Cultural Barriers in Multicultural Psychotherapy -A.W.

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ultural barriers are sources of bias that can play a significant role in the effectiveness of multicultural psychotherapy. Culture-related, class-related, and language-related barriers are three major (and over-lapping) sources of potential bias identified in the seminal writings of Derztld W. Sue and David Sue. Each source of bias can produce problems that may affect the initiation, continuation, and success of psychotherapy. Among the problems that may arise are the misinterpretation of a client's cultural norms as symptoms of a disorder: misunderstanding of culture-bound syndromes and socio-political reasons for client behavior: and the misuse of interpreters.

Culture comprises the values, beliefs, and norms that are shared by a group of people. such as a racial on ethnic minority. Culture influences how people think about, act on, and see the world. Traditional psychotherapy theories and the mainstream European American/Caucasian culture in the United States (referred to as "Caucasian culture") share common values and beliefs that can be barriers in multicultural psychotherapy. Examples of these commonalities are the emphasis placed on the use of standard English. direct verbal expression, and long-term goals: the distinction between physical and mental well-being: and the determination of cause—effect relationships.


Culture-related barriers in psychotherapy stem from cultural differences between therapists (who are predominantly Caucasian in the United States) and their clients. Common differences arise in the areas of (1) the value of individualism versus collectivism; (2) verbal, emotional, and behavioural expressions; (3) preferred therapeutic approaches; and (4) views regarding the separation of the mind and body.

Individualism is associated with the Caucasian culture and collectivism with non-Caucasian cultures. The Caucasian culture tends to stress the importance of having a single identity that is not defined by any-thing or anyone else, whereas in non-Caucasian cultures, a person’s identity is often defined by his or her family or cultural group. Consequently, a Caucasian therapist may misinterpret a client’s need to consider family needs ahead of his or her own as unhealthy, overly dependent, and lacking maturity.

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Tied to views regarding individualism and collectivism are the verbal, emotional, and behavioural expressions of different cultures. In the Caucasian culture, for example, when someone engages in wrongful behaviour, he or she often feels guilt, but in many non-Caucasian cultures, the person is more likely to feel shame. Guilt is seen as an individual emotion and shame as a group emotion. Additionally, the importance of verbalizing emotions and emotional reactions is stressed in the Caucasian culture. Self-revelation requires the client to communicate his or her feelings about any topic the therapist probes, even if it involves the most intimate details ...

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