Author: Darshan Thind

What is Multiculturally informed counselling?

It is an approach in counselling understanding the importance of diversity of cultural, social, gender, sexual, and neurodivergent identities impact in therapy and valuing their bearings on the well-being and mental health of clients. It involves awareness of the Counsellor’s part of their cultural biases that alter the lens in which “we view [our world] as normal or ideal as the standard by which we assess client thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and interactions.” The act is unintentional. However, biases as well as values and beliefs colour the lens through which we view and interact with the world and how we make sense of our world. Therefore, it is paramount that multiculturally informed counselling take a neutral stance to offer room to the client to fill with their experience as a multicultural person. 

Why is Multiculturally informed counselling important?

What counselling should not be is an opportunity for the client to frequently explain topics relating to culture, race, or their identities in session with the counsellor. Its important the counsellor come to the session with some understanding and disclose when their knowledge or understanding does not match the client’s needs. The counsellor will not possess all knowledge concerning all issues about a specific cultural group. However, awareness and desire to learn how and if the client is impacted daily is essential to appropriate and ethical multicultural counselling. 

Additionally, given Canada has been a beacon, especially in the last decade, as a top destination for immigration and asylum. It is no surprise that the need for multicultural-informed counselling should be an integral part of Canadian society. 

The act of not acknowledging a client’s identity, whether visible or not, detracts from therapy and further perpetuates a homogenous society with only one way of thinking, doing, and feeling.  

What is involved in a multiculturally informed counselling session?

The start of a therapeutic relationship between the client and the counsellor will include an overview of the initial intake form and any pertinent follow-up questions to clarify for the counsellor how the client identifies in their world and how they would like to be present in their world outside the session. This step is important as it sets the tone for subsequent sessions and helps cement which multicultural issues may or may not be felt by the client in their daily lives.  

A first session with a therapist may likely follow the Cultural Formulation Interview (CFI) created by the American Psychiatric Association (2013) to capture relevant information about the client’s culture to inform the therapist of the presenting concern(s). 

  1. The clinician attempts to use the cultural lens of the client to conceptualize their understanding of the problem within the client’s culture, 
  2. Causes (i.e. Physical, spiritual, etc.), 
  3. Supports in client’s network and community, 
  4. Degree of cultural or social identity (i.e. Race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, status in Canada, etc.), 
  5. Role of cultural identity and how it pertains to their present concerns, 
  6. Current and previous coping strategies, 
  7. Sources of help (i.e. Faith and Folk healers, doctors, etc.), and 
  8. Barriers to help-seeking

The CFI does not fully summarize the lived experiences in terms of structural issues pertinent to society like oppression and racism. However, it can be an important initial assessment tool for Mental Health Practitioners to recognize and validate the cultured experience of their client. 

How to find a culturally competent therapist?

The shared experience during client sessions allows clinicians to develop their cultural humility and competence for a shared understanding between counsellor and client. One of the biggest hurdles for counsellors is understanding the client through the client’s perspective or worldview. It encouraged therapists to gain training, education, supervision, or referrals when the client requires the therapist to be knowledgeable about their multicultural identity or identities. 

Often a good first strategy is performing a search of counsellors in your area. Apart from reviewing the therapist’s biography and social media posts, another valuable source is booking a free 15-minute consultation with the therapist. It allows new clients to acquaint themselves with a professional they will be working with closely. To use the allotted 15 minutes well, openly discussing what you, the client, are struggling with may prove useful in measuring the therapist’s comfort and knowledge about the multiculturalism issues and concerns that affect you. It is also worth noting, that if a counsellor recognizes they lack competency in a certain topic, this is a sure sign they will likely further their multicultural knowledge and awareness to better support you. 

How to access therapy or related services for marginalized individuals?

For clients whose main concern is financial, at Crossroads Collective, we accommodate clients with financial barriers with a sliding scale depending on their particular financial situation. We are host to a number of fantastic intern Counsellors that can provide therapy at reduced rates as well. The Crossroads Collective also offers free access to our yoga classes every Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday at 7 PM. It is our way of giving back to the diverse community that has allowed us to grow and achieve what we have since inception.  

At Crossroads many of our clinicians can offer services including, but not limited to,  English, Korean, Greek, Punjabi, Hindi, Marathi, and Gujarati. If you or someone you know wishes to speak with one of our qualified clinicians. Please email or phone 604.532.5340 for our Langley office or 250.765.0606 for our Kelowna office.


Collins, S. (Ed.). (2018). Embracing cultural responsivity and social justice: Re-shaping professional identity in counselling psychology. Counselling Concepts.

Jarvis, G. E., Kirmayer, L. J., Gómez-Carrillo, A., Aggarwal, N. K., & Lewis-Fernández, R. (2020). Update on the Cultural Formulation Interview. Focus (American Psychiatric Publishing)18(1), 40–46.

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