As with all client populations, older adults are diverse and do not respond to a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and practice techniques. The social worker’s role is to help older persons function with pride, dignity, and as much independence as possible. Individuals’ strengths and coping skills should be identified and utilized. Religious faith, family ties, and a sense of community are often sources of strength for older adults.
Multicultural counseling focuses on understanding not only racial and ethnic minority groups (e.g., African Americans, Asian Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans), but also LGBTQ men and women, people with intellectual or developmental disabilities, and a variety of other populations with special needs. Many mental health providers are still ill-prepared to discuss meaningful topics with older adults of different racial, ethnic, or cultural backgrounds. For example, professionals may struggle to discuss issues surrounding relationships, sexuality, and family with LGBTQ older adults and their loved ones.
Multicultural counseling and psychotherapy challenge the idea that personal problems are exclusively within the individual, instead emphasizing the social and cultural context of human behavior and the relationship between individuals and their environment. Social workers must recognize that many problems reside outside individuals, such as prejudice and discrimination. To provide culturally effective interventions, social workers may need to assume nontraditional roles that may include advocate, change agent, consultant, adviser, and facilitator of indigenous support or healing systems.
For more information on multicultural counseling and social work with older adults, see The Practice of Social Work with Older Adults: Insights and Opportunities for a Growing Profession by Mary Kaplan, M.S.W., LCSW. Copyright © February 2020 by Health Professions Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
Read the book!
With the rapid growth of the aging population, the need for geriatric social workers is at an all-time high. This resource for students and practitioners addresses the critical demand head-on by illuminating the many rewards, challenges, and opportunities for social workers to provide counseling, care management, and support to older adults. Written from a practice perspective by a geriatric social worker with a long and varied career in the field, this text illustrates strategies and interventions that move theory into real-world social work settings.