Interview With Lillian Comas-Díaz
Interviewer [Male Voice]: In your new book, Multicultural Care, you say that culture is the proverbial elephant sitting in the middle of our consulting room. What do you mean by that?
Lillian Comas-Díaz: Culture is like the air we breathe — it really shapes everything, it permeates all life. Culture shapes the way we get sick, the way we interpret our distress, the way we think we're going to heal, the way we see our healers. So it really — if we don't recognize the elephant in the middle of the consulting room, we would be missing almost 90 percent of what goes on with clients.
Interviewer: What would you say is the most important characteristic of a culturally confident clinician?
Lillian Comas-Díaz: First of all, clinicians need to engage in cultural self-assessment — know thyself. Then they have to commit to an ongoing process of examining the realities of how culturally imbedded we are, we all are, patients and also clinicians. And then an awareness that we don't know at all, a willingness to not only work with culturally diverse individuals but also to learn from our clients. And last but not least, clinicians, we need to be flexible in our approach when we work with culturally diverse clients.
Interviewer: Is being culturally competent important with all patients, with all problems, regardless of cultural or racial backgrounds?
Lillian Comas-Díaz: I believe it is because we are all culturally diverse, every interaction including clinical interactions are cross-cultural in nature. So if we are culturally competent or we aim to be culturally competent, that's a way of being a better clinician. In fact many scholars say that cultural competence is super-ordinate to clinical confidence because it embraces everything. So yes, I do believe that cultural competence is needed with all clients and with all problems.
Interviewer: We talked about diversity issues; some people question - can a white therapist be effective with a person of color? Or does the cultural background of the therapist and client have to be the same for the therapy to be effective?
Lillian Comas-Díaz: Clinicians working with culturally diverse clients need to be of any color, the issue here is to be empathic, to aim to be culturally competent, to be present, and to have a willingness to understand the cultural background of the client. So yes, we all can work with culturally diverse clients if we are committed to becoming culturally competent, regardless of color.