Engagement Strategy: Culture and Systems (Essay)

Cross-cultural encounters are inevitable in the career of any social worker. However, these encounters broaden their views in diverse ways. When meeting people who differ from them, the most important thing for a social worker to remember is that they are human beings regardless of their race, sexual orientation, religion, or culture. Therefore, it is possible to build a rapport between a client and their social worker regardless of their differences.

Major Obstacles

Anitha is a 25-year-old student from Saudi Arabia. Engaging with her presents numerous obstacles, especially at the initial stages of working relationship, as well as building a rapport. One of the major obstacles, which the social worker may encounter, is religious differences. Anitha may feel discriminated because of how Americans view Muslims and Islam in general. She is probably tired of being rejected and judged. Coming from the Arab world and being raised as a Muslim, she has been taught from an early age not to trust people who do not share her religious beliefs. Most likely, she fails to display filial affections towards her surroundings. As the result of her religious beliefs, Anitha may not trust people around her. There might be certain things that she does or says that could be misunderstood by others since she is not from the same background and she has a different mindset. For example, she could make jokes that are not appropriate or not funny according to American standards. Because of these reasons, it becomes a challenge to deal with her.

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Another major issue is culture. In the Arab world, women are mostly dependent on their male partners. It is not so easy for her to rely on herself and move everywhere freely (Elamin & Tlaiss, 2015). Her mind is not free, which means she might not be able to make big decisions without consulting others because she thinks differently. Further, she is not able to maintain eye contact. This could be the result of how she has been raised in the culture where females are shy around males. Therefore, it is not easy for her to maintain eye contact and relax around a male counselor. Consequently, Anitha can be more relaxed while dealing with female advisors.

Countertransference

I would try my best to initiate a conversation with Anitha. As I am well aware, she is not very comfortable when talking to people that she has never met before. Since a girl like Anitha has different beliefs compared to those of the westerners, I can still try to understand the core of her issues and offer the best possible treatment. However, I would be cautious not to fall into the dark side of my unconsciousness. Once I recognize the countertransference, I would look for the solutions. For example, if I realize that I asking questions that are irrelevant to her treatment, I must be aware that I am interested in the client. Since the problem of countertransference could only get worse and I might not be able to stop seeing the patient, I must be prepared to manage my clinical countertransference effectively (Cameron & Keegan, 2010). Otherwise, the situation can lead to chaos. I have to differentiate between what my reactions to the client are regarding her psychology from what they express about my own.

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Literature about Engaging the Client

Various literature and research have introduced many techniques of dealing with this type of clients. Creating rapport from another way round, for instance, has been addressed by most researchers. One of the worst things a therapist can do is utilize ready-made texts without thinking about the uniqueness of the client they deal with (Cameron & Keegan, 2010). On the other hand, comprehending and practicing utilization is respectful. Restricting ideological pigeonholes could be discarded because it is not necessary for a therapist to overwhelm the client with nonsense or force their interest on them. Instead of struggling to change clients from the outside, a great therapist should utilize whatever the client has inside them already (Cameron & Keegan, 2010). The usage principle charms a person’s unique personality habits and interests that can bring the desired changes.

The neglect that Anitha experiences is the result of her religion. According to Elamin and Tliass (2015), the interactions of most people from Saudi Arabia are presupposed by their Islamic teachings as well as cultural values (Elamin & Tlaiss, 2015). People within the Arab world believe that Americans despise them, which must have contributed to Anitha’s issues. At the same time, Moyers and Rollnick (2002) talk about using motivation to deal with resistance in psychotherapy. Anitha believed that the solution to her problem was living with her grandparents, which would not solve her problems. The counselor could use motivational interviewing to change the client’s thinking.

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Milton Erickson’s research shows that a therapist can utilize the client’s issue as a method of helping an individual progress in their life (Cameron & Keegan, 2010). During one of his encounters, Erickson counseled a girl who was suicidal and convinced that she was not pretty, thus would never find a boyfriend because she had a diastema. Instead of struggling to discuss that she was beautiful, the therapist convinced her to alter her thinking (Cameron & Keegan, 2010). Anitha’a case requires a counselor who is ethical and who can maintain the values of the highest standard. Applying values and ethics as a social worker has been mentioned as important factors by most researchers. Thus, Reamer (2013) notes that conflicts might arise between ethical standards or legal guidelines of the client and a social worker. However, one must remain ethical and understand the client to help them fully.

Engaging the Client

Different clients have varying religious, cultural, spiritual and medical histories. Therefore, there must be a particular strategy for every client’s case (“Engaging your client,” n.d). Anitha has a different cultural, historical, spiritual, and filial background, which requires a well-planned strategy. I could use several strategies to engage with my client. For example, by mirroring the client’s body, I can make the client feel more at ease with me (Reamer, 2013). If Anitha cross her legs, for instance, I would subtly cross my arms. I would also adjust my vocal tone. I should also be aware of the type of language she uses. This technique builds rapport. Thus, Anitha would unconsciously notice the similarities between us, and she would start to feel that we are alike, to some extent. If there is enough rapport built, she would incorporate my counseling to her thinking. I would also use motivational counseling that can help me in building a therapeutic alliance with Anitha. By using this technique, I can express empathy, ambivalence, ask questions, and support self-efficacy (Moyers & Rollnick, 2002). Verbal communication is vital when engaging with Anitha, but additional communication techniques, such as facial expressions, smiling, eye contact, body language, and tonal variation, are also essential.


In conclusion, it is important to appreciate diversity in culture and religion. Anitha felt that she was judged for her religious and cultural differences by her classmates. For any social worker, understanding the concerns of the client, obstacles, and countertransference issues would help them to engage with them. Motivational counseling and mirroring the client’s body movements are some of the best techniques that can be used to engage clients like Anitha.

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