San Antonio Sabbatical

Cultural Competence

Posted on: October 6, 2010

What is cultural competence and how does one obtain it?  That’s the subject of a couple of recent articles in the September 2010 issue of gradPSYCH, the magazine of the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students (APAGS).

In “How do I become culturally competent?” (pages 24-26) by writer Rebecca A. Clay, psychology professionals discuss how cultural competence is an ongoing process that involves self-reflection, learning activities, and varied interactions with diverse groups of many sorts.  Five beginning steps are mentioned:

  • Learn about yourself
  • Learn about different cultures
  • Interact with diverse groups
  • Attend diversity-focused conferences
  • Lobby your department (for better training)

“Preparing to work with a diverse population” (page 27) by Dr. Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, Associate Executive Director of APAGS, also explores the issue of cultural competence.  He mentions that, “Ethnic-minority, immigrant and non-English speaking populations are growing much faster than the white, English-speaking population” and that “future psychologists need to be prepared to work with diverse groups.”  His advice includes the following:

  • Seek out diversity training
  • Read the literature
  • Engage in self-reflection
  • Check out APA‘s diversity resources

I am spending this sabbatical semester enhancing my level of cultural competence by taking courses in Our Lady of the Lake University’s PSSSP curriculum in which, through lectures and practica, I am learning about how to provide psychological services to Spanish-speaking populations.  The journal entries I write for my lecture class, Language and Psychosocial Variables in Interviews and Assessments with Latinos, are a process of      self-reflection that connects the personal and professional aspects of my life.  On November 2nd, OLLU will be sponsoring a program called “Immigration reform: A Catholic response” which I plan to attend.  Additionally, I recently registered for the National Latina/o Psychological Association conference that will take place from November 12-13, 2010 right here in San Antonio, Texas (OLLU is one of the sponsors).  What a great opportunity it is for me to attend two full days of sessions about research and clinical practice with the Hispanic/Latino population.  I just happen to be in the right location at the right time to network with professionals in the field and to have access to a wealth of information that I can use to provide better services to my university’s Hispanic/Latino students.

The issue of cultural competence goes beyond psychology and extends to other professions and businesses as well.  In our global society, cultural competence is becoming increasingly important for interpersonal and economic success.  This is an extremely valuable skill.  What are you doing to increase your knowledge and experience in this area?

Some Resources:

(1)  American Psychological Association Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic, and Culturally Diverse Populations

(2)  National Center for Cultural Competence (Georgetown University)

(3)  Diverse Issues in Higher Education (magazine)

(4)  Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education (magazine)




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