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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, the 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 being non-judgmental to sustain the therapeutic process. Active listening and maintaining eye contact are also important parts of psychotherapy to gain confidence in patients and help them.In the field of psychology counselors 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’s culture as well and to keep knowledge about them too. 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 to build or develop rapport which is a trustworthy relationship with the therapist. At times, it is important to cross cultural barriers to heal oneself mentally and physically. Also cultural competence makes clients feel heard and gives a feeling of support which helps to sustain the therapeutic procedure. In diverse country like India mental health professionals have to be empathetic and understanding with people of all types of races, gender, caste, religion , level of income , ages , level 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 in fear of becoming isolated in family and society as well. It is not only important to know about cultural of other people mental health professionals also have to understand how their cultural beliefs and background can impact their relationship with their clients whose attitude and belief system 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 lower socio-economic background may have its impact even after managing themselves. Research conducted in India have concluded that inspite 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 still there is a need to  integrate and develop culturally competent healthcare in India to reduce disparities and inequity access to quality care in the public healthcare delivery system. Cultural competence is the key to reducing disparities as well inequalities to make healthcare services accessible. Also it is the 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 to understand  perspective of health and illness of patients  , they can also develop improved healthcare provider–seeker interaction, overcome language barriers, and increases the quality of care which generally results in a 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 the 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 bof 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 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, neurological problems though these are 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 basic right of people irrespective of their caste creed religion and educational level to receive help to treat mental illness.

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