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1 Culturally Responsive and Socially Just (CRSJ) Counselling (SAMPLE)

Principles and Practices

Sandra Collins

This innovative e-book centres around the culturally responsive and socially just (CRSJ) counselling model. The model guides counsellors, psychologists, social workers, and other helping professionals to develop cultural competency by enhancing cultural self-awareness, cultural humility, and cultural sensitivity in the context of anti-oppressive and values-based practice principles. Culture is broadly defined to include Indigeneity, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, ability, social class, and religion or spirituality, with a particular focus on their intersections. The complexity and intersectionality of client cultural identities and relationalities are honoured, and appreciation is developed for the social determinants of health, colonization and other forms of systemic cultural oppression, and the relative social location of practitioner and client(s) in terms of power, privilege, and marginalization within society as well as within the counselling process. Principles and processes for enacting social justice in counselling at the micro (individuals, couples, families), meso (schools, organizations, communities), and macrolevels (broader social, economic, and political systems) are introduced and reinforced through applied practice examples. An overview of the CRSJ counselling model is provided in the table below.

(The following is an excerpt from the first chapter of the e-book, which introduces the CRSJ counselling model.)

The CRSJ Counselling Model

The purpose of this chapter is to introduce a model of culturally responsive and socially just counselling. The CRSJ counselling model reflects my own evolving perspective on multicultural counselling and social justice. I have been influenced in my thinking by my earlier collaborative research and writing (Collins & Arthur, 2010a, 2010b) as well as by the evolution of competency models for multicultural counselling and social justice in the professional literature (Lewis, Arnold, House, & Toporek, 2003; Nassar-McMillan, 2014; Ratts et al., 2015, 2016). I have also integrated numerous conversations with students, instructors, practicum supervisors, and practicing counsellors; and I have engaged in critical reflection on my own work with clients.

In the process of developing the CRSJ counselling model, I conducted a thematic analysis of over 30 case studies, some included in this e-book and others published elsewhere. Each spoke to the application of principles of multicultural counselling and social justice in practice. Through this thematic analysis and a comprehensive review of the professional literature, I developed the list of key concepts reflected in the CRSJ counselling model and defined in the Enhanced, Interactive Glossary. I approached this thematic analysis as an iterative process, continually revising the list of key concepts and selecting language that was most inclusive of the diversity of perspectives of the case study authors. Then I organized these key concepts into meaningful clusters, and from those clusters, I generated themes and subthemes that became the 6 domains and 18 core competencies (CC) in the model below. I am deeply grateful to all of my colleagues who shared their work with me, supported the development of this model, and enhanced my own learning.


Core Competencies for CRSJ Counselling

Domain I: Acknowledge the Ubiquitous Nature of Culture in Counselling

  1. CC1 Cultural Sensitivity: Engage in cultural self-exploration as a foundation for cultural sensitivity towards client cultural identities and relationalities.
  2. CC2 Intersectionality: Appreciate and reflect critically on the complexity and intersectionality of cultural identities and relationalities.
  3. CC3: Worldviews: Value the diversity of worldviews, and prioritize client beliefs, values, and assumptions.

Domain II: Challenge Social Injustices, and Critique Their Impact on Client–Counsellor Social Locations

  1. CC4 Social Injustice: Attend actively to social determinants of health, and evaluate the impact of social injustices on client health and well-being.
  2. CC5 Power and Privilege: Assess critically the impact of power and privilege on client–counsellor social locations.
  3. CC6 Identity Development: Articulate the relationship between social location and cultural identity development and management.
  4. CC7 Cross-Cultural Transitions: Analyze critically the impact of cross-cultural transitions and social injustices on cultural identity and relationality.

Domain III: Embrace Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice as a Foundation for Professional Identity

  1. CC8 Cultural Responsivity and Social Change: Embrace cultural responsivity and assume an anti-oppressive and justice-doing stance that fosters social change.
  2. CC9 Social Justice Values: Embody social justice values as a foundation for scholar-practitioner-advocate-leader professional identity.

Domain IV: Centralize Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Relational Practices

  1. CC10 Transformative Relationship: Optimize the transformative nature of the client–counsellor relationship.
  2. CC11 Salience of Culture and Social Location: Assess the salience and the interplay of clientcounsellor cultural identities and social locations.
  3. CC12 Constructive Collaboration: Nurture collaborative and egalitarian relationships with clients.

Domain V: Collaborate with Clients to Apply a Contextualized, Systemic Lens to Case Conceptualization

  1. CC13 Metatheoretical and Theoretical Lenses: Establish culturally responsive and socially just metatheoretical and theoretical lenses.
  2. CC14 Case Conceptualization: Position client presenting concerns and counselling goals within the context of culture and social location.
  3. CC15 Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Change: Collaborate to target levels of intervention and to co-construct change processes that are responsive to culture and social location.

Domain VI: Implement and Evaluate Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Change Processes

  1. CC16 Microlevel Change: Engage in culturally responsive and socially just change processes at the microlevel (i.e., individuals, couples, and families) in collaboration with clients.
  2. CC17 Mesolevel Change: Engage in culturally responsive and socially just change processes at the mesolevel (i.e., schools, organizations, and communities) in collaboration with, or on behalf of, clients.
  3. CC18 Macrolevel Change: Engage in social justice action at the macrolevel (i.e., broad social, economic, and political systems) on behalf of clients.

Note. Copyright 2018 by S. Collins.


I applied then applied the key concepts from my thematic analysis to my own chapters and to all of the contributions by other writers. This was the final step in this process with the language and definitions of the key concepts evolving through dialogues with various contributors until the very end of the writing process. The end result is a unique resource in that the CRSJ counselling model, as well as all of the key concepts, has been developed through, and then applied to, each contribution. The content analysis is transparent in (a) the table at the end of this chapter that lists all of the key terms and provides links to contributions by others that exemplify those principles and practices, (b) the list of key concepts at the beginning of each chapter, from this point forward, that links to specific portions of that particular work, and (c) the embedded links within the body of each chapter or text box that link directly to the final definitions for each term in the enhanced, interactive glossary. It is important for me to make transparent my central role in the content analysis, because the terminology and definitions are not necessarily reflective of the positioning of any individual contributor; they are my best attempt to synthesize and make meaning of the myriad of ideas that were introduced by each contributor and my research into those those concepts within the professional literature.

I have chosen to engage in this type of model development, because my core commitment is to teaching and learning. This e-book is intended as a resource for students, instructors, and practitioners in counselling and other related disciplines who want to enhance their competency for practice with all clients. I acknowledge, value, and support the diversity of voices and perspectives in the fields of multicultural counselling and social justice. I recognize the dilemmas, debates, and challenges that invite critical reflection and continued dialogue. However, as a counsellor educator, I believe that (a) learners need a starting place for understanding the key concepts that undergird CRSJ counselling practice; (b) connecting these concepts together in a meaningful way enhances understanding, and (c) organizing the domains and competencies in a way that mirrors the process of counselling makes more transparent their connection to applied practice. My focus in this e-book, therefore, is predominantly on the commonalities that emerged through my thematic analysis as a starting place for the development of confidence and competence in working with all clients.

To address this need for clarity and meaningful interconnection among the multitude of constructs related to multicultural counselling and social justice, I have created an inclusive conceptual framework in Figure 1 below, which integrates the core elements of the CRSJ counselling model. I hope that by referring back to this figure as you move through the various chapters in the e-book, you can position each authors’ writing within the forest (this conceptual model) and not get lost in the trees (the many competencies and key concepts elucidated)!


Figure 1. A conceptual framework for culturally responsive and socially just counselling practice. Copyright 2018 by S. Collins.

(Throughout the e-book, key terms are linked directly from the chapters to the glossary. For the purposes of this preview, only the term cultural responsivity is linked below. Where other important resources are referenced in the chapter, direct links are provided for immediate and seamless access.)

The CRSJ counselling model is a work in progress, not a definitive statement on multicultural counselling and social justice. As I continue to delve into the professional literature, I discover new concepts and competencies that I add to my own repertoire. Each time I have a conversation with a colleague, student, or client, I reflect on its implications for theory and practice and on how each such interaction challenges my current thinking. There is no right answer for how to enact cultural responsivity and social justice in counselling and psychology. At my core, I am a both/and rather than an either/or person; as a result, this e-book is about opening up possibilities and exploring options for meeting the needs of counselling clientele from many diverse cultural backgrounds. In the CRSJ counselling model, I embrace culture and social justice as metatheoretical lenses through which all aspects of the counselling process are viewed.

The world is changing rapidly, and cultural oppression and social injustice seem to be increasing internationally. I fear the ripple effects within my own country, in spite of invitational policies towards immigrants and refugees and our forward thinking around LGBTTQI rights, for example. This is a time for us all to remain vigilant and to keep this foundation for ethical and competent practice in the forefront of our individual practices and our professions as a whole. I challenge you to consider the identity that you assume as a professional counsellor, psychologist, or other helping professional. I also invite consideration of how you position responsibility of the professions as a whole in relation to the social injustices that marginalized populations face, which often are at the root of their presenting concerns. Casting these metatheoretical lenses on all of our work opens up possibilities of a whole range of actions, both within our work with individual clients and beyond to within the systems that influence their lives.

Evolving Competency-Based Practice

As suggested by the title of this e-book, I invite active consideration of professional identity in counselling psychology. Re-shaping the professional identity of counsellors and psychologists, and of the professions themselves, requires critical analysis of, and thoughtful reflection on, what constitutes competent practice. The purpose of this chapter is to elucidate competencies for CRSJ counselling. By breaking these competencies down into specific learning outcomes and key concepts, I provide a pathway to prepare practitioners for working with all clients from a systems perspective that embraces a social change agenda. Through this process, I hope to provide a foundation for you to both self-assess, and build on, your existing competence for culturally responsive and socially just practice.

The role of competency-based models for enhancing multicultural counselling and social justice is well established in the professional literature. A ubiquitous approach to multicultural counselling requires careful attention to the unique way in which culture, broadly defined, influences development of the counsellor–client relationship, the conceptualization of client presenting concerns, and the negotiation and implementation of change processes. The focus is on the cultural uniqueness of each counsellor–client encounter. A number of competency models have been presented as two- or three-dimensional diagrams where specific competencies emerged from the interplay of core elements along each dimension in the model. The Ratts and Hutchkins (2009) Advocacy Competencies, for example, are organized along two axes: acting with‒acting on behalf of clients as well as microlevel‒macrolevel foci of interventions. Similarly, the Ratts and colleagues (2015) Multicultural and Social Justice Competencies are positioned along the dimensions of privileged‒marginalized client and privileged‒marginalized counsellor. I acknowledge the importance of these various continua in the interpretation and application of multicultural competency and social justice; however, for pragmatic reasons I have kept the CRSJ counselling model and competency profile as simple as possible, in an attempt to avoid redundancy, particularly because of its comprehensiveness.

Each of us is positioned by our cultural identities and social locations in ways that likely embody lived experiences of both privilege and marginalization. I do not assume in the CRSJ competency framework that counsellors are from dominant populations nor that clients are from nondominant populations (an unspoken assumption by some writers that is itself a form of marginalization); rather, I join Ratts et al. (2015) in imploring counsellors to hold continuously the lens of counsellor‒client cultural identities and relative social locations in the forefront of their minds and to engage actively in dialogue with clients to assess how these factors may influence all aspects of the counselling process. Also, as noted above, the CRSJ counselling model diverges in approach from that of Ratts and colleagues in that I continue to tip the balance of attention towards disprivileged and marginalized clients in this e-book. You will also notice that the majority of practitioner voices in this e-book are framed from within their own experiences of sociocultural marginalization.

In the table below, I expand on each of the 6 domains and 18 core competencies in the CRSJ counselling model. There is a gap in the multicultural and social justice literature in terms of how to teach these competencies (Brown, Collins, & Arthur, 2014; Collins, Arthur, Brown, & Kennedy, 2105). The CRSJ counselling model is designed with teaching and learning processes specifically in mind. I have worded the competencies in the left-hand column as learning outcomes, and each competency corresponds to a key concept in the right-hand column. There are numerous potential learning objectives for any one key concept; however, I have attempted to organize the objectives so that they comprehensively address the principles and practices for CRSJ counselling. The outcomes and key concepts are clustered into logical conceptual groupings for instructional and learning purposes. The key concepts are then linked to sections in each of the chapters in this e-book that explain or illustrate the concept, often by drawing on stories of clients, counsellor‒client interactions, or interventions within the contexts of clients’ lives. Within the chapters and within the learning outcomes below, key concepts are highlighted and linked directly to the Enhanced, Interactive Glossary. As noted in the Preface, I hope that this will encourage you to work through this e-book in a nonlinear, recursive fashion.


A Note for Course Instructors and Counsellor Educators

The most effective way to teach and to learn CRSJ counselling principles and practices is through the infusion of these competencies throughout graduate programs, instead of the more traditional approach of limiting competency development to a single course (Brown et al., 2014; Durham & Glosoff, 2010; Lewis, 2010; Singh et al., 2010). The number of competencies in the table below reinforces the need to think beyond adding one multicultural counselling course to the overall design of graduate programs. I have tried to facilitate infusing this learning into other courses by articulating learning outcomes and key concepts, so that you can pick and choose the competency development areas you want to target in various courses. I hope that this will encourage more infusion of CRSJ counselling principles, and therefore, enhanced overall competency development of students.

As a complement to this e-book, as noted in the Preface, I have created the Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Counselling: Teaching and Learning Guide (Collins, 2018). This guide is structured according to the 18 core competencies in the CRSJ counselling model below. For each competency, a series of stand-alone learning activities have been created that can be integrated into online or face-to-face instructional contexts. I have drawn on multimedia resources to make these learning activities more interesting, interactive, and experiential in nature. The teaching and learning guide is open source, which means that you are welcome to copy, adapt, and repurpose any of these learning activities within courses, training modules, or other noncommercial contexts. The learning activities target different levels of learning, from comprehension to critical analysis and evaluation, with the goal of making the ideas accessible to all learners.

Expanded CRSJ Counselling Model

(Note: Only a short sample from the expanded CRSJ counselling model is provided below for the purposes of illustrating the interactive nature of the e-book. In the actual book, learning outcomes are provided for all key concepts, and each is linked to the detailed definition in the glossary (Column 1). Then in Column 2, I provide direct links to sections of the conceptual chapters that elucidate each concept and to practice illustrations from case studies by other contributors. For the purposes of this preview, only a few active links are provided below.)

Domain III: Embrace Cultural Responsivity and Social Justice as a Foundation for Professional Identity

Core Competency 8: Embrace cultural responsivity, and assume an anti-oppressive and justice-doing stance that fosters social change.

The CRSJ model presented in this e-book is not a theory of counselling; rather it is a conceptual framework that facilitates culturally responsive and socially just application of counselling theories, practices, and processes. It is intended to be a transtheoretical model in the sense that the core competencies are relevant and applicable across theoretical orientations and provide an important metatheoretical lens for assessing the degree to which various models of counselling address the worldviews and lived experiences of clients from diverse, and particularly nondominant, populations. Having said that, the CRSJ counselling model does foster an epistemological positioning grounded in postmodern and constructivist principles, which may be more or less compatible with various theoretical positions. Applying this metatheoretical lens facilitates critical analysis of the personal and professional beliefs and assumptions of counsellors about culture and society, personal cultural identities, the client‒counsellor relationship, client presenting concerns, and processes of change. The CRSJ counselling model also calls forth an attitudinal positioning that undergirds each element of the model with particular professional values, which resonate through the remaining chapters of this e-book. The values-based grounding of the model is expressed in an orientation to practice, as much as in the selection and implementation of practice activities.


Brown, C., Collins, S., & Arthur, N. (2014). Fostering multicultural and social justice competency through counsellor education pedagogy. Canadian Journal of Counselling and Psychotherapy, 48, 321-342. Retrieved from http://cjc-rcc.ucalgary.ca/cjc/

Collins, S. (2018). Culturally responsive and socially just counselling: Teaching and learning guide [EPub version]. Retrieved from Faculty of Health Disciplines Open Textbooks, Athabasca University: https://crsjguide.pressbooks.com/

Collins, S., & Arthur, N. (2010a). Culture-infused counselling: A framework for multicultural competence. In N. Arthur & S. Collins (Eds.). Culture-infused counselling (2nd ed., pp. 45-65). Calgary, AB: Counselling Concepts.

Collins, S., & Arthur, N. (2010b). Culture-infused counselling: A fresh look at a classic framework of multicultural counseling competencies. Counselling Psychology Quarterly, 23, 203-216. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515071003798204

Collins, S., Arthur, N., Brown, C., & Kennedy, B. (2015). Student perspectives: Graduate education facilitation of multicultural counseling and social justice competency. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 9, 153-160. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/tep0000070

Durham, J., & Glosoff, H. (2010). From passion to action: Integrating the ACA advocacy competencies and social justice into counselor education and supervision. In M. Ratts, R. Toporek, & J. Lewis (Eds.), ACA Advocacy competencies: A social justice framework for counsellors (pp. 139-149). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Lewis, B. L. (2010). Social justice in practicum training: Competencies and developmental implications. Training and Education in Professional Psychology, 4, 145-152. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/a0017383

Lewis, J. A., Arnold, M. S., House, R., & Toporek, R. L. (2003). Advocacy competencies. Retrieved from American Counselling Association website: https://www.counseling.org/Resources/Competencies/Advocacy_Competencies.pdf

Nassar-McMillan, S. C. (2014). A framework for cultural competence, advocacy, and social justice: Applications for global multiculturalism and diversity. International Journal for Education and Vocational Guidance, 14, 103-118. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10775-014-9265-3

Ratts, M., & Hutchkins, M. (2009). ACA Advocacy Competencies: Social justice advocacy at the client/student level. Journal of Counseling and Development, 87, 269-276. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/j.1556-6678.2009.tb00106.x

Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2015). Multicultural and social justice competencies. Retrieved from Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development, Division of American Counselling Association website: http://www.counseling.org/docs/default-source/competencies/multicultural-and-social-justice-counseling-competencies.pdf?sfvrsn=14

Ratts, M. J., Singh, A. A., Nassar-McMillan, S., Butler, S. K., & McCullough, J. R. (2016). Multicultural and social justice counseling competencies: Guidelines for the counseling profession. Journal of Multicultural Counseling & Development, 44, 28-48. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/jmcd.12035

Singh, A. A., Hofsess, C., Boyer, E., Kwong, A., Lau, A., McLain, M., & Haggins, K. L. (2010). Social justice and counseling psychology: Listening to the voices of doctoral trainees. The Counseling Psychologist, 38, 766-795. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0011000010362559


Culturally Responsive and Socially Just (CRSJ) Counselling (SAMPLE) Copyright © 2018 by Sandra Collins. All Rights Reserved.

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