Case scenario 1

Case scenario 1. Paula, the counselor, is a 37-year-old woman. She has lived away from home since she began college. During college, she lived with roommates in an apartment. After graduation, she bought a condo.

While completing her graduate studies, she was in what she thought of as a solid romantic relationship with a man. She got pregnant while in graduate school and gave birth to a son who is now 5 years old. After thoughtful evaluation of her relationship, she decided not to marry and to take care of her son alone. Her parents are very proud of her accomplishments.

While at the office, Paula received a call from Carmen, a 35-year-old widow with two daughters who are 8 and 10 years old. Carmen lives in a small town. Only school counselors are available in her town. One of her sisters insisted that Carmen seek mental health counseling.

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Carmen’s husband, George, died in a car accident while driving to her parents’ house to repair their refrigerator. Carmen called George the afternoon before he died and asked him to please pass by her parents’ house after work. Although he was a teller at a bank, he was very handy. The repair took more time than he expected and it was raining heavily when he left the house. Another driver lost control of his car and crashed into Jorge due to the wet pavement and curvy road.

Carmen is seeking help because she does not know what to do. She is afraid of assuming the entire responsibility of her home. Her parents and in-laws believe that her daughters need to be in the presence of a male figure of authority to develop strong values and respect. Carmen’s in-laws also feel that it will look bad if a young widow has men visiting her house, even if they are friends who are trying to help. Carmen’s in-laws consider a woman’s reputation to be her most valuable treasure. In addition, Carmen’s parents feel guilty for the accident and want to help, while her in-laws have lost their only son and are too grief stricken to help her at this time.

Carmen has been taught that as a mother, her children’s welfare must be her first priority. As a result of George’s death, the girls are more demanding. Carmen’s daughters also want their family to live with their paternal grandparents so that Carmen can continue being a stay-at-home mom. The girls believe that if Carmen moves with George’s parents, their mother will not remarry.


  • How do the cultural identities of the counselor and the client differ?
  • Use the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics and the Association for Multicultural Counseling and Development’s (AMCD) Multicultural Counseling Competencies.  What ethical conflicts might arise from this case?
  • What AMCD competencies should the counselor consider to avoid possible conflicts?
  • Because Paula and Carmen have different values, should Paula refer Carmen to another professional? Explain your rationale and state why the recommended action would make Carmen an effective cultural counselor.

Case scenario 1

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