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Deborah Henderson

Western Washington University

The capacity to draw effectively upon culture
knowledge, awareness, sensitivity, and skillful
action in order to relate appropriately to, and
work effectively with others from different
cultural backgrounds (Sperry, 2012)

Cultural knowledge: Familiarity with facts about a
clients ethnicity, social class, acculturation,
religion, gender and age
Cultural Awareness: The capacity to recognize a
cultural issue in a specific client situation
Cultural Sensitivity: The capacity to predict likely
consequences of a particular cultural problem or
issue and to respond empathically
Cultural Action: Entails translating cultural
sensitivity into action that results in an effective
(Sperry, 2012)
Low Level High Level
A low level of cultural
competence is evident
when an individual
demonstrates deficits
in knowledge,
awareness, sensitivity,
and skillful action; and
is unable to perceive
the need to apply
them, or is unable to
do so

A high level of cultural
competence is evident
when an individual
knows, recognizes,
respects, accepts,
welcomes, and takes
effective and
appropriate skillful
action, with regard to
anothers culture

Cultural knowledge can be achieved by directly spending
time with the members of the cultural group or by reading
and talking about the cultural group, and viewing
Cultural awareness involves checking your personal
thoughts, attitudes, and feelings about a culture;
recognizing and anticipating likely consequences from
these factors
Cultural sensitivity can be gained through becoming aware
of others worldview and based on gained understanding
responding in an empathic, caring, or helpful manner;
attitudes of respect, welcoming, and acceptance are seen
Cultural action is responding with decisions and actions
that foster the well-being of others
The development of cultural competence is best understood
as a spiral; development in one dimension fosters progress
in the others

(Sperry, 2012)
In our society the provider usually controls important aspects of
the service relationship, the cross-cultural attitude of the
provider sets the tone for the relationship
Superiority: The provider considers the clients culture
inferior and tries to impose her values and worldview
Incapacity: The provider acknowledges differences but has no
skills or tools to address them effectively and proceeds with
an intervention based on dominant cultural values
Universality: The provider considers that all humans share
basic values and treats all people alike, regardless of their
Sensitivity: The provider acknowledges differences and tries
to address them by adopting formal cultural expressions
Competence: The provider identifies, respects, incorporates
and maintains the values of the client in the design, delivery
and evaluation of the service.
(National AIA, 199)
Resistance: Clients refuse to participate in services,
are unresponsive, passive or hostile
Accommodation: Clients reject their native culture
and attempt to adopt the values, attitudes and
behaviors they perceive to be dominant
Adaptation: Clients maintain their values, attitudes,
and behaviors, adapting them to new
circumstances, while simultaneously adopting skills
and strategies that allow them to function
effectively in the dominant culture
(National AIA, 1996)
Service is client centered
The provider listens actively
The provider elicits the clients worldview
The provider acknowledges the differences and
The provider recommends approaches
congruent with the clients values and
negotiates their implementation or adaptation
In the LIVE and LEARN model each letter of the
models name corresponds with an attitude,
strategy, or activity that service providers can
implement to nurture positive interactions with
culturally diverse clients
Like-if the provider does not have a genuine liking
for diverse families and their cultural origins, no
amount of skill development will make a difference
Inquire-providers that habitually work with certain
populations have a responsibility to familiarize
themselves with demographics, history, beliefs,
family structures, and preferred forms of address
of their clients
Visit-adopting the attitude of a visitor when
interacting with persons from other cultures is a
strategy that allows us easier access into the
clients world
Experience-Consciously put yourself in situations
in which your culture is not dominant and establish
peer relationships with persons from other cultures
(National AIA, 1996)
Listen-listen attentively for content and style, in
many cultures people tend to personal
communication by referring to experiences, interest
and feelings
Evaluate-determine specific beliefs, values, and
attitudes to which clients subscribe; thus avoiding
Acknowledge-acknowledge cultural similarities and
differences, particularly those that may arise in the
service relationship
Recommend-approaches to solve issues; ask which
approach seems to make most sense to them
Negotiate-which option(s) to solve issues will be put
into practice
(National AIA, 1996)
Organizational context is seen to be very influential in
determining how effectively service providers worked with
clients from diverse backgrounds
Barriers sighted by workers:
Deadlines and time constraints were impediments to
culturally competent practice
How organizations prioritize tasks can work against the
provision of culturally responsive care
Problems and costs in securing appropriate interpreter
services for a client
Access to and knowledge of services for diverse cultures
Bureaucratic barriers where policy often gets lost in large
organizations (Harrison & Turner, 2011)

One way to help us identify the countless
factors which define an individuals
uniqueness is by using the Diversity Wheel
The diversity wheel lists factors which may
influence values, behaviors, ideas, and
interpretations of situations
The user of the wheel can examine how each
section on the wheel pertains to an individual
The wheel allows us to gain greater
understanding of the client or ourselves
(National AIA, 1996)
For each section ask:

What are my (or clients) significant
experiences, beliefs, and emotional
attachments in this area?

How do they effect how I (my
client) view the world and how
I (the client) interact with

In what ways might these
experiences, beliefs, and
emotional attachments play an
unconscious role in how I (the
client) perceive others?

(National AIA, 1996)
Acknowledge cultural differences
Know other cultures
Identify and value differences
Identify and avoid stereotypes
Empathize with persons from other cultures
Know self: deliberate ongoing self-discovery,
assessing own cultural values and beliefs and their
influence on interpersonal interactions
Adapt rather than adopt: conscious attentiveness to
own expectations that clients adopt culturally
dominant values, beliefs and behaviors
Acquire recovery skills: continual focus on
recognizing, taking responsibility for and sensitively
handling practice errors that occur during helping

(Beckett, Dungee, Cox, & Daly, 1997)
Four Major Service Dimensions
Increase service availability and access
Assess problems in the social and cultural context
Consider biopsychosocial problem levels
Practice empowerment
Consider Latino problem themes-immigration,
acculturation, poverty, segregation, marginalization,
breakdown of ethnic community
Select culturally and socially acceptable interventions
Family-centered services
Community-based services
Increase service accountability
Involve minority clients and communities in the
development, delivery, and evaluation of services
(Organista, 2009)
Thank you


Beckett, J. O. Dungee-Anderson, D., Cox, L., & Daly, A. (1997). African Americans and
multicultural interventions. Smith College Studies in Social Work, 67(3), 540-563. doi:

Harrison, G., & Turner, R. (2011). Being a culturally competent social worker: Making
sense of a murky concept in practice. British Journal of Social Work, 41(2), 333-350.
doi: 10.1093/bjsw/bcq101.

Mistry, J., Jacobs, F., & Jacobs, L. (2009). Cultural relevance as program-to-community
alignment. Journal of Community Psychology, 37(4), 487-504.

National AIA Resource Center, Childrens Bureau. (1996). Cultural sensitivity and
diversity awareness: Bridging the gap between families and providers. Retrieved from

National AIA Resource Center, Childrens Bureau. (1996). The live and learn model for
culturally competent family services. Retrieved from

Organista, K. C. (2009). New practice model for Latinos in need of social work services.
Social Work, 54(4), 297-305.

Sperry, L. (2012). Cultural competence: A primer. Journal of Individual Psychology,
68(4) 310-320.