top of page

Going Beyond Language: How Culturally Competent Care Improves Mental Health Outcomes




When it comes to healthcare, one size doesn't always fit all. Everyone is unique, with their own set of cultural beliefs, values, and experiences. And when it comes to therapy and mental health, it's important to remember that culture plays a huge role. That's where culturally competent care comes in - it's all about recognizing and respecting cultural differences, and tailoring care to meet the specific needs of each individual.


But what exactly is it and why is it so important? Culturally competent care is an approach to healthcare that recognizes and respects the cultural backgrounds of individuals. It involves understanding and addressing the ways in which culture may impact an individual's health and well-being. Culturally responsive care goes one step further, by not only recognizing and respecting cultural differences, but also personalizing care to meet the unique needs of each individual. This means treating each patient as an individual with their own unique story, background, and needs.


Research supports the importance of culturally responsive care in improving treatment outcomes. A study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (Sue & Sue, 2007) found that when therapists understand and respect their clients' cultural backgrounds, it leads to better communication, trust, and understanding. And when all of that is in place, treatment outcomes are better. Another study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology (Kiang et al., 2010) found that when therapy is culturally responsive, it can help to reduce mental health disparities and improve the mental health outcomes of marginalized populations.


Culturally responsive care involves tailoring therapy to meet the unique needs of each individual, based on their cultural background and experiences. This can include using culturally-specific interventions, such as incorporating traditional healing practices or working with a client's spiritual beliefs (Nagayama Hall et al., 2014). It also means being sensitive to language barriers and using appropriate communication methods, such as using an interpreter or providing written materials in the client's native language.


Culturally competent and culturally responsive care can take many forms in the field of therapy and clinical psychology. In practice, it means that the therapist takes the time to understand their client's cultural background and experiences, and incorporates that understanding into the treatment plan. This can include using culturally-specific interventions, such as incorporating traditional healing practices or working with a client's spiritual beliefs. It also means being sensitive to language barriers and using appropriate communication methods, such as using an interpreter or providing written materials in the client's native language. Online therapy platforms like Eversparks Health, among other outstanding platforms-and-practices, can also offer culturally competent and culturally responsive care by ensuring their care team is has the background and training to understand and meet the unique needs of each patient. An example of this could be a therapist deviating from a traditional Western care model by involving the family in therapy when working with a client from an Eastern culture, where the concept of mental health may be different than in Western cultures. Overall, culturally competent and culturally responsive care means being responsive to the unique needs of each individual, and tailoring therapy to meet those needs (Liu et al., 2017).


It is important to note that culturally responsive care is not just limited to working with individuals from minority or marginalized cultures. In today's increasingly diverse society, it is crucial for healthcare professionals to be able to provide care that is sensitive to the cultural backgrounds of all individuals, regardless of their race, ethnicity, or background (Sue & Sue, 2020). This not only improves treatment outcomes but also promotes equity in healthcare and ensures that everyone has access to the care they need.


When it comes to therapy and mental health, culturally competent care is crucial. By recognizing and respecting cultural differences, tailoring care to meet the specific needs of each individual and ensuring that the care team is a good fit for the patient population they're working with, we can improve communication, trust, and understanding, leading to better treatment outcomes and reducing mental health disparities for individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds. It's about providing the best care possible for everyone, by treating each patient as a unique individual, and creating a personalized care model tailored for one-of-one.




References:

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2007). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice. John Wiley & Sons.