Cultural Responsivity

What is cultural responsivity?

I define cultural responsivity as therapists’ capacitied to be humbly self-aware in regards to their own identities and cultural norms, therapists’ abilities to be sensitive to the nuances of the realities of human difference, and therapists’ capacity to possess an epistemology of difference allowing for creative responses to the suffering person. Such a paradigm frees all parties both to make foreground the ways in which the strengths and resiliencies inherent in intersectional identities inform, transform, and can also be distorted by distress and dysfunction. This model of cultural responsivity is inherently integrative in that it focuses on people, not theories, and on distress, dysfunction, strength, and resilience, not specific diagnoses.

In this framework, cultural responsivity does not consist of learning rules and algorithms about how to work with a particular group of people. It does require therapists to own and analyze their own biases, and to accept the reality of bias as an aspect of being human. This definition does require therapists to understand and own their own experiences of privilege, and to work through guilt or shame about privilege so as not to bring those problematic emotions into the therapeutic exchange. Finally, this definition of cultural responsivity asks therapists to have heightened awareness of the many strands of their own intersectional identities, including but not limited to sex and gender, ethnicity, social class, sexual orientation, indigenous heritage, immigration experiences, disability, and spirituality, and to understand how those strands of identity combine and affect how they engage with others and with the social and political realities surrounding healing work. Culturally responsive therapists develop awareness of what they represent to the people with whom they work and what those people represent to them as well in the context of those strands of intersectional identity and larger social and political realities.

To learn more about my work on the topic of cultural responsivity, I invite you to investigate the resources that follow.

Recorded media about cultural responsivity