Cartographies of identity in relationship: Multicultural client perspectives of counseling

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling and Human Services


Sari Knopp Biklen


Identity, Multicultural, Counseling

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Education | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Student Counseling and Personnel Services | Women's Studies


This is a qualitative study using in-depth interviews with sixteen participants of African, Latino, Asian, and Native American heritage who were clients in various forms of counseling. Client perceptions, experiences, and understandings of counseling were influenced by social identities such as race and ethnicity, gender, class, age, sexual orientation and disability of both themselves and the counselor they met with. However, the ways in which clients responded and navigated such social identity constructions was a dynamic, shifting, and context-dependent process that could not be codified into absolute prescriptions. Perceptions of shared sociopolitical experience was a much stronger bond in counseling than shared similarity on any dimension, and clients negotiated differences in identity between themselves and their counselors in flexible ways depending on their needs. Gender was the one area of identity where clients expressed rigid preferences, based on essentialized constructions of women as innately nurturing and empathic. Clients also used culture and language in counseling fluidly to develop preferred representations of self. Based on these themes, implications for counseling theory and practice are discussed.


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