The Effectiveness of Incorporating Families in Counseling Session for Immigrant Origin Youth

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction and Literature Review
  • Methods
  • Participants
  • Procedures
  • Counselor training
    Counseling Sessions

Introduction and Literature Review

Immigrant, origin youth-individuals who immigrated to the U.S. themselves or have parents who did so, make up a large portion of the population. According to the FCD Report, 18.4 million children come from immigrant families (FCD, 2012). Despite the disadvantages that such youth experience, immigrants do just as well or outperform their non-immigrant peers (FDC, 2012) (Whitfield, 2017). Part of this paradox can be attributed to protective factors such as resilience, cultural factors such as family involvement, religion, living in two-parent households, among others (FDC, 2012). For this proposed study, I will focus on family involvement because they can be incorporated into counseling sessions.

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Our training as school counselors includes cultural competency by preparing us to work with immigrant-origin youth. Although cultures vary we must be aware of those differences while also looking for strengths. It is not feasible to have a bilingual school counselor[footnoteRef:0] at every school to serve the immigrant population, but practices could be adopted across the board. [0: ]

In a study conducted by Roger-Sirin et al., researchers explored immigrant students’ perception of the therapist’s cultural competence (2015). Students shared specific stories in which therapists displayed cultural competence and instances in which they did not. Instances of lack of cultural competence include interventions in which it was unclear what the therapy entailed, discriminations and microaggressions, assuming adequate cultural knowledge, and pathologizing cultural differences (Roger-Sirin et al., 2015). Some of the ways in how practitioners across the board can show cultural competence are by being open to learning about new cultures and being transparent to clients when they do not know much about his/her culture, using culture in appropriate ways, and showing empathy and patience (Roger-Sirin et al., 2015). Although this research focused on therapists in mental health, some of these techniques for cultural competence could be taught in training to help with academic success.

In a study conducted to examine how a teacher’s perception of immigrant parents- specifically values - impacted the way in which teachers rated students in academics and behavior (Sirin, S. R., Ryce, P. & Mir, M., 2009) found that family involvement, or lack thereof, influenced perceived value differences (Sirin, S. R., Ryce, P. & Mir, M., 2009). It is important to note how cultural differences come into play in regards to parental involvement. For instance, setting academic expectations at home, monitoring homework, and finding outside resources for students are other ways in which parents are involved (Crosnoe, R., & Turley, R. L., 2011). In this proposed study, school counselors will inquire about the ways in how parents are involved while also providing parents with more information on how to assist their students academically.

As is common among immigrant families having strong family ties, and support for academic success, it is important to use this to the advantage of students through school counseling (Crosnoe, R., & Turley, R. L.,2011). Therefore, this proposed study of incorporating family members in counseling session in the school setting may serve as a way to help immigrant students achieve academically. This study is particularly important in the state of New York as New York is among the top six states that immigrant families tend to settle (US Census, 2010). Such communities of settlement tend to have large schools urban, and are relatively poor and under-resourced (Suárez-Orozco, et al., 2011). Due to large student populations, students may not be able to build a relationship with the school counselor (Suárez-Orozco, et al, 2011). Therefore, going to the students and asking them to participate in the study will allow school counselors to take an active role in helping those students. In this study, I will look to examine if incorporating families in counseling sessions in the school setting helps immigrant-origin youth do better academically. I believe that if school counselors incorporate family members in counseling sessions, immigrant-origin students will do better academically.



The participants will be immigrant-origin youth at ITHS in Queens, a diverse high school serving immigrant youth where I intern. Specifically, we will be looking at students who come from collectivist cultures because they tend to value family. To recruit participants, I will use non-probability sampling through convenience sampling as I am interested in finding a relationship, if any, between my independent variable (incorporating families in counseling sessions) and the dependent variable (grades) and not on generalizability, at the moment.

I would reach out to the principal and school counselor and explain my studies. Once they have agreed, they will be asked to generate a list of immigrant-origin youth at the school, which could be done through a survey focused on demographic information on all students. Students who agree to be part of the study and are under the age of 18 will need written consent from parents/guardians. Students will then be randomly assigned to be part of the controlled or experimental group. Since there are four school counselors at ITHS, two school counselors will be randomly assigned to work with the control group and the other two with the experimental group. The two school counselors working with the experimental group, will be asked to incorporate family member(s) into the counseling sessions.

In order for students to be included in this study, the following criteria must be met 1) either they or one of their parents immigrated to the United States from Asia, Central America, South America or Africa; 2) students have not received school counseling; and 3) students have been in the school for at least one academic year. Immigrant origin youth from countries such as Western Europe will not be included because the cultures tends to be individualistic, therefore they are not much different from the American culture. Students who just arrived at this school will not be included in this study because it will not allow for a baseline for grades. Students who receive outside assistance with academics will not be included as it may impact the effect of this intervention (IV). Students have a learning disability who have an IEP or a 504 will not be included, as school counselors and families are already working together.

As it will be hard to attribute grades improvement solely to the integrated school counseling sessions, other variables must be accounted for. For instance, acculturation levels regarding language should be considered. To account for this, school counselors could be provided with interpreter services when needed to communicate with students and family. Also, the variation in classes taken by immigrant youth origin may impact grades. For instance, some students who have been in the country longer may be taking honors or AP courses, whereas, those that have recently arrived may be making up some classes or taking ESL classes. The school counselor’s cultural competence level may vary, therefore the training that they will receive will serve as a way for all counselors to have the same information.


Counselor training

The training that all school counselors will receive prior to the session will include the following topics: discrimination, microaggressions, explaining the purpose of the sessions, exploring cultural differences, being transparent about not knowing a lot about the culture and how to learn from the student/family, identifying biases, and showing empathy and patience (Roger-Sirin et al., 2015).

Counseling Sessions

Once all students are recruited for this study, students will be randomly assigned to the control or experimental group. All students will receive the same three beginning counseling sessions: 1) introduction, 2) build rapport, and 3)setting a goal.

Students will then have 2-3 sessions in which they will explore with the counselor techniques and methods of reaching the set academic goal. All students will receive the same techniques and methods. Students in the control group will continue to meet one-on-one with a counselor. Students in the experimental group will meet with the school counselor and a family member. School counselors working with the students in the experimental group will be asked to inquire on what parents are already doing at home for academic support and incorporating that in the techniques.

In the remaining two sessions, both groups will look at grades throughout the semester to determine any changes. Through the use of a Likert Scale, students will identify the perceived effectiveness of each method.


Grades obtained during the previous year (s) at the school will be used as the baseline. Grades will then be tracked and compared for progress or lack thereof during the fall semester in which the student is seeing the school counselor and then during the spring semester.

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