Multicultural Competence in Social Work

Working with multicultural groups

The social worker has to explore their own beliefs and differences, whereby they also find out the new aspects of their personality. I believe that racial/ethnic identity development is especially crucial for individuals, including social workers. Our self-perception and identity development depend on the images, stereotypes, and biases that refer to our racial/ethnic identities (Way, Hernández, Rogers, & Hughes, 2013). The social worker should pay close attention to the emergence of such negative beliefs about themselves and other individuals (including clients) because the self of an individual is constructed through responses to such beliefs as well (Way et al., 2013).

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Thus, although the stereotypes do not define us, they can lead to severe disruptions in ourselves. When working with multicultural groups, especially those that have to face severe discrimination, the social worker needs to bear in mind how stereotypes and negative beliefs could change or influence the development of their personalities. For example, the concept of “possible self” applies to the individual’s perception of an ideal self (I want to be like that) and of feared self (I do not want to be like that), which can frequently be seen in adolescents (Way et al., 2013). Partly, these selves are based on social stereotypes, which need to be considered by a social worker.

The understanding of one’s privileges is also significant. I believe that both self-reflection and policies that focus on spreading diversion (e.g. in schools, universities, offices, films, TV series, etc.) would make our citizens (including social workers) more race-conscious (Roda & Wells, 2013). We need to address the problems of privilege at higher levels to ensure that people are more aware of these issues.

Working with marginalized groups

I would like to point out the importance of the communication of social workers and marginalized groups. The social workers are frequently (if not always) engaged in the work with social groups, which can also lead to transformations both in the group and the workers (Northen & Kurland, 2013). Therefore, I believe that the success of the group and the changes that happened were due to the group’s ability to interact efficiently and understand the aims and objectives of the social work. As Northen and Kurland (2013) point out, the social worker’s role varies: “counselor or therapist, resource provider, educator, collaborator, and consultant” (p. 80). We, as social workers, need to remember the responsibility we bear, change different roles, and integrate into groups with different (sometimes polar) goals.

I also want to address the role of values in our life. The values and ethics in social work are a difficult topic because they are often vaguely defined (Thompson, 2015). Nevertheless, I think that the social worker’s value is in their ability to reflect on the values he or she has, and act by them. For example, one of the core values in social work is respect for persons (Thompson, 2015). The social worker needs to treat other people in a way that people should treat each other in his/her opinion. It seems to me that this value is the basis of the worker’s and the group’s ability to implement change. If we see a disruption in our lack of respect towards a marginalized group, we work hard on providing this group with the treatment they deserve. The ultimate goal of social work is to ensure that people are treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. Still, this idea is far from being entirely accepted in our world.


Northen, H., & Kurland, R. (2013). Social work with groups. New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

Roda, A., & Wells, A. S. (2013). School choice policies and racial segregation: Where white parents’ good intentions, anxiety, and privilege collide. American Journal of Education, 119(2), 261-293.

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Thompson, N. (2015). Understanding social work: Preparing for practice. Basingstoke, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Way, N., Hernández, M. G., Rogers, L. O., & Hughes, D. L. (2013). “I’m not going to become no rapper”: Stereotypes as a context of ethnic and racial identity development. Journal of Adolescent Research, 28(4), 407-430.

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