CELIA JAES FALICOV, PhD
University of California, San Diego
The first thing you do is to forget that I am black. Second, you must never forget that I am black.
-from Pat Parker's poem, “For the White Person Who Wants to Know How to Be My Friend” (1990)
The call for cultural sensitivity in mental health services is not new. The civil rights movement demanded that institutions be more responsive and less discriminatory toward minority clients, and the nationwide development of community mental health programs in the 1970s attempted to expand services to economically disadvantaged and culturally marginalized groups. The multicultural movement of the 1990s has revitalized these concerns within newer, postmodern epistemologies that stress a social constructionist lens, a strength-based orientation, and a collaborative engagement with clients.
Among health disciplines, family therapy has emphasized contextual issues since its earliest days. With its foundation in systems theory, family therapy has always regarded the behavior of families as contextual and ecological (Auerswald, 1968). Early research and scholarly writings that focused on economically disadvantaged families highlighted the importance of sociocultural context in understanding family life (Aponte, 1976; Minuchin, Montalvo, Guerney, Rosman, & Schumer, 1967; Montalvo & Gutierrez, 1983, 1988; Sluzki, 1969). Other notable contributions include the work of Spiegel (1971) and Papajohn and Spiegel (1975), which compared value orientations of various ethnic groups; McGoldrick, Pearce, and Giordano's (1982) examination of ethnicity in families; Boyd Franklin's (1989) multisystemic approach in Black Families in Therapy; the feminist critique of family therapy (Goldner, 1985; HareMustin, 1978; Luepnitz, 1988; McGoldrick, Anderson, & Walsh, 1989; Walters, Carter,