18 Apr 2022


Diversity and Multiculturalism in Clinical Psychology

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In the modern world, all practising psychologists are expected to provide ethical and responsive treatment to individuals or clients of diverse background. Even though the American Psychological Association authorizes the need for multicultural competency in various fields, achieving it is often difficult. Integrating culturally sensitive actions with the conventional model of psychotherapy into every psychologist’s repertoire is significant keeping in mind the diversified groups of clients. More often, clinical psychologists treat cognitive, emotional, and behavioural problems by focusing on special population such as the LGBTs and the ethical minority groups. Before engaging in such tasks, clinical psychologists need to re-evaluate their conceptualizations of culture and ways of becoming culturally competent. In the world of therapy, it is common to encounter conflicts that arise because of not meeting ethical standards while dealing with diverse cultures. The paper will discuss different ethical issues in multiculturalism as a way of enhancing cultural and clinical sensitivity and responsiveness.

A majority of practitioners today continue to be challenged by the delivery of ethical and culturally competent approaches when dealing with clients. The challenge has been enhanced by cultural complexities and the growing democratic changes. Moreover, the field of clinical psychology still faces the inconsistent translation of the theories and issues surrounding multicultural competence. One major setback that has been experienced in psychology is the lack of diverse trainees in the field thereby increasing the gaps of multicultural and cultural incompetence. Since the field of clinical psychology is still on the verge of developing, there is need for professionals to strive towards attaining cultural competency and multiculturalism in therapeutic relationships. 

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From a historical perspective, the advocates for multicultural movement have presented different issues that have faced psychologists in the clinical field. Some of the challenges that have been raised include negotiating boundaries within the context of therapy, close monitoring of situations and providing solutions, and struggling with the internal principle and beliefs, which differ across many multicultural clients. Because of the presented challenges, clinical psychologists have often to achieve culturally responsive treatment approaches, which is suitable for the specified ethical framework. Furthermore, the reflection of the relationship between ethics and multicultural competence often lead to the establishment two substantial themes. The first theme is that the practice in clinical psychology should comprehend and understand cultural competency as the central theme. Secondly, there is the desire for practitioners to broaden their understanding on the nature of culture and its manifestation in the therapeutic environment. 

In the clinical therapeutic context, ethics and multiculturalism should be handled independently regardless of the ethnic and cultural background of the client. The world we live in today is full of diversity, which has greatly played a role in the assessment, diagnosis, and the treatment of the individual. In the past, many authors have suggested that acknowledging and validating the client’s values and culture is a crucial ethical responsibility (Arredondo &Toporek, 2004; Fowers & Davidov, 2006; Trimble & Mohatt, 2002). A therapist lacking these qualities within and outside the therapeutic context is liable to be held for malpractice. Moreover, in their investigation, Sue and Sue (1999) argue that majority of clinicians lack sufficient cultural competency. 

In the recently approved Guidelines on Multicultural Education, Training, Research, Practice and Organizational Change for Psychologists (American Psychological Association, 2003), clinical psychologists and called upon to re-evaluate their conceptual frameworks to begin the transformation in education, training, and practice. By doing so, the entire philosophical nature will register positive results because guideline five mandates that practising psychologists should strictly follow the ethical codes of conduct. For a long time, many clinical psychologists have asked why they experience new challenges as they work with different types of clients. One common challenge that keeps occurring within the practice is the maintenance of multicultural competency while dealing with diverse cultures. Penetrating one’s culture that is different from yours is often a difficult task. However, as the field of psychology continues to register progression, overcoming particular challenges have proved to be easy. 

The concept of multiculturalism should be approached with flexibility because culture is known to be dynamic. Multiculturalism has always been perceived to be the fourth driving force in psychology. As clinical psychologists attempt to adjust with the culturally sensitive continuum, there is an important need to be familiar with the different concepts of culture and demonstration in the therapeutic environment. Different studies have revealed that the influence of culture on the therapeutic process more intense as compared to the therapeutic outcome. Furthermore, the expression of culture in clinical psychology is primarily restricted two concepts only, which is race and ethnicity. Simply, when therapists consider culture in terms of race and ethnicity only, them the entre therapeutic process will be compromised and the goals will not ached. Culture is a broad context that extends beyond race and ethnicity. For instance, other important components of culture include sexual orientation, religion, language, and disability among others. Constant transformation in multiculturalism continues to extend the definitions of culture. As a result, clinical psychologists are able to incorporate several dimensions of evaluations, which give deeper insights while trying to understand the life of the client. 

Clinical psychologists should perceive culture to be dynamic. A client is likely to been seen by a therapist today because of depression, but the next day they will present issues of sexual orientation. Abney (1996) asserted that any changes in culture also lead to changes in people’s behaviours and interactions in the broad societal context. Cultural manifestations are influenced by factors like political and religious state, economic pressures, other relevant environmental changes. As the societal changes continue to influence the culture of the client, clinical psychologists also experience changes because the manner in which they approach a client in the therapeutic context changes. Eventually, multicultural complexity is deepened since it is the responsibility of clinical psychologists to be culturally responsive. More often than not, practitioners are often encouraged to embrace theoretical framework as well as practical framework. Expanding the understanding of multicultural competency and maintaining high ethical standards are likely to improve the relationship between psychotherapists and the clients. 

As psychologists strive to continue to broaden the comprehension of culture and the various dimensions, the skills and techniques to bargain for therapeutic success in ethically responsive ways improves the profession. Different cultures have different ways of doing things and analysing situations. Therefore, it is recommended for clinical psychologists to display non-judgemental attitudes while dealing with diverse cultures. Just like Carl Rodger states in the person-centered approach, having unconditional positive regard is essential in developing the trust of a client and establishing healthy therapeutic relationship. Whenever clients feel welcomed and not judged, they are likely to open up to the psychologist or therapist. Such a situation will ensure a good flow of the therapy and it is likely that the therapeutic goals will be met. Since it is unprofessional to be choosy on the clients, clinical psychologists are encouraged to have skills in multicultural counselling because of the modern nature of diversities. These skills should display high ethical standards to limit possible cultural incompetence. 

Particular investigations have indicated that clinicians have experienced challenges concerning the application of the multicultural guidelines because of limited training. On the other hand, it has been stated that some practitioners might have little training in the concept and dealing with diverse clients after a long time will be ineffective. Over the years, the American Psychological Association has strived to introduce cultural diversity training in the different programs of counselling and psychology. However, the program has experienced certain challenges such as the variations in the definitions and application of cultural competence. It is indeed true to acknowledge that the concept of cultural competence and multiculturalism is complex. Engaging in a clinical approach will enable the psychologist to gain deep insights while attempting to evaluate the social context and the identity. 

To sum up, different groups in the world usually progress gradually into new cultural settings. Therefore, as clinical psychologists, it is crucial to be culturally responsive and alert in any therapeutic situation. Integrating culturally sensitive actions with the conventional model of psychotherapy into every psychologist’s repertoire is significant keeping in mind the diversified groups of clients. Furthermore, the concept of multiculturalism should be approached with flexibility because culture is known to be dynamic. Multiculturalism has always been perceived to be the fourth driving force in psychology. Regardless of the therapeutic set up, presenting issues, or underlying issue, it is crucial for clinical psychologist to observe codes of ethics. Any form of competency in counselling cannot b attained without following the standardized codes of ethics. Acknowledging and validating the client’s values and cultural practices is a crucial ethical responsibility for all the clinicians. Besides, other important ways to enhance cultural competency while still observing ethics include having a non-judgemental attitude, encouraging trust, and displaying unconditional positive regard. Clients who often receive these factors from their clinicians are likely to realize positive growth as well as change. 


Abney, V. D. (1996). Cultural competency in the field of child maltreatment. In J. Briere, L. Berliner, J. A. Bulkley, C. Jenny, & T. Reid (Eds).

American Psychological Association. (2003). Guidelines on multicultural education, training, research, practice, and organizational change for psychologists. American Psychologist , 58 (5), 377-402.

Arredondo, P., & Toporek, R. (2004). Multicultural counselling competencies= ethical practice. Journal of Mental Health Counselling , 26 (1), 44-55.

Fowers, B. J., & Davidov, B. J. (2006). The virtue of multiculturalism. American Psychologist , 61 (6), 581-594.

Sue, D. W., & Sue, D. (2012). Counseling the culturally diverse: Theory and practice . John Wiley & Sons.

Trimble, J. E., & Mohatt, G. V. (2006). The virtuous and responsible researcher in another culture. The handbook of ethical research with ethno cultural populations and communities , 325-334.

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