Counseling a Minority Family in Grief
With many American families continuing to experience growth, through birth and immigration, mental health professionals must recognize that, even within a family unit, the cultural difference may be significant. For this reason, when counseling immigrant families, or families of minority status, the mental health professional must be well versed in the dynamics of the minority culture.
To ensure the family unit remains intact, in terms of social assimilation, the therapist’s goal is to not only unify and break the differences internally within the family but allow them to see the complexity of their misunderstandings and how it will impact the family unit from a societal standpoint. In many cases, a grieving minority family may be found to place every aspect of life on hold, including work, social networking and even interpersonal relationships, as they each grieve individually, often waiting for a spiritual intervention to set them free to move forward with their lives.
One way in which a therapist assists a grieving minority family through these interpersonal conflicts and suspensions of activity, is by combining two or three family members together as a sort of support network. Realizing no one in the family unit will move forward until permission and consent is given to everyone, creating these small networks within the family will allow the units to become more permissible in the resumption of activity after a death has occurred.
In exchange for the therapy provided to the family members, the therapist must also reach out to the grieving minority family and ask for guidance in how the therapist can serve them best. In doing so, the therapist can allow for the cultural views of the minority group to gauge the progress by which the counseling and grieving will occur and, ultimately, may work to reduce any potential conflicts in therapy recommendations. In other words, through the therapist’s ability to work as a team with the grieving family members, the family members will begin to view the therapist as part of their network and, ultimately, the therapy recommendations may be more receptive. It is important, therefore, to develop a we mentality rather than an I mentality in the therapy of minority groups.
As with any psychotherapy process, the key to successful outcomes lies in the ability of the therapist to remove personal emotions and bias from the needs of the person seeking mental health services. Because of the vast differences in and among immigrant families, providing therapy to these minority groups can be challenging.