Counseling Hispanic-Americans Emphasizing on the Dominican-Americans

Subject: Sociology
Type: Exploratory Essay
Pages: 10
Word count: 2310
Topics: Race, Cultural Appropriation, Ethnicity


It is essential to underscore the fact that cross-cultural counseling is an emerging field whose significance in society is immense and therefore cannot be underestimated. It refers to the scientific study of the various human behaviors as well as mental processes, including both their variability and invariance under different cultural conditions (Cosse, 2016).  Realizably, the Hispanic Americans are people who are a product of the Spanish conquest of some parts of the world. By extension, the Dominican-Americans who are the central focus of this paper, also possess the Spanish descent and also they are primarily considered to be those Americans who have partial or full origins from the Dominican Republic. Although their emigration started in the 16th century, recent migrations of the 20th century increased their numbers in the US considerably, with recent statistics indicating that they account for approximately 1.87 million of the total US population (Buenker, 2015). Thus, the understanding of the abovementioned facts leads us to the primary objective of this paper. Essentially, counseling an individual from a different culture requires that counselors be cognizant of people’s shared values, norms, customs, arts, history, folklore, traditions as well as other practices that define their way of life. For the case of this paper, the Dominican-Americans have their unique culture which needs to be understood for counseling to take place. Thus as a point of departure, this paper endeavors to explore counseling that involves the Dominican-Americans with particular attention to their beliefs, values, worldviews as well as their cultural practices relative to the various experiences of social oppression.

Description of the Dominican-Americans’ culture

Since counseling is scientific, counselors need to be aware of people’s physical and mental wellbeing. For this to be accomplished the understanding of people’s culture is inevitable therefore this paper starts by describing the following:

Family and beliefs

It is evident that the Dominican family in the US is a different institution when compared to the same family in the Dominican Republic. Although kin relations continue to be significant to the Dominican-Americans, their families are becoming smaller and smaller by each passing day.  In fact, it should be noted that the Dominican families are large and nuclear. But the typical families in the US consist of fewer members of 2-5 members and they are less-nuclear nowadays. However, they still recognize that the family is the smallest unit that preserves their unity. Likewise, the idea of gender roles plays a vital role in describing the Dominican-American families (Torres, 2011). Currently, in the United States, the Dominican women have demanded more control of budgets and authority in their households from their husbands. They have now a new status in the American society as the co-breadwinners thus the situation has culminated into a scenario where they have successfully challenged and finally wrested authority from their husbands. Therefore, as a result of the changes in times, researchers have documented that in the late 1990s a trend of single parenthood in the US was increasing in which case women headed their families of the Dominican-American descent. Additionally, they realized that 40% of these households were found in the New York City by 2004.

Similarly, education among the Dominican Americans seems to be taking root and hence playing a central role in defining their cultural life. From the evidence, it should be noted that the Dominican migrants are better educated than their counterparts back home. For instance, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, in the city of New York, the Dominican Americans organized a political battle so that they can be represented on the school board. Previously the committee consisted of non-Dominican members despite the fact that the Dominicans represented the highest proportion of children in the school. They therefore campaigned and succeeded in having their representatives thus making their voice to be heard in matters of education. In addition to this, the 1990 American census indicated that 62% of Dominican-American had graduated from high school and by 2010 they had registered 21% graduation rate from colleges and universities (Cosse, 2016).


The Dominican migrants in the US are primarily Spanish speakers although they know English but not that perfect. In the latest census conducted in 2010, the results showed that the Dominican-Americans approximately 92% listed Spanish as their primary language. Further, 55% of those homes also recognized the fact that they can speak English correctly. Thus, due to the nature of interactions of the Dominican-Americans with their real American counterparts they have accepted English as their first language although they have not yet been fully assimilated. This indicates that they also have strong roots in their original language, culture, and practices. However, their third generation accounts for 70% who can communicate fluently in English.


Just like their Dominican fellows back in their native countries of origin, the Dominican-American people account for 90% of people who confess that they are Roman Catholic faithful.  Some emigrants are also inclined towards afro-catholic rituals and beliefs known as Santeria. As a point of emphasis they say that when an individual participates in such ceremonies, it does not mean that they are excluded from the Catholic faith (Buenker, 2015).

Values and worldviews

In as much as the Dominican-Americans have tried to cope up with the American society, they have also found themselves facing some form of discriminations due to their divergent worldviews. It should be noted that they have over the years remained committed to their culture, language and country thus showing signs of resistance to assimilation. On the other end, they value cuisine, song, dance, and sports as part of the activities that define their way of life (Torres, 2011).

Social, historical and political forces that shaped their cultural orientation

The nation presently referred to as the Dominican Republic was initially under the control of the Spanish colonizers in all aspects in the 15 and 16th centuries.  After many years of colonialism, the Dominicans got independence which again was challenged by US invasion in 1916-24 and 1965. This form of invasion assisted in the creation of a government and also paved the way for the people to migrate to the US in large numbers.  Thus, the social-political and historical events that were left behind by the Spanish and later the Americans shaped their cultural orientations inside the Dominican Republic and inside the United States of America.

Challenges and cross-cultural counseling among the Dominican-Americans

As earlier mentioned, the issue of intercultural counseling involves scientific understanding and application of clinically practiced mechanisms to alleviate disorders and abnormalities of the brain. In majority instances, the Dominican -Americans tend to consider those people that are mentally challenged as unlucky and inferior which then results to stigmatization (Shaw, 2010). Therefore, such conditions of mental incapacitation are associated with weakness, and a majority of them go unaddressed. Another factor that relates to social oppression among this community is the lesser resources and language barriers. It should be noted that these Hispanic people have not fully mastered the English language that is used in the US and as a result communication becomes a problem. Furthermore, this kind of communication barrier locks them out of better jobs leaving them with inadequate resources. This, therefore, forms the basis of counseling for Dominican Americans (Torres, 2011).

For proper effective counseling to take place regarding the community mentioned above, the following vital concerns are of primary interest and significance:

  1. Assessment of the acculturation level
  2. Engaging in respectful, warm and mutual introductions
  3. Determination of whether translators will be useful in the conversation
  4. Giving the clients brief descriptions of what counseling involves and the role played by each participant in the course of counseling.
  5. Providing explanations of the confidentiality notions
  6. Letting clients state the problems they are facing the way they see them
  7. Explaining the treatment plans and mechanisms and how they will be essential in achieving the expected agenda for them
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Assessment of the acculturation levels

Acculturation is a process which usually occurs when two dissimilar cultural groups engage in continuous first-hand contact, leading to consequent changes in the original cultural patterns of one or both teams involved. For the sake of this case, the two groups involved are the Dominicans and the Americans resulting in the Dominican-American people and culture. The influencing factors here are ethnicity and race on the one hand and individual-level differences on the other hand (Randhawa, 2008).  

Therefore, when rendering counseling services that are associated with mental disorders and related psychological problems, diagnostic and clinical criteria both apply depending on the level of acculturation.  The two approaches enable counselors to be linguistically and culturally competent before tackling their clients. For instance in this case the Outline for Cultural Formulation (OCF) is of importance. It provides a systematic evaluation of the individuals’ cultural settings, the role their culture plays in the context of symptom and dysfunction expression as well as the implications the cultural differences may have on the relationship between the client who in this case is a ( Dominican-American) and the counselor (Buenker, 2015).

Engaging in respectful, warm and mutual introductions

From the knowledge of culture as illustrated in this excerpt, it is evident that attitudes towards seeking assistance in case of a disorder vary from one ethnic community to the next. In this case, however, the variability exists depending on the age, literacy status, income, gender, education and geographic location of a Dominican-American (Randhawa, 2008). Thus,  to facilitate effective counseling that can yield positive outcomes, respectful and warm introduction to a client will do better since the client will feel accepted, appreciated and also it will help them to open up and freely engage in the discussion.

Determining whether translators will be needed

As earlier illustrated, the culture of the Dominican-American is one that is conservative to some extent. By saying conservative, this statement refers to the resilient attachment to their Spanish language, and adherence to their methods of operation as statistics indicate (Pedersen, 2015). Therefore, this means that not all Hispanics under this context understand and communicate English correctly. When such a problem of language barriers exist, then it means the counselor may get hard times knowing exactly where the problem is. This is the sole rationale that should be considered to determine the usefulness or need for a translator to assist in the process of counseling (Gerstein, 2012).

Giving description of what counseling will entail and the role of participants

This is a very critical concern regarding the whole process of offering to counsel to the Dominican-American community. It is essential in the sense that it will provide the limelight on what is expected from the counselor and the counseled.  Additionally, it makes the counseled aware of what he/she should expect as the process continues up to where it will stop.

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Giving explanations of the confidentiality notion

Confidentiality in matters of health and psychiatry, in particular, is of central significance. The counselor should be in a position of convincing the counseled that there will be no breach of confidentiality such that he/she can be motivated to open up and tell the truth regarding the disorder or mental abnormality they may be facing. Without such an assurance, counseling may prove to be an uphill take on the part of the counselor since accurate diagnosis may not be achieved.

Have clients state in their own words the problem as they see it

Interruption or pre-determined judgment on the condition of the client is not usually a brilliant idea in as far as the issue of counseling is concerned. In majority instances, it leads to misdiagnosis of the disorder. Thus, in counseling Hispanic populations, in particular, the Dominican Americas the situation should not be different. In other words, they should be given time to explain using their own words the predicament which they are undergoing because it will lay a foundation for better results to the achieved.

Explanation of the treatment plan and the anticipated outcome

Remedial disclosure cannot be omitted in the list of concerns that are key in social oppression correction regarding what the client can do to overcome situations brought about by mental illnesses. They should be made aware of what the treatment plans will be like and what will happen if they fail to adhere to the psychiatrist recommendations of the counselor. This will ensure that they are psychologically prepared which might lead to a better response to treatment (Buenker, 2015).


As evidenced in this excerpt, Hispanic people specifically the Dominican Americans are people with a culture that is divergent in comparison to the American society which houses millions of them. The fact that the people are somewhat conservative, makes them undergo social-political problems which makes them prime targets for counseling (Gerstein, 2012). Precisely, the barrier in communication coupled with the effect of mental illnesses on people that are struggling to cope up in the American context further complicates the situation. However, for counselors who will like to offer humanitarian assistance to these populations a well-detailed plan on how to approach and deal with their situation regarding counseling is outlined herein entirely (Pedersen, 2015).

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  1. Buenker, J. D., & Ratner, L. (2015). Multiculturalism in the United States: A comparative guide to acculturation and ethnicity. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press.  
  2. Cosse, J. I., & Smith College. (2016). Deconstructing Latinx racial paradigms: Cross-cultural constructions of race and their impact on Dominican-American racial identity. University Press of America. 
  3. Gerstein, L. H. (2012). Essentials of cross-cultural counseling. Thousand Oaks, Calif: SAGE Publications.
  4. Pedersen, P. (2015). Handbook of cross-cultural counseling and therapy. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 
  5. Randhawa, Bikkar S. (2008). Cross-cultural counselling and assessment: A survey of current policies, practices and training needs in Saskatchewan. University of Saskatchewan.
  6. Shaw-Taylor, Y., & In Tuch, S. A. (2010). The Other African Americans: Contemporary African and Caribbean immigrants in the United States. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.  
  7. Torres-Saillant, S., & Hernández, R. (2011). The Dominican Americans. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press. 
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