Person-Environment Psychology and Mental Health: Assessment and Intervention

By William E. Martin Jr.; Jody L. Swartz-Kulstad | Go to book overview

8
Culture as an Essential Aspect of Person -- Environment Fit

Jody L. Swartz-Kulstad University of Wisconsin Superior William E. Martin Jr. Northern Arizona University

For the past several deca des, mental health professionals (MHPs) have been cautioned, no, challenged to make their provision of services more culturally relevant. Until more recent years, this meant that the MHP relied on either preconceived notions of what was construed as culturally relevant and appropriate service provision or they looked on their current practice and said "I provide services that are sensitive to all, regardless of their background." Somewhere between these two positions lies the current practice of culturally sensitive and relevant counseling in today's mental health field.

Neither stereotyping the client, nor failing to recognize the role of ethnocultural background, current practice is moving in the direction of recognizing that culture is a part of all of our lives; dynamic and encompassing. Along with this newer, more inclusive position, comes the acceptance that as culture surrounds each of us, like all environmental factors, it affects us in different ways. No two individuals internalize culture in the same way ( Ho, 1995). Social factors (e.g., age, class, gender, region) and acculturation processes directly and indirectly influence the construction of subcultures of ethnoculture ( Guarnaccia & Rodriguez, 1997); and these subcultures interact with unique factors of the individual such that understanding how we became who we are and how we "fit" with our world lies within the

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