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A therapist must always be aware that cultural differences between the therapist and client may lead to misunderstandings. For instance, a therapist should be cautious when interpreting nonverbal behaviors because those behaviors may have different meanings in different cultures. In some cultures, direct eye contact is considered disrespectful; pointing is viewed as rude; and too much smiling may be interpreted as shallowness. Culture may also affect the nature of a client’s symptoms and his/her explanation for them. For example, individuals from some Asian and Latino cultures may express depression primarily as physical symptoms (headaches, weakness, tiredness), while individuals from some Middle Eastern and Native American cultures may describe depression as “problems of the heart” or “being heartbroken” (Warren, 2008).
Overarching themes in the field of marriage and family therapy as a whole are the importance of a therapist being racially aware; intersectionality and social location of clients and therapists; considerations of power and power imbalances due to race and therapist status; and consideration of the minority client experience from all angles, such as: acculturation and assimilation, immigration status, and the impact of colonization (McDowell & Jeris, 2004).
The consideration of cultural factors can provide useful information about a client’s functioning as well as his or her comfort with therapy. Factors that a therapist should consider when working with clients from culturally diverse backgrounds include the following:
- Acculturation: Acculturation refers to the extent to which an individual from one cultural... (More)