Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Blending the Clinical and the Cultural: A Framework for Conducting Formal Psychological Assessment in Bicultural Settings

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

Blending the Clinical and the Cultural: A Framework for Conducting Formal Psychological Assessment in Bicultural Settings

Article excerpt

Kaua e rangiruatia te ha o te hoe; e kore to tatou waka e u ki uta

Do not lift the paddle out of unison or our canoe will never reach the shore

This proverb serves to emphasise the importance of working collaboratively.

The people of Aotearoa/New Zealand live in a group of islands located in the remote south-west Pacific. The indigenous Maori migrated from Polynesia and settled about 1000AD. European contact began in 1642, with a rapid increase in migration in the early years of the 19th C. In 1840 a treaty, Te Tiriti o Waitangi (the Treaty of Waitangi) was signed between Maori and the British government, establishing Aotearoa/New Zealand as a British colony. It is now an independent country with a democratic government and a capitalist economy. Maori constitute a substantial minority population, while Pakeha (the term now used for descendants of European migrants) are the majority. There are also other migrant groups, including substantial numbers from Pacific islands, Asia, and India (Williams & Cleland, 2007; Kingi-'Ulu'ave, Falefa, & Brown, 2007). English and Maori are the principal languages of the country, with English being the lingua franca.

The Treaty guaranteed certain rights to Maori but, despite this, Maori suffered grievously from the process and impact of colonization. Adversities included disease, warfare, alienation and confiscation of their land, loss of their language and disruption of their culture. Among the many legacies of this today are relative poverty, educational underachievement, and physical and mental health problems (see Herbert, 2002; Herbert & Morrison, 2007; Nairn, 2007). From the middle of the 19th C to the middle of the 20th C the Treaty was extensively dishonoured, but since 1975 legislation has increasingly enshrined the Treaty in modern national law, established a Tribunal to adjudicate on claims by Maori against the government for Treaty breaches, and marked the ushering in of a "bicultural" perspective that now infuses all national life, although to varying degrees depending on place and context. Although still argued about, two central principles of this bicultural perspective are those of "partnership" (between the government and Maori) and "rangatiratanga" (authority over one's own things, self-determination (Love & Whittaker, 1997, p 125). It is from this sense of there being two equal Treaty partners that the "bi" in "bicultural" comes. Herbert (2010) comments that the Treaty "has enabled two cultures--Maori and Pakeha--with distinctive histories the opportunity to embrace mutual understanding and power sharing, and to provide a functional framework for multicultural practice" (p 108). Thus, psychologists in Aotearoa/New Zealand are legally and ethically required to have regard to the principles of the Treaty, and to be bicultural (Herbert, 2002; Seymour, 2007). They must also recognize the multicultural nature of the population as well.

This history and these principles have direct implications for the practice of psychological assessment and have played important roles in shaping the assessment policies and procedures that are used within the discipline of psychology in contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand. The practice of formal psychological assessment is critical because it allows psychologists and other professionals to make relevant decisions in the context of formulating diagnoses, giving advice, and devising intervention programmes that aim to achieve better outcomes, for individuals experiencing difficulties in their lives and those who live and interact with them. It is, therefore, a major function in applied professional services.

Psychology, in its formal, disciplinary representation as a science, emerged from Western paradigms (Herbert & Morrison, 2007; Palmer, 2005). While there has been some indigenisation of the discipline in the last 15 years in Aotearoa/New Zealand,. the issues, problems and processes associated with transporting and using psychological assessment protocols in cultures beyond those for which they were developed (Hambleton, 2001; van de Vijver & Hambleton, 1996) continue to be discussed and specific concerns continue to be raised about the "import and test" approach to psychological assessment in general, (Cheung, 2004) and the use of tests specifically in the New Zealand bicultural context (Eatwell & Wilson, 2007). …

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