How Therapists Can Grow Beyond Cultural Competence


From Cultural competence is the standard set by the mental health profession that deems therapists capable of providing services to clients from diverse backgrounds. However, this standard often falls short; it is time for therapists to move from cultural competence to cultural proficiency.

“Cultural proficiency requires therapists to do the deep work of unpacking their own unconscious biases, which is likely part of the reason behind the scarcity of culturally proficient providers. It takes significant effort, transparency, and willingness to be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this work is far beyond the scope of what many graduate schools offer in the required multicultural and diversity classes. Many courses offer information on cultural awareness and diversity but don’t do any depth work in helping students dig into their unconscious biases. Many students know how to avoid showing explicit racism and may even fancy themselves non-racist. Yet they can still harbor unconscious biases. Those biases may be carried into the counseling room and cause harm to the people seeking therapy.”

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