Culture is Core to Therapy

“Are We Talking Culture…Again?” could also be an appropriate title for this piece. It cannot be argued that the role of culture has been recognized as an important dimension in counseling by the mental health field. Graduate programs include multiculturalism in their curriculum and we know that the culture of the clients may play a role in how they perceive their issues. Yes. We have come to recognize that culture is important in counseling. However, when it comes to training and professional development multiculturalism, diversity, or cultural competency is just not the “cool” thing in counseling anymore. It seems to have gotten to be “old hat”; even a bit boring. Cultural competence does not elicit excitement and curiosity as it did in its “hey day”. More often there is a sense of: “Oh…I’ve done that already”. There are new kids on the block now that have captured the attention of the mental health field. This is the cycle as we learn and discover novel and exiting ways to assist our clients. New approaches come and go. Some become integrated in mainstream approaches, but those approaches also shift and evolve over time. One of the reasons that multiculturalism and cultural diversity lost its “luster” is that it was often treated as an “approach”. When it came on the scene it was the “new thing”, the new approach, and like all new approaches, its novelty wore off. The excitement, the newness, and thus the coolness factor began to wane. Viewing multiculturalism or cultural responsiveness as simply a new or novel approach to the field can obscure the more fundamental truth that culture is, and always has been, a core element in counseling. In fact, it is a core element in the lives of all people. All people have culture and cultural values – beliefs, values, and customs that shape how we see the world and that have been passed down to us over the course of generations. Thus, conversations about cultural responsiveness are always relevant and continued cultural diversity training is necessary to be an ethically and competent clinician.

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