Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Cultural Humility Beats Competence in Psychotherapeutic Settings

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Cultural Humility Beats Competence in Psychotherapeutic Settings

Article excerpt

NEW YORK -- The emphasis on cultural context of diagnosis and treatment of psychiatric disorders was expanded in the DSM-5, but the commonly used term for this orientation, "cultural competence," is potentially misleading, according to a panel of experienced clinicians participating in a workshop at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

"I am not even sure how competent I am in my own culture," said Richa Bhatia, MD, medical director of the Child and Adolescent OCD Institute at McLean Hospital, Belmont, Mass. The remark was representative; like other panelists in a workshop developed by the Association of Women Psychiatrists, she de-emphasized the importance of becoming fluent in the specifics of a culture relative to simply being sensitive to variations in cultural landmarks and milestones.

"The good news is that we have come a long way in regard to recognizing the importance of cultural sensitivity," added Sylvia L. Wybert Olarte, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York and chair of the APA workshop. "We need all psychiatrists to be culturally competent. This is not just for a few specialists."

However, she, like others, expressed concern about the label "competence." "Cultural humility is really a much better term," Dr. Olarte said. The reason is that the term "humility" captures the qualities of openness and acceptance, not just an understanding, of the values of others. Furthermore, it encourages clinicians to consider and manage their own prejudices, values, and biases in order to allow them to be effective in the therapeutic interaction. …

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