Psychological activities within certain cultures are sometimes abhorred and sometimes revered. As a prospective psychologist it will be interesting to learn which cultures are the toughest to integrate within, and which cultures are the easiest. It's easy for someone with an educational background to blithely state that being a psychologist in any culture would be intriguing. The facts, however, may not bear that out. This paper looks at three separate cultures in order to determine what factors a fledgling psychologist would have to be concerned about when dealing with each of the three different cultures. The three cultures discussed herein include; African-American, Native American and Asian-American cultures and values.
There is a plethora of studies on the various cultures and values of the African-American society. One study in particular is of interest. The study determined that "African-Americans scored significantly higher when estimating the likelihood of coming into contact with a contaminant and the severity of the consequences of such contact compared to Caucasians" (p. 230). Contamination fear can be defined as "the feeling of having been polluted or infected or endangered as a result of contact, direct or indirect, with a person/place/object that is perceived to be soiled, impure, infectious, or harmful" (Rachman, 2004, p. 1228). The question, therefore, could be asked, do African-Americans perceive whites or Caucasians as contaminates, therefore something that should be avoided; and further, how does that contamination fear play into a role of psychologist from a Caucasian point-of-view?
Additionally, it may not be contamination fear that plays a big role, but it could be anxiety based, especially since the future for this student is likely to be working with the young adults, youth and children more than the older adults. A recent study found that "problems with anxiety are one of the most common presenting problems that mental health practitioners encounter" (Lindsey, 2014, p. 408). The same study determined that an uptick in schema and separation individuation may be causing anxiety and that the study indicated "that African-American college students who have not fully completed the separation individuation process experience a higher level of trait anxiety" (p. 408).
Other considerations when working within the African-American culture is that many of these individuals may come from less affluent backgrounds, and therefore may not have enjoyed (or are enjoying) the same educational experiences as more affluent neighbors and communities. One recent study determined that there is "overwhelming evidence of the importance of environmental factors, particularly those related to socio-economic status" (Bond, 2014, p. 40). Since the author's future is probably going to include working with children, another aspect that the Bond study brought to the forefront was that "children who grow up in poor areas with limited access to computers and books, and who may also have little routine and little parental attention, not only have worse health, but are also more likely to do badly in school" (p. 41). These are often the same children that are referred to medical professional for assistance; keeping in mind that knowledge of the environment that these children encounter each and every day may be beneficial when attempting to provide that assistance.
According to many of the studies that have focused on how to approach the African-American culture through psychology, the approach must include four things. Those four items are; 1) exam the particular moments and movements that have provided insight into understanding African behavior, 2) explore African worldviews as conceptual systems for appreciating and approaching African cultural beliefs and practices, 3) examine models of African traditional healing and the rich variety of African proverbs as the core of African thought and theory, and 4) help participants translate African psychological theory into various applications" (Jamison, Carroll, 2014, p. 99 (Rowe, Kambon, 1999)). That sounds like a heavy load to be assuming, but if one wishes to accomplish great results within a certain culture, it makes sense that one should not that culture first-hand and as well as one could possibly know it. i
An additional consideration when working with African-Americans will likely include a strong racial and ethnic identity. Considering one of the case studies included in the class text; it concerns Andre a twenty-two-year-old African-American. The text states that Andre "had been reared with a very strong racial and ethnic identity and envisions himself as an activist minister." This is an interesting scenario in that Andre had been raised in a strict religious environment and that both his father and grandfather were ministers, yet Andre was seeking counseling because of the doubts he harbored. After the death of his twin sister approximately two years earlier, Andre stated that he believed "God had abandoned him." It is interesting to note that Andre was not questioning his belief in God, but that he was questioning his belief that God cared about him. To further exacerbate Andre's situation, he also confessed to having had several "same-sex" relationships, and being "in love" with another man.
Andre declared that he was under some confusion "about how to integrate his sexual identity with his strong ethnic identity and his deeply held religious faith." The problem the psychologist would face in this case would be to help Andre integrate all of his feelings, and the only method for the psychologist to do so is to understand exactly what Andre was feeling. Developing this type of needed understanding takes patience and persistence on the part of the psychologist. Andre has a number of strong convictions that seem to confuse him as to which ones to follow. Addressing these convictions and how they relate to one another will take understanding of the convictions by the therapist.
As a psychologist or a therapist, learning more about the African-American culture will likely translate into greater success in treating and helping the individuals in that community who are seeking professional medical help. Helping Andre, and individuals like Andre, will take a comprehensive understanding of how African-Americans view themselves, each other, and how they interact in their communities, not only from a secular point-of-view, but from a non-secular viewpoint as well. Understanding their strong beliefs and convictions can only occur if the therapist is willing to discover what those beliefs are in the first place.
The story of Will, a dying Native American, could be the perfect example of how steeped in tradition and spiritual beliefs Native Americans are today and always have been. Will, an old man and tribal leader who has lost his wife is afflicted by a fatal disease and is in the process of dying.
Will is depressed but at the same time he has realized that there is life after his passing, and instead of the therapist assisting Will, it seems like Will assists the therapist in coming to an understanding of this life and life after death. What is interesting is how the therapist interacted with Will; a bond between the therapist and the patient was formed right from the very beginning. This is evident in the fact that two things of importance took place when Will was introduced to the therapist. Will said "you look native" and the therapist replied with his name and his tribe. The second thing that took place was that they both laughed at "the man." From these two events, a discernment can be gained; members of the Native American race place a lot of value in the fact that they recognize the long-standing history and traditions of other Native Americans, and that they feel a sense of camaraderie and kinship with other Native Americans, and (even more importantly) a feeling against the "outsider." Will, and the therapist, were both excellent examples of the above mentioned characteristics.
Many of the questions that arise in one's practice are how the therapist or psychologist will interact with individuals from different cultures. Assessing the Native American culture can be a complex endeavor, or it can be as simple as understanding how their treatment at the hands of their conquerors has affected them and their society. The text states that "when working with First Nation's relatives, it is important for therapists to consider colonization, culture, spirituality, political, economic, racial, class and social issues." These are a lot of issues to consider; a therapist who does not do so, however, may be missing vital clues as to how to approach the patient in the most effective manner.
The text further states that "tribal communities are impacted by a historical trend of violence, trauma, genocide, and postcolonial stress perpetrated by the clash of cultures between Native cultures and tribes and the dominant or affluent Euro-American culture."
The question is how does a therapist who is not a member of the First Nation deal with patients who are members? The approach herein has to be a much different approach than the ones used for African-Americans and Asian-Americans. Native American patients will likely look with suspicion and some disdain towards the therapist who is not of their culture or a member of a Native American…