Werklund grad finds passion for multicultural counselling

Farah Premji wants mental health practitioners to keep the cultural context of clients in mind
Werklund School graduate Farah Premji hopes her research will encourage graduate programs to continue to refine their training programs.

Premji hopes her research will encourage graduate programs to continue to refine their programs.

Farah Premji

Farah Premji’s awareness of cultural diversity came at an early age. Being of Indian and Pakistani heritage, Premji was only three years old when her family immigrated to the island nation of Bahrain.

“My father wanted to make sure that my brothers and I did not experience any prejudice and discrimination because of language and cultural differences so he deliberately put us in an international school where we would be able to learn Arabic in order to make it easier to integrate into the culture,” says Premji.

This early cultural exposure made a big impact on Premji who would choose to study abroad when it came time to decide on a post-secondary institution.

“I wanted to go somewhere where I could learn to be independent, somewhere where I would have the opportunity to grow both emotionally and intellectually," she says. "I decided to come to Canada, a country where pluralism is celebrated, a place where I knew I would feel welcomed.”

Exploring the ethical dilemmas of multicultural counselling

After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with degrees in both business and psychology, she came to the Werklund School of Education to pursue a degree in Counselling Psychology. Initially, her plan was to research the stigma associated with mental health but she soon discovered a passion for exploring the ethical dilemmas encountered by graduate students in multicultural counselling.

“I knew right away that pursuing this research was important; in a nation where the society continues to expand with cultural diversity, it becomes incumbent upon psychologists to develop the requisite competencies to provide adept services to all clients, irrespective of their individual cultural characteristics,” she says.

Multicultural worldview allows for appropriate interventions

When asked what expertise psychologists need to properly serve their clients, Premji says different professionals take different approaches so there is no one-size-fits-all answer. She believes that the most important tactic a practitioner can take is to adopt a lens that recognizes that all clients are inherently multicultural beings.

“Having this world view will allow psychologists to constantly strive to understand their clients from their perspectives, and assist them in developing culturally appropriate interventions," she says.

Ultimately, Premji’s wish is that her work encourages graduate programs to continue to refine their training programs and that mental health professionals always strive for improvement in their work.

“It is my hope that my research will challenge psychologists to constantly monitor their practice, question their competency, and assist them in recognizing the importance of engaging in continuous professional development.”