3 Multicultural Counseling Considerations for Native Americans

With this blog, we will complete our multicultural conversation by looking at three counseling considerations for Native Americans.

Please note that this series is not meant to cover all facets of multiculturalism, but rather to provide some useful information and give you a “head start” in your counseling career. Another important thing to remember is that minority groups are heterogeneous. Therefore, these are things that may be true in some instances, but, as with other categories in counseling, it is dangerous to make assumptions.

Tribal Culture

Native Americans have a very strong tribal culture. One theory suggests that this may stem from their declining population. According to Sue and Sue (2008), “It is estimated that the population of American Indians had decreased to only ten percent of its original number by the end of the eighteenth century” (p. 345). Furthermore, many Native Americans feel comfortable living on the reservation, because it is a “friendly place” (Sue & Sue, 2008, p. 348). However, this also means that they can feel torn between modern western society culture and their tribal culture.

Because Native Americans identify so strongly with their tribes, counselors should assess the role that tribal relationships play when counseling this cultural group. Counselors should recognize that many Native Americans are likely to feel a lot less comfortable when they are residing or talking about things that are outside the context of their tribes; as evidenced by the fact that many use the word “here” to describe the reservation, and “there” to describe everything outside of it (Sue & Sue, 2008, p. 349).

Family Considerations

It is also common for Native Americans to have extended families, and those roles should be considered when counseling this minority group. If it is determined that other persons play a role in the presented problem, then it might be fitting that they be included in the therapy.

With regard to child rearing, Native American parents are much more likely to be seen as indulgent when compared to Euro-American traditions. This is based upon the “Noninterference” value of Indian Americans: “Many are taught not to interfere with others” (Sue & Sue, 2008, p. 350). It is also very common for children to stay with other family members (the extended family). Rather than interpret this as neglectful parental behavior, we as counselors must recognize the role that their traditions and cultures play, and see their behavior from behind that lens.

Substance Abuse

This cultural group also has high substance abuse rates. Thus, screening for substance abuse is beneficial, as it could uncover issues that can directly affect the counseling process.

Yours in the Joy of Knowledge,

Barb LoFrisco


Sue, W. G., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the Culturally Diverse.
Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.