Handbook of Culture, Therapy, and Healing

By Uwe P. Gielen; Jefferson M. Fish et al. | Go to book overview

20

From Speculation Through Description
Toward Investigation: A Prospective Glimpse
at Cultural Research in Psychotherapy

Juris G. Draguns
The Pennsylvania State University


CULTURAL VARIATIONS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY:
A RESEARCHABLE TOPIC?

The foregoing chapters present a panorama of psychological healing as it is practiced in a variety of homogeneous cultural contexts and multicultural milieus. Some readers may feel overwhelmed by the richness and complexity of this documentation. Others may pose questions as to the effectiveness, generalizability, and comparability of these interventions. Overriding these abstract concerns, there is the issue of relevance of these sometimes exotic and esoteric techniques within the multicultural microcosm of the contemporary United States society. On a higher plane of generality, one may explore the possibility of the existence and nature of universal, worldwide ingredients of psychotherapy that may be revealed through the conceptual analysis and empirical comparison of culturally specific modes of intervention. Potentially, these challenges fall within the province of cross-cultural psychotherapy research, an enterprise that, at the time of this writing, has barely been initiated. Even within the multicultural setting in the United States, as Hall (2001) has pointed out, a dysjunction exists between culturally sensitive (CST) and empirically supported (EST) therapies. Many CSTs, as yet, lack sound empirical support, and most ESTs have not been systematically or conclusively demonstrated to be effective in the various culturally distinctive components of the United States population. Even less information on these issues is available across national cultures. Rehm (2002) has acknowledged that demonstrations of the effect of ESTs rest on research that has for the most part been conducted in the United States and other English-speaking countries. American psychologists know little about how well these procedures work elsewhere in the world, and questions about any cultural variations in style, technique, and context of ESTs in other countries have rarely been addressed (Draguns, 2002). Psychodynamic, existential-humanistic, cognitive behavioral, interpersonal systems, and several other modes of psychotherapy are all practiced in widely different contexts around the world. However, empirically based knowledge is sparse on any cultural differences in therapist's interventions, client's responses to, and then impact of psychotherapies, whether the theoretical framework is varied or held constant.

This chapter attempts to make a start at filling this major gap in our knowledge. To this end, the origins of this topic of inquiry, in both conceptualization and research,

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