A Clinician’s Cultural Toolkit: From the Outside In

“All cultures, in all their behavioral differences, are on the same level.”-Ibrhan X. Kendi

Providing culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare services requires an understanding of cultural competence (National Prevention Information Network, 2015). Culture can be defined as customs, beliefs, feelings, ideas, and attitudes that are unique to a particular group. Culture is comprised of mannerisms, identities, celebrations, food, religion, medical care, music, language, etc. Competence is the ability to execute a particular skill. 

One of the first steps in being culturally competent is acknowledging one’s own culture. It is important to recognize that people can belong to various cultures and their participation in a specific culture can change. For example, I am originally from the South and there are certain aspects of my southern culture that I continue to practice today (i.e. language, southern hospitality, food, celebrations, etc.). However, as I continue to learn more about myself, I can acknowledge that my culture is not limited to just my southern roots, but encompasses a multitude of other cultural aspects. By acknowledging our own cultural identity, we can begin to explore possible biases and beliefs that may impede on the success of those we service. 

Moreover, we can become culturally competent by researching various cultural practices, different from ours, and asking questions. It is important to note that one’s race and culture are not mutually exclusive. For example: it is inaccurate to assume that all Black people listen to rap or that all Latinx individuals speak Spanish. Awareness of cultural differences begins at the referral phase. Understanding an individual’s culture should be required when determining whether there is a need for further consideration, as well as which assessment protocols and/or therapy materials would be appropriate. Without such consideration, we risk over-identification, especially with Black and other marginalized groups. 

In your quest to become culturally competent, consider asking some of these questions, when necessary, to gather a comprehensive case history profile.

  1. What traditions, celebrations, or rituals do you and your family participate in?
  2. What are some activities you like to engage in that your friends/family may not enjoy?
  3. What kinds of spiritual or religious beliefs are important to you and your family?
  4. What language(s) are spoken in the home? 
  5. What are the most popular forms of entertainment in your life?
  6. What type(s) of food do you and your family enjoy?
  7. How do you and your family greet one another?
  8. How do individuals in your family retrieve information (i.e. are people encouraged to ask questions)?
  9. What social behaviors are acceptable/unacceptable in your household (i.e. gender/non-binary responsibilities or child/adult interactions)?
  10. How is time understood and measured?
  11. How is success measured within your family unit?

In conclusion, enjoy the process of exploring other cultures other than your own. Your clients/students will appreciate the effort. 


Author: Shaleeta Jones M.S. CCC-SLP


ACECQA, A. (2016, July 13). What does it mean to be culturally competent? Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://wehearyou.acecqa.gov.au/2014/07/10/what-does-it-mean-to-be-culturally-competent/

Cultural Competence. (2015, March 11). Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://npin.cdc.gov/pages/cultural-competence

Cultural Competence. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589935230

Ten(10) Diversity Questions Counselors Ask: Wake Forest University. (2018, March 03). Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://counseling.online.wfu.edu/blog/10-questions-counselors-ask-culture/

Widdig, B., & Breslow, L. (2005). Communicating Across Cultures. Retrieved July 14, 2020, from https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/global-languages/21g-019-communicating-across-cultures-spring-2005/assignments/MIT21G_019S05_cult_quest.pdf

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Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as professional advice. The content is based on the author's personal experiences, research, and opinions. It is always recommended to consult with a qualified professional or expert before making any decisions or taking action based on the information provided in this blog.

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