Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cultural Competency Guidelines

Comparison and Contrast between Guidelines


The American Psychological Association (APA) offers guidelines pertaining to cultural competence within the psychological professions. The American Counseling Association (ACA) provides a set of ethical codes for the specialization of mental health counseling. Both precepts address cultural awareness in clinical settings, although the ACA (2005) codes are more explicit in defining and describing various dimensions of cultural awareness in the therapeutic alliance. Both guidelines detail the need for cultural sensitivity when diagnosing a mental disorder, in choosing appropriate psychometric evaluations, and understanding the limitations of standardized assessments. Additionally, they encourage the recognition of the affects of diversity on any device or intervention normed on populations other than the client's.

Both guidelines describe the importance of maintaining a non-judgmental worldview and an understanding of non-western and non-traditional, culturally-specific techniques and interventions (APA, 2002). Both intend to advise and develop cultural sensitivity in the psychological professions. They convey the importance of working competently with diverse client populations and maintaining an awareness of the wide range of underlying cultural beliefs and values (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991). Both understand the continuing evolution of cultural awareness in psychology and that guidelines such as these are not exhaustive and must change when appropriate (APA, 2002).


Perhaps the most obvious difference between the ACA (2005) and the APA (2002) guidelines is the former's contracted focus on the specifics surrounding the therapeutic alliance and the latter's concentration on cultural awareness in a broader range of professional psychological interactions. The APA (2002) guidelines are, however, a descriptive, scholarly guide, supported by an abundance of empirical research, and a critical benefit to those seeking guidance toward cultural competence. One significant difference is the ACA's (2005) direction in counselor education and supervision as it pertains to cultural competence. Although the APA (2002) addresses the need for cultural competence in education, the ACA more directly informs these fundamental issues in mental health counseling. Since the counseling profession focuses on the therapeutic alliance, it is appropriate the ACA (2005) guidelines address the specific needs of counselors. Furthermore, it is befitting that the APA (2002) guidelines represent the wider and more diverse range of psychological specialties embraced by the association.

Guidelines with Personal Resonance

Personally, the APA (2002) guidelines provide a far more definitive range of the culture- specific needs of psychological services. It is scholarly in its scope and the information provided is empirically derived. However, for the focal purpose of mental health counseling, the ACA (2005) guidelines provide a specialized focus on the affects and repercussions of cultural contexts within the therapeutic alliance. Considering my ultimate goal of working as a counseling psychologist, I find the APA (2002) guidelines far more informative of the nature and level of cultural competence required of psychological professionals. That said, the ACA (2005) ethical codes are descriptive and counseling-specific, and will guide the actions of my immediate goal in mental health counseling. For counselors, the ACA (2005) codes are essential for practice, whereas the APA (2002) guidelines can be used as secondary, albeit precise and critical, instruction.

American Counseling Association (ACA). (2005). 2005 ACA code of ethics [White Paper]. Retrieved from the ACA website: f98489937dda

American Psychological Association. (APA) (2002). Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists. American Psychological Association (APA). Retrieved June 17, 2012, from

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

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