Counseling A Native American Client

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Counseling a Native American client will often present a unique set of challenges, especially if the client has a high degree of what Horse refers to as native consciousness (2001, cited by Choudhuri et al., 2012, p. 85) in which he or she is deeply “anchored in tribal traditions and native language” (p. 85). About 37% of Native people live on over 300 reservations and tribal jurisdictions within the United States. To be prepared to help them, a counselor should know the Native demographics of the state in which they practice, be familiar with the populations and businesses of local reservations, and become educated about the customs and structures of local tribes. Native American tribes have a great diversity of fascinating culture and language, yet share many common ethnic values and tragic historical experiences with the U.S. government which contribute to their unique worldview. Perhaps the most obvious commonality among Native tribes is a strong sense of community derived from a sense having survived this common peril. Indeed, the situation of a Native person voluntarily seeking help from an outside source instead of from a traditional healer is unusual in itself (Barcus, 2003, p. 25). Whatever the Native client’s presenting problem may be, it is likely a reflection of communal conditions and beliefs. In order to successfully treat Native American clients, a counselor should use an approach that integrates Native community values and be willing to advocate and utilize
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