The Imperative of Cultural Competence
The 2000 U.S. census indicates steady population growth of cultural and ethnic minorities over the past several decades . Of the 281 million people living in the United States, approximately 80 million identify themselves as other than White, or of Hispanic origin . The census shows that diversity is increasing in nearly every state, making it more likely that mental health professionals in every setting will work with clients of different ethnocultural backgrounds than themselves. This is an exciting and daunting possibility; exciting for the richness that a diverse population extends to our communities, and for the professional and personal growth that accompanies cross cultural interactions; daunting because of the increased responsibility of having to employ culturally relevant approaches in our work. Hall makes a case for the idea of “cultural malpractice” for those who practice with inadequate knowledge of cultural dynamics and warns that without signi?cant changes in the way cultural issues are addressed, psychology will become obsolescent. The imperative is clear, especially in the context of the clinical interview.
To remain a viable helping resource for our whole population, we must have the necessary knowledge and understanding of culture as it impacts mental health.
Interviewer, Know Thyself You say you’re White, that you’re American. Don’t you know that MEANS something? Where I come from, being Black MEANS something!” -Victor; from the movie The Color of Fear Culture can be generally understood as the medium in which all human development takes place. Everything we value, know to be real, and assume to be “normal” is in?uenced by our past and present cultures. From a counseling perspective, answers to overarching questions such as, “What constitutes a healthy personality?” or “What should a person be or become” are largely in?uenced by the counselor’s culture of origin . For these reasons, the best place to begin in our quest to be culturally competent interviewers is with a thorough examination of ourselves as cultural beings. What does it mean to be from the culture we are from? According to D. W. Sue, Arredondo, and McDavis , increasing awareness of your own culture is a precondition for moving from an ethnocentric, culturally encapsulated perspective to a truly multicultural perspective. When we have the ability to un372 Interviewing Special Populationsderstand how our thinking, feeling, and knowing are in?uenced by our culture, we begin to obtain the capacity to understand another’s perspective without imposing our own. D. W. Sue et al. de?nes speci?c parameters for practicing in a culturally competent manner .
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