The population of minority cultural and ethnic groups in United States has increasing in the last few decades. It is therefore common for a psychological therapist to encounter a client from a different cultural and ethnic background. In such encounters, there is possibility for cultural bias that can affect effectiveness of the psychological intervention.
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Many researchers in the recent past have been concerned about cultural bias in the field of psychology and psychological therapies. The paper reviews a few of research studies on cultural bias in psychology, counseling, and marriage and family therapy.
Counseling is considered the best intervention to psychological and emotional problems. However, considering cultural and ethnic diversity, counseling may not be effective if a counselor exhibits cultural bias. In the article, “Cultural Biased Assumptions in Counseling Psychology” (Pedersen, 2003), Pedersen addresses cultural biases assumptions that may affect the effectiveness of counseling interventions.
Pedersen identifies and discusses culturally biases assumptions from an earlier article by Ponterotto and Leong (2003). The author argues that cultural bias has impact on the work of counseling psychologists. Pedersen warns that cultural bias should not be underestimated given that it can have great effect on counseling psychology.
To “internationalize counseling psychological” (Pedersen, 2003), Pedersen proposes that counseling psychologists adopt scientist-practitioner model. In harmony with Pedersen, Snowden (2003) found cultural bias as a major factor contributing to disparity in mental health care provision.
Snowden concludes that although other factors such as economical factors led to a gap in mental health care, cultural bias was the major barrier. He advocates for more research on particular forms of bias that could contribute to the disparities.
Cultural bias is a major barrier to effective psychological therapy. In family therapy, cultural bias can make it impossible for a family therapist to fully understand her clients’ problems and provide an effective therapy. In the article titled “Experiential Tasks and Therapist Bias Awareness”, Bermudez (1997) notes that therapeutic process can be affected considerably by cultural bias against minority cultural and ethnic groups.
According to Bermudez, all psychological therapists have assumptions about minority cultural groups. Some of the assumptions and beliefs could be biased and therefore affect effectiveness of a therapy.
Bermudez suggests that cultural bias awareness of a therapist can help her to overcome the bias and be effective across cultures. Bermudez proposes experiential tasks to overcome cultural bias, including role playing, visualization, written assignment, family sculpturing and role reversal.
Effectiveness of a psychological therapist in multicultural and multiethnic settings is depended on her cultural competence. In an article titled “Cultural Competency: From philosophy to research and practice”, Sue (2006) explores the meaning and value of cultural competency in psychological therapies.
Sue argues that cultural competency is trainable and proposes that therapist adopt cultural competency strategies in order to improve outcome. Addressing cultural competency in family therapy, Hardy and Laszloffy (2003) found cultural awareness and sensitivity to be important for cultural competency.
Hardy and Laszloffy argue that ability of therapist to explore her personal cultural issues puts her in a better position to understand other cultures. In addition, the authors summarize how cultural genogram can be a successful training tool for cultural competence (Hardy & Laszloffy, 2003).
Cultural bias is a major barrier to counseling minority cultural and ethnic groups. Considering the multicultural nature of the society today, a therapist has to be culturally competent to be effective. Cultural competency skills can help counselors to avoid cultural bias and give better services to their diverse clients.
Bermudez, M (1997). Experiential Tasks and Therapist Bias Awareness. Contemporary Family Therapy 19 (2), 253-267
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Hardy, K. & Laszloffy, T. (1995). The Cultural Genogram: Key to Training Culturally Competent Family Therapists. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 21(3), 227-237
Pedersen, P. (2003). Culturally Biased Assumption in Counseling Psychology. Counseling Psychologist 31(4), 396-403
Ponterotto, J. & Leong, F. (2003). A Proposal for Internationalizing Counseling Psychology in the United States: Rationale, Recommendations, and challenges. Counseling Psychologist 31(4), 381-395
Snowden, L. (2003). Bias in Mental Health Assessment and Intervention: Theory and Evidence. American Journal of Public Health 93(2), 239-243
Sue, S. (2006). Cultural Competency: From philosophy to research and practice. Journal of Community Psychology 34 (2), 237-245.