Consider how culture and reliance on stereotypes can affect treatment needs and service
Sometimes, all we have is the stereotype information until we actually get to meet the
client. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but we could lose some very important data if we do
not get to know the particulars of this client as quickly as possible.
Today, my client is an orthodox Jewish man who wants to discuss his issues with his
marriage. Knowing this and learning about the culture, I know that I will not offer this man
my hand when I greet him because he cannot shake a woman’s hand. I will also make sure
I am dressed appropriately so as not to make him uncomfortable. When he enters my office
I will offer him a greeting and ask him to have a seat. Not next to me but across from me.
Again, I know he cannot sit next to me and feel comfortable. All this information I am using is
stereotypical but I am using it to encourage him to feel comfortable with me as his clinician.
“It is well recognized that culture has a profound impact upon people’s ideas about how
to manage every aspect of their health and mental health concern, from deciding which problems
merit outside help to evaluating the service received. It is also clear that the cultural perspectives
of families, friends, and larger communities can influence decisions at every one of these choice
points. The critical question is not whether culture matters but rather which aspects of which
cultures influence which decisions”. (Cultural Insensitivity for Clinicians? Choosing How to
Use Cultural Research, 2010). This is the reason why it is so important for clinicians to know
what type of culture they are dealing with so they may offer the right type of treatment.
On the other hand, it could be very dangerous to rely on stereotyping; just like
Americans, when we come from different parts of the country we have different cultures and
customs. In the south it is very typical for people to say yes ma’am and no sir, where in the
northeast we do not use those words, we are more direct with yes or no. Neither one of them
is right nor wrong, is it just customary from the area we are raised in. Stereotyping can create
a problem in trying to diagnose a person because we are using preconceived ideas. According
to an article in the Case Management Advisor, “Avoid stereotypes in treatment plans, as soon
as you make an assumption about a particular culture, you are likely to find many people from
that culture don’t fit into that particular stereotype, says Josepha Campinha-Bacote, who is
the president of Transcultural C.A.R.E. Associates, a Cincinnati-based cultural competency
consulting firm.” (Case Manager Advisor, 2011).
As clinicians we need to find out as much as possible about our client; their background,
what type of culture they come from and what they expect of us. Stereotyping can be used but
should be used wisely and for as short a period as possible. While this clinician will meet with
this Orthodox Jewish man to discuss his marriage issues, we need to learn from him and get to
know his values and morals.