Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Guidelines for Multicultural Assessment: An Asian Indian American Case Study

Academic journal article Journal of Multicultural Counseling and Development

Guidelines for Multicultural Assessment: An Asian Indian American Case Study

Article excerpt

Accurate assessment of ethnic minority clients is often hindered by clinician bias and lack of culturally sensitive instruments. Multicultural guidelines can enhance clinician awareness and sensitivity in conducting assessments with diverse populations. These guidelines are illustrated using an Asian Indian American character from Lahiri's (2008) novel Unaccustomed Earth.

La evaluacion precisa de clientes pertenecientes a minorias etnicas se ve con frecuencia dificultada por el sesgo de los especialistas clinicos y la falta de instrumentos culturalmente sensibles. Las directrices multiculturales pueden ampliar la conciencia de los especialistas y su sensibilidad al Ilevar a cabo evaluaciones con poblaciones diversas. Estas directrices se ilustran usando un personaje indoasiatico-americano extraido de la novela Unaccustomed Earth de Lahiri (2008).


Clinicians conduct psychological assessments to determine their clients' psychological functioning, make diagnoses, and subsequently develop treatment plans. An effective assessment should be as unbiased, ethical, and multidimensional as possible. Although effective assessments can provide insight into their clients' personal goals and belief systems, clinicians should realize that assessments that overlook multicultural factors risk being inaccurate and, at worst, harming clients (Roysircar, 2005).

Roysircar (2005) discussed several barriers to culturally sensitive psychological assessment. First, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., text rev.; DSM-IV-TR; American Psychiatric Association, 2000) does not address cultural variables beyond providing "Appendix I: Outline for Cultural Formulation and Glossary of Culture-Bound Syndromes" (pp. 897-903) and V Codes ("for Other Conditions That May Be a Focus of Clinical Attention," p. 5), such as Acculturation Problem (V62.4; p. 741), that consist of additional conditions that may warrant clinical attention. Therefore, clinicians may overpathologize or underdiagnose clients from diverse backgrounds. Second, the generalizability of empirical criterion-keyed measures of psychopathology, such as the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2, has not been sufficiently demonstrated among diverse populations because scores are determined by monocultural criterion groups (Roysircar-Sodowsky & Kuo, 2001). Third, clinicians' cultural backgrounds and unexamined biases may hinder accurate assessment. Finally, the complex interplay of the various sociopolitical, cultural, and individual factors that influence clients' identities and presenting problems contribute to the challenging nature of conducting accurate multicultural assessments (Ridley, Hill, Thompson, & Omerod, 2001).

Adhering to multicultural assessment guidelines can mitigate these potential barriers to accurate assessment with diverse client populations. According to Ridley et al. (2001), the main goal of practice guidelines is to enrich client care. These authors asserted that an increasing need exists for guidelines that can assist clinicians in providing thorough, accurate, and ethical assessments of clients from diverse backgrounds.

Clinicians who neglect to follow rigorous guidelines are more likely to conduct assessments that are prejudiced and detrimental to clients. In presenting these multicultural assessment guidelines, we aim to incorporate multicultural awareness into psychological assessment. We introduce specific multicultural assessment guidelines, adapted from Ridley et al. (9001; see Figure 1 for a visual representation of these guidelines), and discuss them using a fictional Asian Indian American character from Lahiri's (2008) novel Unaccustomed Earth. For the purposes of this article, we adapted the story line to encompass the character's participation in psychotherapy. In doing so, we hope to illustrate the importance of clinicians gaining greater awareness of their personal biases, beliefs, and assumptions when working with ethnic minority clients and being cognizant of the multiple, complex factors influencing clients' identities and presenting symptoms. …

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