Cultural Competence in Mental Health Treatment
Cultural Competence in Mental Health Treatment
Trimble’s chapter on “Cultural Sensitivity and Cultural Competence” brings a number of questions to mind, the most important of which seems to be the following: ‘Are psychologists expected to know about all cultures or ethnicities in the United States today? ’ Multicultural course content is expected to enhance students’ understanding of different cultures before they enter the workplace. All the same, it is virtually impossible for a psychologist to learn about all cultures that he or she would be interacting with in the course of his or her career.
I would love to believe that the stages of cultural competence development end with “cultural blindness (Trimble). ” Nevertheless, I realize the importance of understanding all possible cultures that I would be interacting with during the course of my career as a psychologist. I must reach the stage of “cultural proficiency (Trimble). ” As a matter of fact, I had a vague understanding of this goal even before I had read Trimble’s chapter on cultural competency. For this reason I had begun to read and watch movies about foreign cultures several years back.
Needless to say, it amazes me that people from foreign cultures hold beliefs that are sometimes very different from my own. Moreover, it strengthens my belief that psychologists must understand the different cultures that they interact with. In my opinion, empathy – on the part of the psychologist – is the foremost requirement in a therapeutic relationship. At the same time, however, it is clear to me that psychologists who understand different cultures would be especially empathetic to people who represent those cultures. As an example, Latino psychologists may be especially empathetic toward their Latino clients.
Furthermore, the job description of a psychologist cannot admit discrimination, racism, or prejudices. After all, mental health is a requirement of all people. Yet another challenge posed by diversity is that of different moral codes that have been adopted by different cultures and/or races. While multicultural course content could go a long way in helping the psychologist meet the challenges of diversity, it is crucial for psychologists who are introduced to new cultures for the first time to interview their clients on the basis of their cultural beliefs in the first instance.
I state this with confidence based on experience, as I have had the opportunity to interview an individual whose belief system I could never have comprehended if I had not asked her questions relevant to her culture. It was important to ask questions relevant to her culture because it was possible for me to consider that her thought patterns needed serious reordering if I was not aware that her thought patterns actually stemmed from different cultural beliefs altogether.
Hence, it was vital to frame the interview questions such that the interviewee would be allowed to explain her cultural beliefs while describing her problem. A Case Study The following is an excerpt from an interview report to shed more light on the importance of cultural competence in the psychologist’s career. Mrs. A (2007) is a 69 year old Pakistani lady settled with her son’s family in the United States. She has been a green card holder for the past six years. During an interview, she reported having had “no problem whatsoever” with the American health care system.
After all, both her son and daughter-in-law are doctors. Mrs. A suffers severe depression from time to time. In her opinion, it is “genetic. ” From the time she entered the United States, her family has helped her cope with the illness by ensuring that she had access to the doctors whenever required, in addition to medication. According to the senior immigrant, the attitude that her family has shown toward her illness in “a foreign land” is, indeed, praiseworthy. “This is how families from my part of the world are meant to behave,” she adds.
She further believes that it is her family alone that she can rely on in the foreign land. In the Indo-Pak culture, an individual must be protected and provided for by his or her family. Women must be cared for by their husbands and sons. “Single women have no place in our culture,” Mrs. A reported. Individualism is replaced by collectivism, as Mrs. A would like her family to look after her interests at all times. In exchange for the time and energy that she has invested in her family thus far, Mrs.
A expects help from her family in times of need. She worries, however, that her family would not be able to meet her needs all of the time. As a matter of fact, the possibility that her family might one day find itself impotent in terms of helping her out is a cause of anxiety for the lady. The intense level of anxiety felt by Mrs. A often translates into severe depression. Even though Mrs. A has a large number of friends across the United States, she believes that it is shameful to depend upon friends in stead of family.
This belief is also culture-ingrained, seeing that the Americans do not believe that it is embarrassing to ask friends for help. Mrs. A visits her friends quite often, and they visit her too. All the same, they cannot root out the anxiety that lurks in the back of her mind – that, in fact, it is possible for her to be left without family to take care of her needs, whether they are financial or health care needs. The anxiety is intensified by Mrs. A’s concern that the American value system might abruptly change the Muslim-ingrained values of her son and daughter-in-law.
Also according to her, it is widely believed in her own part of the world that the American children have no respect for their elders. “Parents are sent over to nursing homes; and we would never do that” – she stated. Conclusion As the excerpt from Mrs. A’s interview report suggests, it is essential for psychologists to learn about their clients’ thought patterns and belief systems through interviews with questions that are especially framed to shed light on the clients’ thought patterns and belief systems in relation to their cultures.
No doubt, “cultural proficiency” is essential in the psychologist’s career (Trimble). For this reason, the psychologist must conduct research to find out about all cultures that he or she may be interacting with. Even so, the value of the first interview cannot be discounted in terms of learning about the client’s culture. References Mrs. A. (2007). Personal Interview. Trimble, J. E. Chapter 3: Cultural Sensitivity and Cultural Competence.