CSU faculty member’s highly cited study underscores importance of counselors’ multicultural competence

Jessica Gonzalez-Voller emphasizes multicultural awareness in counseling.

Growing up in a Latinx community, Jessica Gonzalez-Voller saw there can be a stigma around seeking counseling  and skepticism about its effectiveness. As someone who personally benefited from counseling, she was inspired to train others.

“It is where my passion grew to provide accessible and culturally responsive treatment in hopes of continuing to decrease the stigma attached to counseling,” said Gonzalez-Voller, an assistant professor in Colorado State University’s School of Education.

“I think counselors having multicultural competence is at the cornerstone of building a strong therapeutic relationship,” she added. “Clients being able to discuss their various identities in a safe place is the first step in helping clients become the best version of who they see themselves being.”

Gonzalez-Voller and four colleagues’ manuscript, “A Preliminary Longitudinal Study of Multicultural Competence in Counselor Education,” was recently recognized as a top cited article (2020-21) in the Journal of Counseling and Development.

Gonzalez-Voller explained that the purpose of the study was to investigate longitudinal changes in master’s-level counselor trainees’ self-perceptions of their multicultural counseling competence over the course of their counseling program.

Increase in multicultural competence

Multilevel modeling results indicated an increase in scores across three time points: new student orientation; practicum orientation; and internship.

“Results indicated that their perceptions of their multicultural competence increased over the course of their program,” she said. “Of note, the greatest gains in self-perceived multicultural competence differences were indicated from new student orientation to practicum orientation.

“These findings highlight the importance for counselor educators and supervisors to provide social justice-specific training environments that may enhance the engagements of their students’ skills, knowledge and attitudes in growing their multicultural competence throughout their counseling program.”

Co-authors Elizabeth Crunk (George Washington), Sejal Barden (Central Florida), Shaywanna Harris (Texas State) and Christopher Belser (New Orleans) discuss study limitations and how counselors and counselor educators can incorporate the study’s findings into their practice and into the education and supervision of counselor trainees.

Recognized for distinction in research

Jessica Gonzalez-Voller explains her poster at the CHHS Research Day event
Jessica Gonzalez-Voller discusses her research at CHHS Research Day.

At the College of Health and Human Sciences Research Day, Gonzalez-Voller was also recognized with the Distinction in Research Award in the Equity and Social Justice category for her poster entitled “Counseling Client Outcomes and Counselors Multicultural Competence.” Additional authors were CSU School of Education counseling faculty Laurie Carlson, Jackie Peila-Shuster, Sharon Anderson, and Kody Roper. Learn more about the CHHS Research Day on SOURCE

Gonzalez-Voller said the next two steps in her research are to look at clients’ perceptions of how they view their counselors’ multicultural competence and to adapt counseling interventions to be culturally responsive for underserved populations with health disparities such as Latinx people with breast cancer. She added that the process starts internally.

“Before we can have discussions with clients,” Gonzalez-Voller said, “we have to start having the discussion with ourselves; of what our own assumptions, values, areas of privilege and marginalization are and how these might influence our perceptions in counseling.”

The School of Education is part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.