The importance of culture sensitivity
The full notion of culture briefly defines as assumptions interacted with shared value and norms, which drive shared patterns of behaviour (Eagn, 2014, p. 58). In order to be culturally sensitive, Foronda (2008) addressed that basic knowledge of cultural differences and values is required. In this case, if a counselor meets a client who has a different background with, the counselor needs to have knowledge of the norms, values, and attitudes (Scorzelli & Reinke-Scorzelli, 2001, p. 91) of this particular client. Further, cultural sensitivity defined as individuals aware of that cultural differences as well as similarities exist, without assigning values (National Maternal and Child Health Center on Cultural Competency, 1997). Also, individuals are not cultural carbon copies, and individuals from the same social culture often differ from their personal cultures(Eagn, 2014, p, 41). Thus, in order to become a cultural sensitized counselor, not only social culture need to be considered, but also individual culture should take into account. In conclusion, cultural sensitivity in counselling could define as aware of the basic knowledge of cultural differences and values (Foronda, 2018), similarities and differences between client and psychologist culture, without judgement (National Maternal and Child Health Center on Cultural Competency, 1997), and sees the individual culture of the client.
The first reason why cultural sensitivity is important is that lack of cultural sensitivity may let counselor loses a client. A counselor who lack of cultural sensitivity may leads to Asian-American client not returning the therapy (Sue & Morishima,1982). The second reason is related to cultural influences in credibility of the psychologist. Research conducted by Atkinson, Gim and Kim (1991) shows that cultural sensitivity of the counselor affects how Asian-American students perceived credibility of a counselor. Further, research shows that low credibility level of clients perceives to the psychologist may lead to avoiding treatment and premature terminations(Sue & Zane, 2009). In this case, a young female counselor may end up with a dropped out Chinese client and not aware of the fact is that the client perceives her credibility level very low due to culture reason (Bodde, 1957, Sue & Zane, 2009). A cultural sensitized counselor could enhance personal abilities including empathic understanding in order to improve the credibility perceived by clients. This enhances can prevent drop out and premature terminations due to culture issue. The fourth reason is that cultural sensitivity can influence how counselor conceptualize the problem, means for problem resolution, and goals of the treatment (Sue & Zane, 2009).
Cultural sensitivity is important when counselor trying to see the current picture of client. In this stage, helping client tell their story is first step, and “understand blocks to client self-disclosure and provide support for clients having difficulty talking about themselves.” is one of the guidelines(Eagn, 2014, p. 115). Research showed that due to the fact Chinese traditionally considered speech is not an effective way of communication, Chinese client disclose less about their opinion, interests, work, and financial issues then America clients. Further, information related to parents, friends of the Chinese clients are disclosed less than America clients (Chen, 1992). A cultural sensitized counselor should see what blocks client from different culture to self-disclose. Cultural sensitivity is also important during perceiving clients nonverbal messages. In many ethnic group, nonverbal communication is more extensively used to present attitudes and feelings (Brown, 1981; Deloria, 1970; Knapp, 1972), and nonverbal communication is culturally bound more meanings than verbal communication(Herring, 1990a). In this case, a cross-cultural counselor should aware of culture differences in nonverbal communication, in order to effectively interact with their clients (Herring, 1990b). Moreover, the counselor should aware of the meaning which suggested to client. For instance, psychologist should aware of suggesting an Asian client direct express anger to her father will be inappropriate (Sue & Zane, 2009).
In a case study analyzed by Sue and Zane (2009) emphasized why important cultural sensitivity is and when it is important during counselling sessions. The case study described a woman called Mea, who was an immigrant from Hong Kong to the USA, has problems to deal with her in-laws, who are also immigrants from Hong Kong. After Mea’s in-laws arrived, she was expected to serve them by doing all the chores, and her in-laws are constantly complained about that she was not doing things properly. Meanwhile, her in-laws displaced Mea and her husband from the master bedroom into the guest room, which is located in basement. In this case, counselor noticed ascribed credibility how Mea perceived, and used paraphrasing and summarizing frequently to show the understanding from counselor. Psychologist understood her hopelessness, and how Mea considered the treatment. In this case, counselor discussed how Chinese ways to resolve similar conflict, which is third-party involvement. Mea’s uncle passes messages to Mea’s in-law, and the in-laws were surprised by her feelings and agreed that she did a fine job. By having a cultural sensitivity ability, the case was solved properly.
Culture sensitivity ability of a counselor can be ensured when following criteria are acknowledged. Arredondo, McDavis, and Sue (1992) suggested that a culturally sensitized counselor should have specific knowledge about their own culture, and how the professional and personal has been affected. Also, counselor should understand how oppression, racism and stereotyping affects their personal and professional work and be aware of that in settings. Meanwhile, counselors should able to process specific knowledge and information about clients they are working with. Furthermore, counselor should aware of how culture affects the clients in personality, help-seeking behaviour, etc.
In the situation of seeing a victim during crisis, Dykeman (2005) mentioned a cultural sensitized counselor should aware of universalizing victims’ symptoms in a logical way. Also cultural differences in communication, verbally and non-verbally, and should accepting cultural differences should be acknowledged. Moreover, counselor is able to identify cultural resources available to the victims’ aftercare. Also, Dykeman (2005) mentioned a cultural sensitized counselor should indicate the ability to appreciate cultural differences, and able to identify resources in different cultural. Compare the criteria to ensure a counselor is culturally sensitive in both normal settings and in crisis, both psychologist should aware of where are the cultural differences and understanding cultural difference.
Cultural sensitivity is important in crisis intervention. First, culture plays a strong role in how crisis is interpreted and it has influences on how individuals and communities react to crisis provoking events((Dykeman, 2005). Safety as an important part in crisis intervention(Myer, Lewis, & James, 2013), it is crucial to know how provocation reactions are verified in different cultures, in order to ensure counselor’s safety. No matter viewing “contact” as establishing communication with the client (Echerling, Presbury, & McKee, 2005), or as establishing rapport (Kanel, 2011), culture can influence the speed to develop a trust relationship between interventor and victims(Dykeman, 2005). The last reason why cultural sensitivity is important is resources which can help victims in crisis verified in different cultures (Dykeman, 2005).
Arredondo, P., Sue, D. W., & McDavis, R. J. (1992). Multicultural Counseling Competencies and Standards: A Call to the Profession. Journal Of Counseling & Development, 70(4), 477-486.
Brown, D. (1981). Bury my heart at wounded Knee. New Jersey: Pocket Books.
Bodde, D. (1957). China’s cultural tradition. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
Chen, G. (1992). Differences in Self-Disclosure Patterns among Americans versus Chinese: A Comparative Study.
Deloria, V., Jr. (1970). We talk, you listen. New York: Dell.
Dykeman, B. F. (2005). Cultural Implications of Crisis Intervention. Journal Of Instructional Psychology, 32(1), 45-48.
Echerling, L. S., Presbury, J. H., & McKee, J. E. (2005). Crisis intervention: Promoting resilience and resolution in troubled times. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson. Psychology, 32(1), 45-48.
Egan, G. (2014). The Skilled Helper. A Problem Management and Opportunity Development Approach to Helping, 10th Edition. International Edition. Brooks/Cole, Cengage Learning.
Foronda, C. L. (2008). A concept analysis of cultural sensitivity. Journal Of Transcultural Nursing, 19(3), 207-212. doi:10.1177/1043659608317093
Herring, R. D. (1990a). A cross-cultural review of nonverbal communication, with emphasis on the Native American. Monograph submitted for publication.
Herring, R. D. (1990b). Nonverbal Communication: A Necessary Component of Cross-Cultural Counseling. Journal Of Multicultural Counseling & Development,
Ickes, W. (1997). Introduction. In W. Ickes (Ed.), Empathic accuracy (pp. 1–16). New York: Guilford Press
James, R. K. (2008). Crisis intervention strategies (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
Knapp, M. (1972). Nonverbal communication in human interaction. New York: Holt Rinehart and Winston.
Myer, R. A., Lewis, J. S., & James, R. K. (2013). The Introduction of a Task Model for Crisis Intervention. Journal Of Mental Health Counseling, 35(2), 95-107.
Scorzelli, J. F., & Reinke-Scorzelli, M. (2001). Cultural sensitivity and cognitive therapy in Thailand. Journal of Mental Health Counseling, 23(1), 85-92.
Sue, S., & Morishima, J. K. (1982) The mental health of Asian Americans. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.
Texas Department of Health, National Maternal and Child Health Resource Center on Cultural Competency. (1997). Journey towards cultural competency: Lessons learned. Vienna, VA: Maternal and Children’s Health Bureau Clearinghouse 18(4), 172-179.