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Cultural Competence and Diversity

The importance of cultural competence counselling, addressing the unique needs and experiences of individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds.

Cultural competence is important while working with different types of people in society. India has unity in diversity, so it is important to be aware of one’s own culture, worldview of one’s own culture, experience and knowledge about different cultures, and attitudes towards cultural differences. Beliefs and attitudes towards culture begin at home, which is also a comfort zone for everyone. Cultural competence in social work deals with understanding the cultural differences in people who need service or help from mental health professionals. While dealing with clients or patients, a counselor or a mental health professional should keep in mind three points, which are unconditional positive regard, empathy, and non-judgmental, to sustain the therapeutic process. Active listening and maintaining eye contact are also an important part of psychotherapy to gain confidence in patients and help them.In the field of psychology counsellors or psychologists have to deal with different types of people who come from diverse cultural backgrounds. Not only in hospital set-up but also in schools, mental health professionals have to deal with different types of students according to their intelligence and culture. Keeping in mind their family background is also important. When mental health professionals develop cultural competence, it becomes easier for them to deal with different people and their cultural backgrounds. It is equally important to respect other cultures and to keep knowledge about them. In India, causes behind mental illness have been attributed to supernatural powers by people due to deficits in knowledge. According to Indians, witchcraft or Black magic is a reason behind mental illness and physical illness as well. Cultural competence is important and beneficial for both the psychotherapist and clients as well. It helps clients build or develop rapport, which is a trustworthy relationship with the therapist. At times, it is important to avoid barriers to healing oneself mentally and physically. Also, cultural competence makes clients feel heard and gives them a feeling of support, which helps sustain the therapeutic procedure. In a diverse country like India, mental health professionals have to be empathetic and understanding with people of all types, races, gender, caste, religion, level of income, ages, levels of education, and gender identities, as everyone is entitled to get proper treatment in mental health and physical health. Due to stigma and deficits in awareness towards mental health, people often do not prefer to seek help for mental illness for fear of becoming isolated in family and society as well. It is not only important to know about the culture of other people. Mental health professionals also have to understand how their cultural beliefs and background can impact their relationship with their clients whose attitudes and belief systems are different. Acceptance of different cultures is a prerequisite to start working with everyone in society irrespective of caste, creed, religion, educational level, income level, gender and age as well. According to the Code of Ethics from the American Counseling Association, “Honoring diversity and embracing a multicultural approach in support of the worth, dignity, potential, and uniqueness of people within their social and cultural contexts” is a core principle of counseling as a profession. Without considering it, nobody can work effectively in society. People who grow up with lower socioeconomic backgrounds may have an impact even after managing themselves. Research conducted in India has concluded that in spite of racial and ethnic disparities in the minority communities of India in the delivery of public health care services, cultural competence has resulted in increased satisfaction with care, improved abilities to engage in treatment and recovery, reduced readmission rates and reduced mortality in health care. Their paper concluded that there is still a need to integrate and develop culturally competent healthcare in India to reduce disparities and inequity in access to quality care in the public healthcare delivery system. Cultural competence is the key to reducing disparities as well as inequalities and making healthcare services accessible. Also, it is an effective tool to improve the quality and effectiveness of care for diverse cultures. When healthcare workers become culturally competent, they do not have any difficulties understanding the perspective of the health and illness of patients; they can also develop improved healthcare provider–n–seeker interaction, overcome language barriers, and increase the quality of care, which generally results in positive treatment outcomes. Studies have shown that culturally relevant interventions improved health outcomes related to sexually transmitted diseases, type II diabetes and drug addiction. Similarly, culturally sensitive healthcare services like use of bilingual community health workers have improved culturally diverse patients” acceptance of cancer screening and health monitoring. In a diverse nation like India, the existence of many cultures along with their equally numerous subcultures is also a challenge for health care providers as well. Though cultural competence has gained priority in Western countries but it is still an unexplored area in the Indian setting.Indian studies have proved that people who belong to ethnic, racial and cultural minorities often have less access to healthcare and have poorer health outcomes when compared to the majority population. The same has been observed during COVID pandemic as well. Also, disparities have been noted in patients with advanced disease and suffering from pain, with minority patients having less access to or making less use of palliative care. In the United States, a range of solutions has been proposed to address the issue of inequality in access to healthcare, with cultural competence figuring prominently among them. Also, there is evidence that not only in India but also in the United States, there are health care disparities massively for African or Black Americans as they are less likely to receive adequate health care services than natives of America or white Americans to treat diabetes and neurological problems, though these are a few examples. In the United States, Similar disparities can be found in all areas of healthcare and among different minorities, such as Hispanics. In 2015, African Americans had a life expectancy of 75.5 years, while the life expectancy for White persons was 78.9, though Health disparities have been observed in all areas of health, even oral health as well. Therefore, it is important to be culturally competent as psychotherapy or psychological counseling should be personal and confidential where clients should not have to face any problems to speak frankly without any hesitation so that they feel they are important for the therapist, which can lead the procedure to be effective. Also cultural competence may give clients the comfort to share more with mental health professionals. It is a basic right of people, irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, and educational level, to receive help to treat mental illness.

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