Striving for Cultural Competence: Moving Beyond Potential and Transforming the Helping Professions
Cultural competence is a topic that has received increasing attention in the helping professions in the last 20 years. Virtually every publisher of human services books carries at least one book on the topic and some have half a dozen or more. Journals such as Transcitltitral Nursing, The Journal of Ethnic Minority Psychology, and The Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Diwrsity in Social Work speak to the attention currently received by cultural topics in various human service disciplines. Topics related to cultural competence with various populations are now found on the agendas of most social science conferences. Indeed, it is not uncommon for entire workshops and conferences to be devoted to this topic. What is it that accounts for this rise in prominence? Some critics view cultural competence as a type of fad linked with political correctness or a liberal perspective that tries not to offend segments of the population that have been and often continue to be disenfranchised. Others view it as the very heart of effective counseling and believe that since culture is a key element in defining values, beliefs, and behaviors, it must be prioritized within the helping relationship.
Many authors cite the growing ethnic diversity in the US as leading to the increased emphasis on cultural competence (LaRoche, 2005; Westermeyer, Mellman, & Alarcon, 2006), while others cite health disparities (Betancourt, 2006; Callister, 2005) or social justice (Gustafson, 2005; Wear, 2003), as the mandate for cultural competence. In this author’s perspective, cultural competence is an evolving concept that has the potential to not only increase practice effectiveness but also ultimately transform practice to make it more socially just. Unfortunately, that potential has yet to be realized. Likewise, it is difficult to accurately measure the progress that has been made in implementing cultural competence directives.
KeywordsSocial Justice Cultural Competence Cultural Safety Multicultural Education Dominant Society
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