What is Culturally Sensitive Therapy?
A place to feel safe, heard and seen for who YOU are What is Culturally Sensitive Therapy? Culturally sensitive therapy utilizes a therapist’s capacity of understanding for a client’s culture, ethnicity and beliefs. Therapists work to accommodate the diversity in their clients’ opinions, values, attitudes and various cultures. Culturally sensitive therapists seek to learn and internalize cultural competence, which begins with fully understanding their own culture and how it impacts the work with their clients. The therapist can then seek to fully understand and honor the values, beliefs and culture of their client. This sensitivity encompasses a multitude of areas including age, belief systems, ethnicity, race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status and other areas the client believes are relevant in their life experience.
The therapeutic understanding begins with the acknowledgement of the difference between the therapist and the client. By this acknowledgement, a conversation around these differences, including a full assessment of the client’s cultural experience no longer inferred, but now is an acknowledged part of the therapeutic process. This allows the client to feel the therapist’s intention to fully “see” them authentically, not just through the therapist’s lense. This can strengthen trust and is shown to lead to more positive therapeutic outcomes. For example, depending on your culture, age or gender, impulsivity and risk-taking behavior may be acceptable or normalized and a possible underlying depression could be missed if not for a full understanding of the client’s cultural norms and gender roles.
How does it work?
Once the differences between the therapist and the client are acknowledged and normalized, clients have space to express their feelings about engaging in therapy with someone from a different culture or belief system. These feelings are embraced and become part of the therapeutic process, potentially strengthening the alliance between the therapist and client as understanding broadens.
A full assessment of the client’s cultural identity and experience begins during initial sessions together, encouraging the broadening of understanding for the therapist. Culturally sensitive therapists will vary their therapeutic approach to fit each client’s cultural experience and personal evaluation of how best to connect and support them toward meeting their goals in therapy.
Why is it important?
As our nation has become more diverse, ethnoracial and cultural differences are present within our communities. Some clients’ diversity is more apparent than others may be. For example, skin color or accent may be a clearly defined difference and can be identified easily. However, for clients who may look and sound like their neighbors, but have differences which may be less visible like belief system, family norms, internalized racism or sexual identity to name a few, they could be silently suffering and if not fully “seen” by their therapist and encouraged to share all parts of their identity in the safety of an empathic and culturally sensitive therapeutic relationship they could feel misunderstood, devalued or judged, which could lead to them not returning for treatment after the first meeting and potentially complicating or prolonging their healing process.
At JEM Wellness & Counseling, we practice culturally sensitive therapeutic approaches and collaborate with you, our client, to create a space of safe understanding, compassion and growth toward your vision of wellness, health and balance.