As counselling professionals, when working with international students we need to take into account the distinctive and complex aspects that make them a unique population. These include first of all, their temporary stay in unfamiliar settings; secondly, the unique set of values, beliefs and assumptions that they own; their social networks and finally, their specific communication styles. During the counselling sessions it is also necessary to take into account the cultural backgrounds of both Counsellor and Client and to talk openly about them, as well as the expectations that both counsellors and clients have from their therapeutic encounters and from each other, so that misunderstandings about their respective roles can be avoided. There are still few studies that focus on the counselling process with international students during their stay abroad; however, awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity seems to be a crucial aspect in the process with this type of clients. Indeed, becoming ‘culturally’ or ‘intercultural’ competent seems to be the main objective of Intercultural Counsellors. Some of the aspects that need to be considered are: cultural stereotypes, the particular situations in which students find themselves, a difficulty in identifying the roots of their issues, and finally, the doubts they might hold regarding professional counselling. Indeed, their reluctance to accept counselling support seems to be one of the major deterrents during the process. This can depend on the cultural contexts they grew up, where, for instance, support systems are more informal (friends, family, spiritual guides) and there is little knowledge or, in some cases even hostility, towards other forms of support. Raising Intercultural Awareness seems to be a key factor in current Intercultural Counselling practices. Hence, it is essential to widen our knowledge and competencies to this regard, so that we can meet the specific needs of this type of students, who often feel alienated and not understood in the new social and cultural contexts.
Gallucci, S. (2017). “International students: a population at risk in need of psychological support”. Journal of Psychotherapy and Counselling Psychology Reflections. RUL Reflections Research Centre. Vol. 2 (1), 11-16.