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Transformative Learning through International Immersion: Building Multicultural Competence in Family Therapy and Counseling


  • Teresa McDowell, EdD, is an Associate Professor and Director of the Marriage, Couple and Family Therapy program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling; Kristen Goessling, MS, was a graduate student in the Community Counseling program at Lewis & Clark at the time this article was written; Tatiana Melendez, ABD, is a doctoral candidate at the University of Connecticut and was a doctoral fellow at Lewis & Clark at the time this article was written.

Address correspondence to Teresa McDowell, Lewis & Clark College, Counseling Psychology, 615 SW Palantine Hill Road, Mailstop 86, Portland, Oregon 97035; E-mail:


This study explores the experiences of graduate students who completed one of two international courses facilitated by family therapy faculty in a U.S. master’s-level counseling psychology department. Participants reported that international courses were personally and professionally transformative. Spending time in a foreign country gave them opportunities to learn from cultural differences, ultimately increasing the social and global awareness required for multicultural sensitivity. Experiential learning, reflection, and dialogue resulted in raised critical consciousness among participants. In this article, we discuss the transformational learning processes embedded in international courses and the potential benefits of these experiences on the development of multicultural sensitivity in family therapists and counselors in training.