Culture and Culturally Competent Counselors

Being Culturally Competent Letitia Batton Walden University Being Culturally Competent Counselors should have a sense of compassion and respect for people who are culturally different. As a social worker, it is easy to make diagnosis based on verbal and non-verbal presentation of our clients. Hays (2008) stated there are many factors to assess which include race, class, family structure, culture, relationships, religion, and generational/cultural influences. Based on the case study of Mrs. Hudson her externalizing behaviors may stem from an underlying anxiety disorder.

It seems that her attacks are not medical in nature that is why she was referred by her primary doctor. She just recently started having these attacks and they happen out of the home and when she has to interact with others. Her assessment reveals that she is presently considered middle class, attended church prior to attacks, family oriented, and educated. Some potential concerns could be her daughter’s illness and past issues with her father that never got closure. Haitian culture relies on spiritual healing more so than Americanized tradition and this may be a big step for Mrs. Hudson (Pierce & Elisme, 2001).

Counselors must be trained and competent when implementing diagnosis with culturally diverse clients. (Sue, 2008). DSM-IV provides counselors a tool to evaluate client’s cultural context (Hays, 2008). This process helps counselor’s assess their client’s background, cultural explanation of their issues, client’s environment, relationships, and overall cultural assessment to diagnosis and treatment (APA, 2002). Researchers have argued that the DSM-IV does not accurately represent all minorities (APA, 2002). It is important that counselors understand the family structure in order to provide the most accurate assessment information possible.

Unfortunately, counselors are not immune to stereotypes. Beliefs in stereotypes, whether conscious or not, may lead to incorrect diagnosis and misunderstandings between the clinician and the client (Hays, 2008). These beliefs may stem from television or news reports. If believed, they may cause counselor to incorrectly interpret the diagnosis. When this happens the client may become offended and end counseling. Counselors should have knowledge of their own general views, as well as specific knowledge about diverse client’s issues (Sue, 2008).

Diversity in family structure should also be taken into consideration when formulating goals and assessing treatment success or failure (APA, 2002). Counselors also attempt to understand the cultural values of each client to gain feelings of trust. Some issues with culturally competent assessments is that it is not race specific and whether existing instruments measure the correct attributes, based on different cultures (Hays, 2008). Diversity plays a role in many aspects of assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.

Clarity in these three characteristics may allow counselors to better assist families from diverse backgrounds and that will bring about better treatment outcomes (APA, 2002). Counselors should have an attitude of cultural humility in knowing their limits of knowledge and skills in rendering diagnosis with certainty than reinforcing stereotypes and generalizations (Sue, 2008). While guidelines exist for conducting a culturally competent assessment, few of these guidelines provide the link between the information gathered, the initial decision making, and the development of the treatment plan (APA, 2008).