Sunday, December 16, 2012

The Effects of Culture on the Client Relationship

As a health psychologist, it seems important to understand the complexity that culture contributes to people's overall worldview, which includes how they perceive and react to healthcare. Cultures includes many intersecting factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, vocation, family, social group affiliations, and other circumstances of significance to the client (Sue & Sue, 2008). All of these are aspects of culture and context and they influence the overall affect of the individual (Marks, Murray, Evans, & Estacio, 2011). Furthermore, they may well affect how the client or research participant perceives the world, hence, they may affect the results of a study or necessitate consideration in program design.

Culture is deeply ingrained in all people, to an extent they may not fully realize (Marks et al., 2011). Further, it is critical to the research or the design of effective programs to understand the individual's racial and ethnic heritage and life experiences that may include stigmatization, discrimination, privilege, or disadvantage (Sue & Sue, 2008). All of these experiences will affect the outcomes of research or programs designed for individuals or groups (Marks et al., 2011). For example, if a program were designed to resolve the learned helplessness of chronic welfare recipients, it would be essential to develop a program that could be generalizeable to a variety of diverse populations. A program tailored for African American women may not be effective when applied to a group of Native American women. Consideration of the most salient aspects of a group or culture should be made in research and program design .

The diversity in America is apparent: 72% of the population is White, 15% Hispanic/Latino, 13% Black, 4.8% Asian, .9% American Indian or Alaska Native, and .2% Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010). After including other demographics such as family and marital status, gender, religious affiliation, socioeconomic status, and sexual orientation, America's diversity is remarkable. The American Psychological Association (APA) (2002) claimed People of Color remain underrepresented in many research samples. These demographics and this underrepresentation have implications for researchers and program designers. When populations are underrepresented in samples, those studies are not valid for the underrepresented populations (Whiston, 2009). Furthermore, health psychologists would not want to design a program for a population using statistics or norms gained from a different population. If health psychologists hope to effect change in diverse populations as well as in the majority culture (which is rapidly changing), they must consider the effects of culture and context (APA, 2002).


American Psychological Association. (APA) (2002). Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice, and Organizational Change for Psychologists. American Psychological Association. Retrieved December 10, 2012, from

Marks, D. F., Murray, M., Evans, B., & Estacio, E. V. (2011). Health Psychology: Theory, Research, and Practice (3rd ed.). London: Sage.

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

U.S. Census Bureau. (2010). 2010 census. United States 2010 Census. Retrieved August 10, 2012, from

Whiston, S. C. (2009). Principles and applications of assessment in counseling (3rd ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.

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