff, 2001; Pai, 1997). In
describing the seriousness of reentry issues for international students Hogan
(1983) states “The failure to successfully meet the challenge of reverse culture
shock can result in confusion and alienation or geographic expatriation or
psychological expatriation” (p. 5). In other words a returning student may
physically return to United States or may stay home but find himself or herself
mentally and emotionally tied to the USA. He further warns that, “The extreme
reaction is a zealous conversion to the alien culture, not unlike a cult experience”
(p. 5). Returning home can be a very challenging experience for an international
student.
The training of the pastoral care and counseling professionals must include
familiarity with the issues of reentry described in chapter five of this study. They
include personal changes in the student’s life, attitude and expectations at home,
student’s attitude towards returning home, giving up new relationships, adaptation
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and appreciation of the new value systems, environmental changes at home and
the ability to use academic knowledge acquired abroad.
In order for professional counselors to prepare a student for a successful
return home he or she must learn to address these issues with the student from the
time the students begins studies overseas (Hogan, 1983; Huntsberger, 1989;
Marks, 1987). For example the counselor may need to help a student become
aware of the psychological and social changes taking place in his or her life
during the period of study abroad (Foust, ed., 1981). Hogan (1983) suggested the
use of seminar and workshops to make the students aware of the need to prepare
for reentry to home country.
Counselors need to develop skills in addressing issues of reverse culture
shock for foreign students. The counseling profession must be competent in
preparing the counselors to assist international students prepare for reentry
adjustment when they return home (Foust et al 1981; Huff, 2001; Institute of
International Education, 1998; Isa, 2002; Pai, 1997; Pusch and Lowewenthal,
1988). The issues include: familiarity with the political change in the student’s
country of origin, awareness of acculturation process in the student’s life, keeping
up with job market, availability or lack of availability of resources in the student’s
country and overall psychological impact of readjustment to home culture.
Training of pastoral care counselors needs to include these issues of reentry
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adjustment if the professional is to provide adequate counseling and preparation
for successful return home.
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Chapter 8
Conclusion
Why Pastoral Care and Counseling Must Respond
In order to apply lessons learned from this study I will now summarize
four points of appeal for the profession to respond to the needs of the international
students. First, providing pastoral care and counseling to international students is
a strategic ministry. Secondly, international students need the services of pastoral
care professionals. Thirdly, it is a challenging ministry. Finally, providing
counseling to foreign students is a challenge for pastoral care and counseling
profession.
It is A Strategic Ministry
International students represent a growing population of intellectuals from
all over the world. In chapter 2 I discussed the fact that these students represent
the brightest and the most intellectual from their home countries. The study
revealed also that most of the doctoral degrees in the top American universities
are going more and more to foreign students. This means that the international
students are on the cutting edge in technology and science. Providing service to
them is strategic in the sense that the discipline will be helping men and women
whose intellectual ability will impact the world through their scientific and
technological application.
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Secondly, foreign students return home as potential leaders whose
decision making can also impact the world. The study illustrated this point
by naming many former international students who ended up in places of
leadership in their home countries and international agencies like the United
Nations. Any positive impact in their lives could translate into positive
leadership when they arrive home or wherever they assume leadership
positions. Rentz (1987) sights Mengitsu Haile Mariam of Ethiopia who
received negative experience while studying in the USA. He returned home,
overthrew the government of his country and opted for Marxism expelling
all the westerners in the country. The decisions he made impacted the
country for years.
It is critical for pastoral care and counseling discipline to extend
services to the foreign students who may return with the capacity to alter the
destiny of their home countries. Given the example above one can argue that
reaching out to foreign students can be a way to make a difference in many
nations and possibly affecting the lives of millions of people. A ministry to
an international student could be an investment to a future world leader. A
positive experience for a foreign learner could translate into a positive
experience for millions of people.
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It is a Needed Ministry
While they are studying in the USA, the foreign students have unique
psychological needs that call for the attention of counselors in general and
pastoral counselors in particular. Some of the factors that contribute to the
uniqueness of their psychological needs include negative attitude towards
counseling, high expectation at home, differences in learning approaches, political
crisis at home, family crisis caused by illness or death and overall culture shock.
Any one of these issues can result is emotional stress for a student trying to adjust
in a foreign environment while keeping up with academic demands.
Providing counseling for foreign students goes beyond adjustment needs
in the USA. The student faces a reverse culture shock upon returning home to
reenter into the culture of origin. Factors contributing to the problems of reentry
include changes that take place in the student’s life, attitudes and expectations at
home, the student’s attitude about returning home, ending of relationships that the
sojourner develops overseas, adopting new value system, changes at home and
applying the acquired knowledge at home country. All these factors come as a
surprise to the student when he or she returns to the country of origin. The
unexpected surprise complicates the matter for the returnee.
In order for the students to maximize their potentials, their adjustment
needs must be taken seriously. Pastoral care and counseling providers are in a
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critical position to respond to these needs and make a different in the lives of the
sojourners who will in turn impact the world. They need help in adjusting to the
foreign culture and in preparation for readjustment back home.
A Challenging Ministry
The study demonstrated that providing service for international students is
not an easy task. Issues that make counseling international students a unique
experience were discussed in chapter 5. The first is the fact that international
students represent a diversity of cultures. Not only do these students come from
many nationalities, they also represent different ethnic groups within their
countries of origin. Each ethnic group can be culturally different from the others.
The counseling professionals must avoid stereotyping students from a particular
nationality as though they represent the same cultural experiences.
The second issue is limited or lack of multicultural training for pastoral
counselors. It was acknowledged that there is much discussion in the field of
counseling about addressing multicultural issues. The problem is that very little is
being done especially in the field of pastoral care and counseling. The need for
incorporating multicultural issues in the training level is very critical.
Cultural perception is the third issue that renders counseling international
students a unique experience. The counselor and the client bring cultural
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interpretations of reality into the counseling relationship. The counselor whose
understanding of reality is based on western cultures will have a difficult time
dealing with an international whose interpretation of reality is based on a foreign
cultural upbringing. The service provider must learn to understand the issues
from the client’s cultural perspective.
Fourthly, diversity of beliefs represented by the international students is
another challenge to those seeking to provide help to the foreign learners.
Addressing spiritual and religious needs is a matter of special interest for pastoral
care and counseling professionals. The fact that the profession borrows languages
and strategies from other counseling disciplines does not negate the fact that the
identity of the profession is rooted in theology. The discipline must use the
language of the society to address practical issues from theological understanding.
Thus, addressing spiritual issues for internationals is an area that the profession
should provide expertise. But the challenge is how to accomplish the task when
individual clients bring in religious issues and experiences that are diverse.
Fifthly, the writer discussed cultural attitude and interpretation of mental
illness as a unique issue in providing counseling help to the foreign students.
Sometimes certain behaviors that may be considered symptoms of mental illness
in the western culture can be legitimate ways of expressing emotions in other
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cultures. The counselor must learn to differentiate between what the client’s
culture accept as normal expression of emotions and what it considers as
psychological disturbance. Proper diagnosis is critical in treatment of any illness.
In this case, if the pastoral care professional misdiagnose the illness of the
individual client, he or she cannot address effectively the real issues needing
attention.
Finally economical realities count as another challenge for the profession
when addressing the needs of international students. It was pointed out that
counselors in the United States earn a living from the profession and must have
malpractice insurance. This means there is an inevitable cost to practicing
counseling in any form. The practice necessitates the charging of fees from the
clients. Given the fact that international students struggle financially and have
negative attitude towards counseling, it is impractical to imagine that they would
consider seeking the services in spite of their needs.
It is A Challenge to Pastoral Care and Counseling Profession
The argument is that, historically and theologically, pastoral counseling is
practical theology and it is an extension of the mission of the Church for meeting
needs affecting humanity in general. International students represent one
population of people that have unique needs that the Church cannot ignore. As a
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growing population, international students present needs that demand the attention
of the pastoral care and counseling professionals. As a part of practical theology
the discipline of pastoral counseling need to addresses issues affecting these
foreign learners.
While providing pastoral care and counseling to foreign students is a
challenge, the discipline is theologically and morally obliged to provide them with
needed service. Because of the unique problems in providing services to foreign
students, pastoral care and counseling must equip the counselors with
competencies necessary to overcome the issues. The profession needs to face up
to the challenges in order to remain relevant in a society that continues to change
demographically. This means multicultural issues must be a part of training for
pastoral care and counseling professionals preparing to reach a multicultural
society. While providing service to international students presents a great
challenge, it is a reality that the needs of this population cannot be ignored.
Competencies necessary for meeting counseling needs for internationals
were discussed in chapter seven. First the counselor needs to develop awareness
and appreciation of his or her culture as well as differences between cultures.
Secondly, an effective counselor needs the ability to identify and utilize financial
and social resources from the community. The third competency is the ability to
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adopt flexible approaches in counseling. Ability to provide pastoral care in the
midst of diversity of belief systems is the fourth competency. Finally an effective
pastoral counselor must be able to prepare the student for final readjustment to his
or her home culture.
Concluding Statement
This study has demonstrated that international students from all over the
world continue to seek education in the United States. They are among the
brightest from their home countries and therefore have the potential of becoming
key leaders and may have the capacity to impact political climate in their home
countries as well as the world in general. Their presence presents an opportunity
for pastoral care and counseling professionals to impact their lives with God’s
love. Through these students the profession can extend God’s love to the
countries they represent and possibly the world. Lau (1984) said it well: “Many
of these highly gifted and intelligent young people are destined to become leaders
of the social, political, economic and spiritual structures of their nations” (p. 9).
Providing service, however, is a challenge for pastoral care and counseling
profession. The sojourners suffer from psychological and social problems
complicated by the fact that they are away from their familiar cultures and support
systems. Since professional counseling is foreign to students from non-western
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cultures it is more of a challenge for the professional counselor who has to adopt
new ways of providing counseling in order to service the foreign learners. The
issue becomes complicated when one realizes that the international students are
unlikely to seek counseling on their own. This makes it necessary for the
professional counselor to initiate the counseling relationship, a concept that is
foreign to the sojourning student. While the concept is foreign the need remains
real and pastoral care counselors must respond.
Pastoral care and counseling cannot back away from the challenge of
bringing God’s love to the needy in spite of the cultural issues that make the job
difficult. Pastoral counselors are in a unique position to meet the needs of the
foreign sojourners seeking education overseas. Their calling is a mission with a
purpose to bring about healing to suffering humanity. Speaking about pastoral
counselors, Augsburger (186) made a powerful appeal:
“In the face of human suffering, the pastoral counselor seeks to embody
grace. In the dilemma of disaster and disease, the counselor offers presence and
compassion. In the binds of injustices, injuries, and human insensitivity, the
counselor works for justice and release from oppression” (p. 335). In other words
pastoral counselors are there to communicate God’s healing in every form of
suffering affecting humanity. The discipline cannot stand by and watch any
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population experience physical, psychological and spiritual pain when their
calling is to help alleviate suffering. As demonstrated already, international
students are among those who experience much pain. The discipline needs to be
equipped to respond and make a difference in the lives of the needy sojourners.
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