Race, Culture and Psychotherapy: Critical Perspectives in Multicultural Practice

Race, Culture and Psychotherapy: Critical Perspectives in Multicultural Practice

Race, Culture and Psychotherapy: Critical Perspectives in Multicultural Practice

Race, Culture and Psychotherapy: Critical Perspectives in Multicultural Practice


What is multicultural psychotherapy?

How do we integrate issues of gender, class and sexual orientation in multicultural psychotherapy?

Race, Culture and Psychotherapy provides a thorough critical examination of contemporary multiculturalism and culturalism, including discussion of the full range of issues, debates and controversies that are emerging in the field of multicultural psychotherapy.

Beginning with a general critique of race, culture and ethnicity, the book explores issues such as the notion of interiority and exteriority in psychotherapy, racism in the clinical room, race and countertransference conflicts, spirituality and traditional healing issues. Contributors from the United States, Britain and Canada draw on their professional experience to provide comprehensive and balanced coverage of the following subjects:

critical perspectives in race and culture in psychotherapy
governing race in the transference
racism, ethnicity and countertransference
intersecting gender, race, class and sexual orientation
spirituality, cultural healing and psychotherapy
future directions

Race, Culture and Psychotherapy will be of interest not only to practicing psychotherapists, but also to students and researchers in the field of mental health and anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of psychotherapy in a multicultural society.


Much has been written recently about problems within mainstream psychiatry arising from issues of race and culture – or to use the current jargon, ethnicity and diversity. These hover around the over-representation of black and other minority ethnic communities among people who are compulsorily detained in institutes, diagnosed as ‘schizophrenic’, given excessive doses of medication and so on. But in terms of numbers, people caught in the psychiatric traps are very small compared to those with mental health problems who seek help from sources other than the formally ‘psychiatric’ ones. And this is where psychotherapy and counseling come in.

Service users often refer to psychotherapy and counseling as ‘talking therapies’. As such one may think that communication through spoken language is an essential ingredient of psychotherapy. In my experience this is not always the case. People communicate with one another in a variety of ways and, even when spoken language appears to be the main vehicle of communication, unspoken ways – so-called ‘body-language’ is just one of these – may be more important in the total process (of communication). Another assumption that is common is that the effectiveness of psychotherapy (or counseling) depends on the type of training or model of ‘mind’ that the therapist is committed to. I would contest this too. Many people who gain from seeing a psychotherapist remember the person rather than his or her model or where they trained. So psychotherapy in common sense terms is a way of helping people with (mental health) problems that is dependent on communication and relationships. The question then arises as to who could gain from psychotherapy and to what extent is it applicable in a multicultural society.

It is sometimes claimed that since psychotherapy developed in a Western cultural tradition, it is not appropriate for people from ‘other’ cultures. I believe that this viewpoint misses two important points. First, ‘culture’ is not a sort of closed system of traditional beliefs and practices that people carry around with them and pass on to their children. It is more like a dynamic and changing system of values and worldviews that people live by . . .

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