Cultural Competence: Awareness

*based on notes taken during my MSW on 07/29/2008

The culturally competent practitioner is one who has moved from being culturally unaware to being aware and sensitive to his or her own cultural heritage and to valuing and respecting difference

Quite likely, the simplest definition of culture is any shared beliefs and values. This definition lets culture be identified from the micro family level to the larger macro national level.

Culturally Competent Practitioners: Awareness & Knowledge

Self-awareness is an important factor for any clinician to evaluation in regards to having a culturally competent practice. I would say that this is the foundation of any real and positive cultural awareness. The practitioner must know about their own values, biases, and any areas that they might have transference with their clients. They must also strive to be comfortable with the differences that exist between themselves and their clients. This can be in regards to race, gender, sexual orientation, and other socio-demographic variables. This means a continuous reassurance that differences do not necessarily mean deviance, but that they are just different. A clear and explicit knowledge and understanding of the generic characteristics of counseling and therapy is required to be able to apply those techniques in a culturally informed manner.

Practitioners have a call to be culturally informed and to be flexible (this means being sensitive to our client’s circumstances). Being culturally informed means possessing specific knowledge and information about the particular group with which he or she is working. Regardless of the client’s culture, the clinician also must have an understanding of the sociopolitical system’s operation in the United States with respect to its treatment of marginalized groups in our society. Part of understanding our sociopolitical system is having an awareness of institutional barriers that prevent some diverse client populations from using mental health service. Often times, we gain much of this insight from participating in minority mental health consultations.

Cultural Competence Skills

Silence is OK …
… our pauses
can be pregnant.

The following are some skills that can help a clinician in being more culturally competent:

  • Generate a wide variety of both verbal and nonverbal responses
  • Send and receive both verbal and nonverbal messages accurately and appropriately
  • Exercise institutional intervention skills on behalf of your client when appropriate
  • Be aware of his or her helping style, recognizes the limitations that he or she possesses, and anticipate the impact on the culturally different client
  • Assume a number of different helping roles

I created this graphic using Adobe Illustrator based on information discussed in one of my MSW classes at Eastern State University. The roles of Micro, Mezzo, Macro Interaction in regards to cultural competency.

I created this graphic using Adobe Illustrator based on information discussed in one of my MSW classes at Eastern State University. It is a culturagram. A culturagram is a graphical representation of culture on an individual family member. These interactions, made up similar to an eco-map. The various elements that influence the individual are as follows;

* Time in County
* Legal Status
Age of family members at time of immigration
Language spoken at home & in community
Health Belief
Holidays and special events
Impact of crisis events
Family, education, and work values
Contract with cultural institutions 
Reasons for immigration