It’s not my intention to give full information or an extensive discussion on every theory. This website is intended to be a starting point and the main difference with other websites is the visual representation of the theory, which I hope will help get to grips with the theory. There are also links it the bottom to get your further research started.

Culture Infused Career Counselling Model (CICC)

Nancy Arthur 2013


Arthur didn’t intend to make this a new theory (Arthur and Collins, 2013) but felt it important for every career professional to reflect on the cultural influences and implications for both career professional and client. This realisation came out of reflection on how well other theories take cultural elements active during a consultation into account. They argue that culture infused counselling needs to infuse cultural awareness and sensitivity consciously and purposefully into all aspects of the counselling or guidance process and in all other roles assumed by the practitioner (Arthur 2016. p. 54)

Arthur and Collins propose consideration needs to happen in three ways:

  • The practitioner
  • The client
  • The working relationship between the two

The key approach, they argue, would be through reflection (Arthur and Collins, 2013). This translates into:

  1. Self-awareness about personal cultural identity
  2. Awareness about the cultures of our clients
  3. Awareness of how culture influences the working alliance between practitioners and clients

Culture infused career counselling.

However, in chapter 5 in Career Counselling: Constructivist Approaches, Arthur mentions 4 domains (McMahon 2016. p. 54),  and discusses those in more detail. These 4 domains seem to extend the 3rd consideration above and deepens the others in adding a prompt to action for practitioners. They are are:

  1. gaining awareness of personal cultural identities
  2. gaining awareness of the cultural identities of other people
  3. understanding cultural influences in the working alliance
  4. implementing culturally responsive and socially just interventions

A key principle in the influence of culture on the working alliance is that “cultural understandings are constructed and negotiated processes that are uniquely formed in the relationship between counsellors and clients” (Arthur 2016. p. 55). In practice, it’s essential to actively work towards addressing and overcoming these barriers.

I hope you can see why this is a constructivist approach: there are an infinite number of cultural ‘stories’ both practitioner and client bring to the intervention and these stories influence the working alliance between practitioner and client. Being aware, through reflection, of these influences, of your and the client’s cultural ‘story’ and how it impacts on what you work on together is key. The illustration above gives you some of the categories and influences at work.

This approach is very different to how cultural difference was approach in society at large. Cultural identity was linked to the group or nation but I would argue that at least in part because of our increasingly integrated and globalised world, culture is now less an issue of ‘the group’ but takes place on a more individual level. Whereas in the past ‘othering’ was something that happened – seeing the culturally different individual as ‘the other’- increasingly we may notice, within our practice and in wider society, a fragmentation of the ‘culturally diverse group’ into the ‘culturally diverse individual’.


What this means for practice.

I feel this theory has a lot of value, both in what it proposes and how it makes us aware of how culture is often a thought in the back of our heads. Over the years, I have increasingly worked with people with a different cultural background and away from that, I have often not taken into account of how my own cultural background can affect my practice. On the one hand, when I noticed it does affect it, it has been positive in that I can add a different cultural perspective to what I work on with clients. On the other hand, I sometimes don’t realise that culture always plays a role in more subtle ways. Arthur’s theory has made me aware that culture doesn’t need to be differences in Culture with a capital C, but that it can and will be more subtle than that.

The intricacies of ‘culture’

Most people will draw culture into the equation when the other person has a different nationality… but is that always justified? It’s easy to drift into stereotyping and that’s another thing to be aware of. It’s very easy to drift into the traditional ‘othering’ Arthur describes in her work (Arthur 2016. p. 55) or to treat the ‘culturally different client into a fixed relationship where the story becomes the mental fixed statue instead, where we then draw our consultation to fit in with that image without listening to the client’s story with full consciousness and openness.

It’s much more difficult and it takes a lot more conscious awareness to think of culture within the context of our practice when it comes to gender, or age. I’m sure we’re not using the ‘jobs for boys/jobs for girls’ paradigm anymore but here too it’s much more subtle. What our gender means for each one of us is different in different ways. The same for age.

It’s clear that this is not a model and that this theory is aiming us for a different way of practising what we do. Going into more detail is far beyond the scope of this website and I would strongly advise you to look at either or both of the two sources below, if you have a chance. Especially in the book, the first item in the references below, there is a very good list of questions to make us more aware and to start practising what the Culture Infused Career Counselling theory preaches.

What can you do in the meantime:

  • What are your thoughts on your own practice and how you consciously and purposely integrate awareness of the 3 considerations above?
  • What is your cultural story?
  • How does your story affect your life, relationships, thinking as well as your practice?
  • What can you do to bring culture (yours and that of others) into your awareness in life and practice?
  • Can you think of examples, or case studies, in your practice where culture played a significant role? Was this clear from the start? Or was this something that became apparent during or even after the consultation. If so, why?
  • Have you ever noticed during or after a consultation that what you meant and what the client took away were different? What exactly was at the bottom of this perceptive difference? What can you do better next time?

Lots of questions and more to come in the ‘Critique’ section below, but questioning your practice is one way of creating awareness. I hope it was helpful.



Within the tenets or perspectives of other theories is implied how well the cultural context is taken into account. This could play out well in a critique of Culture Infused Career Counselling in this respect.

Think about the sentence above for a moment and then have a look back at other theories or categories of theories and explore how culture is either taken into account, or not at all. What are your thoughts on this?

Now turn it around – explore how the perspectives, scope and key tenets of other theories work with Culture Infused Career Counselling. Is this a pointless exercise? Or is there some relevance in doing this you think? In other words, how does Culture Infused Career Counselling tie in (or not) with some of the other theories? Especially, how is it different and what does it add (or not) to other constructivist theories? How does it relate to those?

Would you agree that culture is not often taken into account in career guidance/counselling practice, or even in your own practice? How can Culture Infused Career Counselling support you? What can you take out of Arthur’s theory that will benefit your practice and how are you going to implement it? What are the difficulties?

Is there a downside to taking culture into account in this way? If so, what could it be?


Useful links:

References and further reading: