A new model developed by a team of psychologists and doctoral students at the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) provides psychologists and students with strategies to guide culturally appropriate therapeutic interventions.

The Multicultural Skills Training Model, presented by the team at APA's 2004 Annual Convention in Honolulu, advises the following to bolster multicultural competence:

  • Become aware of your own worldview, such as by learning about your own culture and recognizing the limits of your competence.

  • Create a culturally sensitive therapeutic relationship, such as by affirming clients' uniqueness and diversity.

  • Understand the client's worldview, such as through learning about the historical context of the client's culture.

  • Facilitate cultural identity development, such as by helping clients recognize cultural encounters, embrace culture and cultivate pride.

  • Examine how society's structures, values and social messages, like stereotypes and generalizations, impact clients.

  • Go beyond psychotherapy to advocate for institutional change, integrate spiritual awareness into clients' lives and consult with cultural experts.

One of the model's developers, Jeff Brooks-Harris, PhD, of the UHM Counseling and Student Development Center, said the model may prove especially useful when psychologists have clients adapting to new cultures or subcultures or experiencing cultural discrimination. In addition, he noted, it may help when there are significant cultural differences between the psychotherapist and client that could affect their relationship.

The reason? Culturally diverse groups continue to experience disparities in access, quality and outcomes of mental health services, said Andrea Nacapoy, a second-year UHM doctoral student.

The model, Nacapoy said, can help psychologists close such gaps by enabling them to develop culturally appropriate and effective helping strategies for their work with diverse clients.

--M. DITTMANN

Further Reading

For more information on the model, see www.multiculturalskills.com.

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