Mapu Maia is the Pacific Unit at the Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand and was set up in 2009 to provide a culturally appropriate service to effectively reduce the harm from gambling in the Pacific community. We asked Mapu Maia Counsellor and Health Promoter, Ben Langi to shed a little light on their approach to Pasifika counselling.
1. What is culturally appropriate counselling for Pasifika people?
2. How does Pasifika counselling differ from traditional forms of counselling?
3. How do you incorporate Pasifika values into a counselling session?
- Establishing rapport and trust with the family/client. This is best done by acknowledging them through the appropriate greeting and/or cultural reference. The cultural reference acknowledges the person’s/family’s position, status and mana. This must be done before any business or issue can be discussed.
- Respect: Taking off your shoes, your tone of voice, the way you walk, stand, speak, are all ways the family/client can assess whether you are a respectful person (counsellor). In Pasifika cultures speaking while standing when others are seated is considered rude and disrespectful; when walking in front of people you should bow slightly (and Tongans say, “Tulou”); take off your shoes to show respect for someone’s space and home, and avoid extended eye contact with a client as it can be interpreted as a challenge. These are all good ways you can demonstrate respect when working with Pasifika clients.
- Love: What families (clients) are most interested in is whether a counsellor has compassion and genuinely cares for them. This is more important than any academic qualifications a counsellor may have. A counsellor’s demonstration of genuine love and compassion is more likely to be trusted by the client than a counsellor who is really qualified and experienced but is perceived by the client as arrogant, rude and uncaring.
- Inclusion: Ensuring that families, especially key people (elders, matai, chief, fahu) are included will help a counsellor by reinforcing the message, helping to monitor treatment progress and compliance. Not involving them can result in family members being a barrier to a counsellor's work.
4. What should clients expect when they attend a counselling session with Mapu Maia?
- Uplifting: Pasifika communities are proud and may view involvement with a gambling harm support service with a sense of shame. Stigma and shame have been identified as barriers to Pasifika peoples presenting for help to a gambling harm support service. Therefore, it is crucial that the engagement is uplifting, gives hope and encourages healing.
- Attitude: The counselling space exists with the understanding that it will create warmth and compassion and that the counsellor has genuine care for the client. Our counsellors are non-judgmental, respectful, compassionate and flexible. These are the attitudes that convey genuine interest and respect, thereby contributing to a meaningful relationship.
- Confidence: By instilling confidence and creating hope we begin to develop trust. The client and their family feel assured that the counsellor has the compassion and competence needed to help them navigate through this very difficult and often turbulent time.
- Home visits: Many Pasifika clients and their families prefer home visits to being seen at a gambling harm support service. The social reality is that transport, parking, child care, shift work and shame, can all be barriers to Pasifika people attending an appointment.
- Confidentiality: The counselling space is a safe space. Confidentiality and professionalism is guaranteed and in the best interests of the client and their family. Pasifika communities are relatively small and closely connected. It is important to reassure the client that what they share in a counselling session will be kept confidential. Stigma and shame associated with gambling continues to exist among Pasifika communities and there may be concern that information will be disclosed. Taking the time to explain confidentiality thoroughly and to stress that privacy covers all employees of the service can be invaluable. Also being very specific about who the information will and will not be shared with without the person’s consent can be reassuring to the family. The limits of confidentiality should also be discussed and checked for understanding.
- Language: When working with Pasifika in the gambling harm support sector, there can be a challenge with translation and ensuring that concepts are understood. Misinterpretation and cultural misunderstanding can occur when engaging with Pasifika peoples who come from a culture unfamiliar with gambling terminology. While the majority of Pasifika peoples speak English, their comprehension can be limited. It is often helpful to check for correct understanding of meanings.