Consider how culture and reliance on stereotypes can affect treatment needs and service provision.

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.

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