Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence implies the ability to function appropriately and effectively within a culturally integrated set of beliefs, values, and norms. I appreciate Sue and Sue's (2008) description of several aspects of cultural competence that includes having an awareness of personal assumptions, biases and values, understanding a variety of worldviews, and developing culturally appropriate therapeutic strategies. Additionally, and as an expectation of the level of training one must accrue toward becoming culturally competent, Sue and Sue (2008) claim cultural competence is an active process and is aspirational, rather than a state of achievement.

Aiming for cultural competence is critical for counselors, and central to their ability to effectively function with diverse populations. Although I cannot hope to understand the cultural affects of every human variable, I can become keenly aware of my "own assumptions about human behavior, values, biases, preconceived notions, personal limitations and so forth" (Sue and Sue, 2008, p. 44). I believe it is unlikely that any one person can possibly understand another individual without first understanding their fundamental ideologies. That said, any intervention with a client must be embedded within a parameter that considers the individual's cultural context, otherwise the intervention may have little to no consequence (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991).

Stewart and Bennett (2006) claim people measure others by their personal cultural norms and expectations, and they typically presume the superiority of their own culture. In an attempt to resolve behavioral ambiguities, people tend to impose their own perspectives when contending with foreign exchanges and situations (Stewart & Bennett, 2006). If these reactions are typical and normal, counselors must be consistently vigilant against making such presumptions.

Solomon, S., Greenberg, J., & Pyszczynski, T. (1991). Advances in experimental social psychology. San Diego: Academic Press.

Stewart, E. C., & Bennett, M. J. (2006). American cultural patterns: a cross-cultural perspective. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2008). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice (5th ed.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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