With an increasingly diverse population, the need for multiculturally competent psychologists is on the rise. Immigration, disparate birth rates, a widening gap between people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, a greater acceptance of alternative lifestyles – all of these factors are contributing to an increasingly open, diverse country. And thanks to our increasingly connected society, cross-cultural interaction is a day-to-day occurrence for most of us. We brush shoulders with people of different beliefs at work, school, even in our extended families. Students ranging in age from 18 to 81 learn in the same classroom. Children from different socioeconomic backgrounds play on the same sports teams. The people at the doctor’s office, the people at the grocery store, the people sitting on the bus next to you – every day we encounter people with various cultural backgrounds. In a nation so rich in different cultures, it would be strange to not have a field dedicated to studying the interactions within these groups.
Understanding these cultural differences is imperative in an intimate setting such as the psychologist-client relationship. Apart from better understanding your client’s motivations, it will also help you conduct yourself in a manner more conducive to establishing the proper relationship for treating your clients. For example, it is common in Western cultures to ask direct questions and maintain eye contact – however, in other cultures this might be seen as forthright or rude. In Western cultures, people also tend to be informal in relationships of all types; this mode of conduct is not always compatible with the values of other cultures. For example, in cultures that have a strong respect for authority and hierarchy, it might be seen as rude for a young psychologist to address a more senior patient in an informal way.
Self-Awareness in Multicultural Psychology
Self-reflection is a critical component of multicultural counseling. Introspection is required for identifying your own values and worldviews – as well as how open-minded you are to the values of other cultures. Increasing your self-awareness may help make you a better psychologist; that’s why an important part of Alliant’s multicultural training which focuses on self-evaluation and self-disclosure. Only once you establish your own values, stereotypes and prejudices will you be able to identify and address any blind spots in yourself.
Whether you're a psychology student or practicing psychologist, multicultural counseling can help broaden your perspective, sharpen your skills and equip you to empower the clients and communities you serve. That’s why we incorporate multicultural training into so many of our psychology programs. Through our psychology and counseling programs, we help our students break down the barriers of race, gender and age to build a community not only between themselves, but between the patients they serve. If you’re interested in learning more about Alliant’s perspective on multicultural psychology, or if you’re interested in learning more about any of our psychology and counseling programs, we encourage you to contact us.
Dean, California School of Professional Psychology
California School of Professional Psychology
David G. Stewart, Ph.D., ABPP, is a board-certified clinical child and adolescent psychologist and Dean of the California School of...