Case Study Analysis – Luisa, Drug Peddling

On the last track we discussed the cultural and historical perspectives in counseling culturally different clients who are Hispanic, as well as the implications of these cultural and historical perspectives.

On this track we will consider the case study of a culturally different client who is Hispanic. We will consider this case in light of the topics discussed on the previous track. As we discuss the case, consider the ethicalissues being raised.

 Case Study: Luisa 
Luisa (loo-ease’-uh), age 13 Hispanic student, was referred to her school counselor for selling marijuana on the school premises. The counselor knew that Luisa has had a history of minor problems in school, such as talking back to teachers and refusing to do homework assignments. Luisa socialized with other Hispanic students who are responsible for several schoolyard pranks and came from a blue-collar Hispanic neighborhood. After several prior sessions with Luisa, the counselor felt that she has been unable to “get through” to the student. The counselor decided that this time, it was time to get Luisa’s parents involved.

Luisa’s counselor called Luisa’s parents to set up an interview. Luisa’s mother, Maria, a natural citizen, answered the phone, and the counselor explained that Luisa had been caught peddling drugs on school grounds by a police officer. The counselor went on to explain that because the vice principal was present at the time of the incident, the police officer turned Luisa over to the vice principal instead of arresting her. The counselor then asked that Maria make arrangements for an appointment as soon as possible to discuss Luisa’s difficulties in school and decide what could be done.

Maria was hesitant to choose a time to come in. When Luisa’s counselor pushed the matter, Maria excused herself from the phone. Luisa’s counselor could hear whispering, then heard Luisa’s father, Pablo, a Mexicanimmigrant, pick up the phone. Pablo asked how Luisa was and expressed that he was upset over the entire situation. The counselor explained that she understood his feelings but that it would be best to set up an appointment for the following day to talk about the matter.

The counselor then asked Pablo for a convenient time for the meeting, but Pablo avoided answering and explained that he had to work the next day. The counselor stressed that the meeting would be important for Luisa’s welfare and that it would be worth missing one day of work. Pablo stated that he would be able to make an evening session, but the counselor rejected the suggestion, stating that school policy prohibited evening meetings. When the counselor suggested that Maria could come alone, Pablo finally agreed to skip work for the appointment.

When Maria and Pablo arrived the next day for the appointment, they also brought along Luisa’s godfather, Juan. The counselor became upset at Juan’s presence and explained that a third party would make the sessions more complex and difficult to resolve. The counselor again interpreted Luisa’s parents’ actions as an attempt to avoid responsibility for dealing with Luisa’s delinquency.

What ethical issues regarding culturally different clients who are Hispanic did you notice in this case? How did Maria’s hesitations to come to an appointment alone reflect Hispanic values? Did the counselor understand Luisa’s family’s value system and Pablo’s need to go to work? Was the counselor’s anger at the presence of a godfather at the appointment appropriate?

3 Ethical Issues from Luisa’s Case Study

 Ethical Issue #1: Lack of Understanding of Family Roles 
As you probably noticed, there are three ethical issues to consider in Luisa’s case. First, it is important to note the lack of understanding the counselor may have of the role of the father in the traditional Hispanic family. I have found that the family structure of traditional Hispanic families ascribes respect for the authority of a dominant father who rules the household.

As you can see, Maria’s hesitations to committing an appointment time were likely the result of her need to consult with Pablo. Did you notice that the counselor misinterpreted this hesitation and indecisiveness as avoidance?

 Ethical Issue #2: Little Consideration for Economic Status 
The second issue to consider is that the counselor gave little consideration to Pablo’s need to not miss a day of work. Although this may be more related to class distinction, as you are probably aware, many Hispanics are on the bottom of the economic scale in the United States. In my experience this fact makes missing work a relevant issue to consider in any counseling of a culturally different client who is Hispanic.

Pablo’s missing a day of work may have significant financial impact on the entire family. As you can see in this case, Luisa’s counselor neglected acknowledging this point in pushing for him to skip work. The counselor saw the hesitations as negative and possibly as a way of avoiding responsibility for dealing with Luisa’s school troubles. On the contrary as you well know, these hesitations to miss a day of work may be indicative of a strong love for the family.

 Ethical Issue #3: American Distortion of Cultural Values 
Finally in addition to misunderstanding the role of the father and the importance of work for the Hispanic family, the third key issue is the American distortion of cultural values. As you can see, Luisa’s counselor distorted the Hispanic family’s values in a number of ways, including by pushing Maria to come in for an appointment alone and by getting angry when Luisa’s godfather Juan arrived for the appointment too.

2 Important Conflicts from Luisa’s Case Study 
In addition to these three ethical issues, the case with Luisa’s family presented two important conflicts.

 1. The first important conflict was a task-oriented approach versus personality. I have found that among Hispanics, there tends to be a preference for personal contact and individualized attention in dealing with power structures. On the other hand, as you are well aware, Americans tend to be more task and business- oriented. Do you see how this played a part in Luisa’s situation? When Pablo offered to come in for an appointment in the evening Luisa’s counselor dismissed the suggestion, explaining that school policy forbade evening appointments. In this way Luisa’s counselor put the business-oriented American values of adhering to rules and regulations above the Hispanic client’s counseling needs.
 2. The second conflict is that Luisa’s counselor misunderstood the extended family structure of the Hispanic family. I have found that the godfather system is strong and influential in Hispanic families. Does this statement agree with your experience in counseling Hispanic clients? As you can see, Luisa’s counselor’s experience with Western culture and its focus on the individual altered her view of Juan’s presence at the counseling center. Luisa’s counselor simply did not understand the Hispanic family orientation.

Do you have a culturally different client who is Hispanic? Have you considered the Hispanic cultural values in your counseling techniques? What are the ethical implications of imposing counseling approaches with an American value system on a Hispanic client?

On this track we have discussed Luisa’s case and the effect the Hispanic value system had on her family’s counseling experience.

On the next track we will discuss cultural perspectives in counseling culturally different clients who are Native American. We will also discuss the implications of these cultural perspectives.