Therapists should build a new cultural competence: ‘Onlineness’ | MarketingwithAnoy

Many humanistic therapists strives to practice “unconditionally positive respect”, an unwavering acceptance and support of the client, popularized by the American psychological titan Carl Rogers. Like all ideals, unconditional positive respect is difficult (or impossible). fully obtain. It takes skill, practice and maturity to keep quiet and ignore the constant talk of mental judgment – even for experts whose job it is to do this.

Some forms of reflexive, negative judgment are well known and increasingly discussed: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and classism, for example. Anecdotes abound regarding the inability of therapists to maintain and demonstrate appropriate sensitivity to their clients, even very recently (the time when it power has been excusably ignorant is long gone).

As a result, therapists are calling for a renewed emphasis on “cultural competence”: a consciously cultivated, expanded ability to understand and relate to clients from different personal and philosophical backgrounds. Though the term was used as early as 1989, awareness of the importance of cultural competence seems to have increased in the last decade. The core, motivating idea is that without well-developed cultural competence, a therapist risks not only failing to help clients, but of actively harming them with harmful unintentional remarks or blunt non-help.

But another critical element of cultural competence has been underestimated by the psychological field: “onlineness”, if you will. Aries “Extremely online” is a kind of self-ironic joke that just will not die because it actually points to an important dimension of contemporary human existence: the breadth, depth, and particular taste of one’s life on the Internet.

It’s us now at least a whole generation into the rise of “digital natives”, people who grew up using computers and interacting online instead of having to adopt these practices as adults. In a brief snippet of technological history, “going online” was a discreet, occasional event limited to periods of sitting in front of a large, slow-motion computer. Now, and for the foreseeable future, online and offline life are hardly separate at all, and interact at every turn. Even before Covid-19, ordinary American life moved rapidly online, during the day and at night. Between the pre-pandemic in 2019 and the closures in 2020, the percentage of employed Americans working exclusively from home increased 10-fold, from trivial 4 percent to 43 percent. Online dating is no longer a creepy admission of people with niche interests: Today, over a third of heterosexual couples report having met each other online. Life online affects what events you hear about and participate in, how you perceive and interact with older institutions like government and school, what doctors you choose, and what you expect from them, even where you decide to live and how your city changes under your nose.

As a life coach working primarily with 20- and 30-year-old clients who find me on Twitter, I have time and time again seen how online cultural issues affect individuals’ goals, desires, standards for themselves, and even their core personal identities. (For better or worse, coaches tend to operate more freely from institutional and traditional constraints than therapists, and we do seems to be more clearly tailored to the needs of the extremely online.) Problems such as repeated romantic failures, work frictions, and social anxiety are not in themselves new, but they do appear in very specific (and sometimes very complicated) ways online. Think: To be unsurpassed on dating platforms, to be turned off on Twitter, read receipts combined with the ambiguous radio silence of either notification fatigue or genuine indifference.

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