One of the ethical standards for psychologists is to provide culturally sensitive services. Multicultural Guidelines have also been developed in the past (see below) after the ethics code was revised in 2002.
- Guideline 1: Psychologists are encouraged to recognize that, as cultural beings, they may hold attitudes and beliefs that can detrimentally influence their perceptions of and interactions with individuals who are ethnically and racially different from themselves.
- Guideline 2: Psychologists are encouraged to recognize the importance of multicultural sensitivity/responsiveness to, knowledge of and understanding about ethnically and racially different individuals.
- Guideline 3: As educators, psychologists are encouraged to employ the constructs of multiculturalism and diversity in psychological education.
- Guideline 4: Culturally sensitive psychological researchers are encouraged to recognize the importance of conducting culture-centered and ethical psychological research among persons from ethnic, linguistic, and racial minority backgrounds.
- Guideline 5: Psychologists are encouraged to apply culturally appropriate skills in clinical and other applied psychological practices.
- Guideline 6: Psychologists are encouraged to use organizational change processes to support culturally informed organizational (policy) development and practice.
Given the growing diversity of the population, it’s more important than ever before to be “culturally competent.” Culturally competency has been defined as a system that acknowledges the importance of and incorporates culture, assessment of cross-cultural relations, vigilance toward the dynamics that result from cultural difference, expansion of cultural knowledge, and adaptation of interventions to meet the culturally unique needs at all levels of service (Whaley & Davis, 2007). During a session (chaired by Shamin Ladhani, PsyD) titled Culturally Sensitivity in Health: Health Psychology’s Role, Health Beliefs, and Assessment (held on Saturday morning), the presenters discussed key components of being culturally sensitive in a health care setting and outlined practical approaches to meeting the needs of a diverse population.
Tips to be more culturally sensitive may include:
- Understanding communication methods
- Recognizing and responding to language barriers
- Clarifying cultural identification
- Identifying religious and spiritual beliefs
- Managing your own biases and prejudice
- Being aware of your body language and privilege
All of these aspects of cultural sensitivity are important. The panel also highlighted that we need to be careful about not recognizing variation and diversity within ethnic groups. For example, Gurung noted that Latino might include individuals who are Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Cuban or Dominican. Each of these groups has its own traditions, beliefs and rituals that may affect how you work with members to address their needs. According to Regan Gurung, PhD, “cultural expression is a developmental process that starts in early childhood.” Given the developmental nature of cultural expression, you can imagine that for anyone different from someone else could have a different world view on causes and coping for a particular concern.