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Culture and Therapy

Culture plays an incredibly important but often overlooked role in therapy. Our background, ethnicity, belief systems, and faith can all influence how we see the world, how we relate to people, and how we respond to different situations. That's why it's so important for Psychologists to recognise the influence of culture so that they can hold space for you without letting their own cultural beliefs get in the way. 

What is Cultural Sensitivity?

Being aware of others' culture is the first step in cultural sensitivity. Cultural sensitivity encompasses a way we view others that have a different background from our own.

 

It is about being open to understanding and accepting that we have a different history, way we relate to others, and thought process when operating in the world. That no culture's way of operating is better or worse than another's - it's just different. 

 

It is about being able to respectfully adapt your own behaviour to match someone else's cultural values (e.g., referring to someone who's a generation older than you from an East Asian background as Mr/Ms rather than by just their first name). 

It can also be about finding common ground amongst cultural experiences or ways of approaching a situation that show that we all share some universal human experiences. After all, as Bruce Lee said, "Under the sky, under the heavens, there is but one family. It just so happens that people are different."

How many people are Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CALD)?

Culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) people are those who have a unique cultural background compared to the dominant Anglo-Australian culture and/or those that speak a language other than English at home. These may include people with various ethnic backgrounds, nationalities, religions and traditions. 

 

According to the ABS statistics (2016) more than 1/5 Australians spoke a language other than English at home. Mandarin, Arabic, Cantonese and Vietnamese were the most spoken languages outside of English.  People identifying as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander also made up about 2.8% of the population at the time. 
 

How can a Psychologist help?

Given the large proportion of those from CALD backgrounds in Australia, mental health services need to be tailored to fit the unique cultural and societal backgrounds that multicultural clients come from. Historically, psychology has been a Eurocentric concept, thus not taking into consideration the cultural/historical context that many first, second, third generation immigrants have operated under.

 

In order for Psychologists to be unbiased it is important that we are aware of how we view the world through our own cultural lens. When a Psychologist is aware of this, we can help our clients, without judgement and with openness to learning about their unique cultural experiences.

 

When Psychologists are able to approach therapy in a culturally sensitive way, the therapeutic relationship can be built and strengthened over time. That is, you're more likely to trust your Psychologist, regardless of their background, if you can see that they're trying to understand and not making assumptions based on your cultural heritage. 

 

Conclusion

Cultural sensitivity is an important part of the therapy process. Therapy can be beneficial to everyone, no matter your cultural background. By ensuring we as Psychologists are culturally sensitive in our practice, we can help our clients reach their mental health goals.

For more information or to book an appointment with one of our experienced Psychologists, call the team at Reimagine Psychology Melbourne on (03) 8330 5588 or email us on hello@reimaginepsychology.melbourne.