During these times of uncertainty and constant changes, it is important as health care professionals to not only consider our patient’s cultural differences during treatment but be aware of cultural differences between our peers. Understanding culturally and ethnically diverse populations improve the quality of therapeutic services provided to our patients and improve working environments amongst clinicians. Culture can impact one’s beliefs and behaviors, and it is important to integrate cultural awareness in our day to day because of its impact on others. As clinicians, we need to educate ourselves ( e.g., explicit and implicit biases) and others on cultural issues. For example, learning and becoming aware of our own prejudice (emotional bias), stereotypes (cognitive bias), and discrimination (behavioral biases) allows users to learn and educate ourselves and others, so we can grow to become more culturally competent clinicians. Cultural diversity is defined by increasing our awareness of generational differences, disability, religion, ethnicity, social status, sexual orientation, gender, and nationality.
To achieve cultural competency, therapists should not only consider other’s cultural values but be aware of their own cultural values and biases by following the RESPECTFUL MODEL:
- Religious-Spiritual Identity: Clinicians may be affected by their religion through transcendental experiences that extend beyond the ordinary. Others may identify with no religion at all.
- Economic Class and background: Status and roles influence an individual’s development and affect their own identification of their strengths and expression of problems.
- Sexual Identity: Sexual identity influences personal development, especially for individuals who have been discriminated against because of their sexuality. In addition, it can impact an individual’s sense of worth and it is important to be aware of different communication styles amongst those who have different sexual identities.
- Psychological Maturity: Maturity involves the ability of an individual to respond to a situation or their environment in an appropriate manner based upon their cognitive and emotional development.
- Ethnic-Cultural-Racial Identity: Being aware of your own assumptions, values, and biases (self-reflection). Learn about your own and other’s culture, and the way it affects them. Culture is shared values, norms, and language. Ethnicity is a group of individuals who share cultural and social patterns such as similar langue, values, and religion. Race is defined by physical differences as perceived by others such as genetics. It is important to note that acculturation stressors can impact an individual. Clinicians from various backgrounds may have different perceptions of eye contact, body language, verbal tracking, open-ended questions, paraphrasing, and summarizing.
- Chronological Developmental Challenges: Physical, cognitive, and psychological skill development affects how an individual experience challenges at different points in life.
- Trauma and Other Threats to One’s Well-Being: Stressful situations can put individuals at a higher risk for psychological vulnerabilities when clinicians lack effective coping skills.
- Family History and Dynamics: Family plays an important role in the way an individual develops their sense of self. It can also play a role in the way they interpret their surroundings.
- Unique Physical Characteristics: It is important to understand an individual’s feelings about their physical and unique characteristics and how it impacts them. Individuals with unique physical characteristics may experience stress and sadness due to feeling discontent because of internalizing negative views of their characteristics.
- Location of residence and language. Clinicians from various locations may speak different languages and have accents. Individuals should be aware of their own stereotypes and biases associated with those who are multilingual. Common expressions can be misinterpreted from individuals whose primary language is not English.