Racial, ethnic, sexual, and religious orientations vary widely in our diverse society. Clinicians are trained to recognize these differences and be sensitive to how they can impact an individual’s mental health. They are taught unique ways to determine if cultural concerns belie psychological symptoms. The mental health field measures the cultural competency of clinicians based on the Multicultural Case Conceptualization (MCC) skills scale. However, the existing evidence of competence is limited. To get a broader and more comprehensive assessment of how culturally skilled clinicians are, Debbiesiu L. Lee, Assistant Professor of the Counseling Psychology Program at the University of Miami, recently led a study that employed real-life client scenarios.
Unlike other methods that have been used in the past, this most recent study considered the content of the therapeutic session in relation to multicultural issues and then analyzed the clinician’s evaluation. Lee enlisted 61 clinicians who varied in level of training, experience, and race. She looked at how each clinician interacted with the clients and how much focus they put on cultural relevance, whether it was implied or explicit. She found that the clinicians were only inclined to focus on cultural issues when they were clearly stated as being a source of concern, regardless of experience or level of training. This trend was evident even when the mock clients expressed issues of concern that could have cultural underpinnings, such as being passed over for a promotion or being the victim of abuse.
Lee believes that the cultural issues such as discrimination and violence could be relevant to many different situations that present as issues during therapy. When she compared clinicians with higher amounts of multicultural training to those with limited training, she found the same trend. In fact, the only significant difference in MCC skills appeared when she compared the ethnicity of the clinicians. She found that the clinicians of color were more sensitive to cultural causes than the white clinicians. Lee believes the findings of her study demonstrate the importance of incorporating techniques that mimic reality when assessing clinician competency. She said, “By tailoring research studies to more accurately represent real-life scenarios, it is possible that we can come to a better understanding of how multicultural orientation and competence develops in psychotherapy trainees.”
Lee, D. L., Sheridan, D. J., Rosen, A. D., Jones, I. (2012). Psychotherapy trainees’ multicultural case conceptualization content: Thematic differences across three cases. Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1037/a0028242
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