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Psychological Reactions and Cultural Competence

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Abstract

In the field of applied psychology, there have been a recent emphasis and even a requirement to employ what has become known as “culturally sensitive” or “culturally competent” practices in all professional services (e.g., Betancourt et al, Public Health Rep, 2016; Griner and Smith, Culturally adapted mental health intervention: a meta-analytic review. Psychother Theory Res Pract Train 43(4):531–548, 2006). A purported claim for the necessity of cultural sensitivity and cultural practice is that clients who experience culturally insensitive behavior report a variety of adverse psychological reactions (e.g., feelings of being insulted, disconnectedness, uncomfortableness, even trauma). This chapter will examine some of the assumptions and assertions of the cultural competence movement in relation to clients’ reported experience of negative psychological reactions and explain the problems with these. These problems include issues with reliability and validity of self-reports, lack of clarity of concepts related to key psychological reactions such as “uncomfortableness,” lack of discernment between levels of adverse experiences/impairment, whether the effects of the listener are always relevant, utilization of cultural competence to combat egregious behaviors/values, pseudo−/problematic attempts at relating to culturally diverse clients, whether cultural competence results in positive psychological reactions, and the lack of empirical support for the causal pathways that are assumed.

Keywords

  • Cultural competence
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Psychological responses
  • Philosophical issues
  • Ethical standards

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Correspondence to Caroline Cummings .

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Cummings, C., O’Donohue, W. (2018). Psychological Reactions and Cultural Competence. In: Frisby, C., O'Donohue, W. (eds) Cultural Competence in Applied Psychology. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-78997-2_7

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