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Cultural Competence: Honoring the Experiences of Our Patients

Jul 21, 2020

By Dr. Sandra Betancourt, Ph.D., MCAP, ICADC, CMHP

When I think about cultural competence, I think about my ability and skills to interact effectively with people from cultural experiences and backgrounds that are different than mine.  

But what is a formal definition of cultural competence? The Western Center for Research and Education on Violence against Women and Children defines it as “how cultural differences inspire other aspects of our lives.” Another source indicates that cultural competence is the ability to connect to everyone’s sense of identity and value in terms of culture and communication. I love these definitions because they truly exemplify the way that we practice cultural competence here at Headwaters.

Personally, coming from a bi-cultural experience has allowed me to be more open and willing to understand and respect the experiences of patients and staff alike.

I don’t define myself as better or worse than anyone else, but as different in some aspects and thinking alike in many others. Through this, I can inspire our patients to look at themselves and reconnect with their true identity and values that substance use has usually taken away from them. They can do this without thinking the worse of themselves and or higher than what they ought to. Each of our staff members here also represents a different culture and subcultural experience. As a result, we have created a program that truly is based on strengths rather than on deficits – a program that is innovative and values people with different interests, strengths, limitations, cultures, and ways of knowing. Our variety of internal and external resources from our own cultures, our economic background, and other forms of diversity guide our team on a daily basis and inform our recommendations for care and continuing care.

During our groups and individual sessions, we challenge our patients to think critically, go back to the essentials, and re-examine the meaning and purpose of their lives. 

Our therapists meet each patient where they are, understanding the unique challenges that they may face as a result of status, religious upbringing, wealth, or social framework. We create a space where they can be open to new experiences, change their attitudes towards themselves and others, and support them in becoming able to interact in recovery with multiple people from multiple walks of life.

Finally, cultural competence allows us to interact appropriately with multiple stakeholders and people involved with the patients – from referents to family members and other professionals – in order to successfully treat them and their loved ones. 

Without honoring and valuing the cultural diversity of experiences we have at Headwaters, and demonstrating cultural competence with the types of people we treat, we could not accomplish these goals. As the author of the book Falling Upward stated, “When you get your, ‘Who am I?’ question right, all of your, ‘What should I do?’ questions

HeadWaters Origins is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety. For information on our programs, call us today: 561-270-1753.

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