Most human services practitioners at one time or another must confront cultural issues which in many ways have a direct impact on their role and effectiveness as helping professionals. This article links the phenomenon of ethnic identity to problems, practices, and policies encountered in the field of human services. Although most of the theoretical concepts presented here are related to counseling psychology and education, other practitioners with culturally diverse client populations will also find the information applicable to their work. The social scientist, teacher and researcher, who is often the disseminator of theoretical and methodological paradigms, should also find these observations useful. The professor of applied and theoretical humanistic studies in many instances is the one who lays the foundation for an understanding of how sociological, cultural, and political phenomena interact with the psychological. The primary purpose of this article, therefore, is to present a psycho-social model (the ethnic matrix) for understanding ethnicity and the ethnic process in American society, and show how this model can be used by practitioners and researchers to further expand their own work.

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