Any truly ethical “helping professional” will make great effort to attain a measure of “multicultural competency” in order to effectively assist people who are of different backgrounds, religions, ethnicities, countries, cultures, etc. than the person who is doing the “helping.” This is important because offending a person – intentionally or otherwise – means the “helping” is less likely to happen. There will be no trust, and without trust, no rapport, and without rapport nothing can be achieved on behalf of the client, student, patient, consumer.

Helping professionals include licensed clinical social workers, medical personnel (doctors, nurses, clinic staff, etc.), mental health professionals, licensed professional counselors, sex therapists, sexologists, sexuality educators, sexual health educators, physical therapists, case managers, and so on. Many of these folks will spend time and money on training to improve multicultural competency, either through academic or continuing education venues, such as conferences, workshops, etc. Professional and scientific literature also proves and endorses the importance of multicultural competency and awareness in ethical clinical practice.

To get a rough sense of the range of multicultural ethical considerations and practice expectations which affect the competency of helping professionals, check out these links. In some cases these documents represent decades of work.

Multicultural Issues in Social Work, Vol. 2 – book description.

The Ethics of Cultural Competence by Michael Paasche-Orlow, MD, MPH, MA (PDF of the entire article). Here’s a quote from the abstract: Though rarely stated explicitly, the essential principles of cultural competence are (1) acknowledgement of the importance of culture in people’s lives, (2) respect for cultural differences, and (3) minimization of any negative consequences of cultural differences. Culturally compe- tent clinicians promote these principles by learning about culture, embracing pluralism, and proactive accommoda- tion. Generally, culturally competent care will advance patient autonomy and justice.

AMCD Multicultural Counseling Competencies – PDF of guidelines. Here’s a quote: Culturally skilled counselors understand and have knowledge about sociopolitical influences that impinge upon the life of racial and ethnic minorities. Immigration issues, poverty, racism, stereotyping, and powerlessness may impact self esteem and self concept in the counseling process.

American Psychological Association Guidelines for Providers of Psychological Services to Ethnic, Linguistic, and Culturally Diverse Populations.
A Review of APA & ACA Cultural Guidelines Implementing Multicultural Health Care Standards, which mentions the need to “develop culturally appropriate materials and programs.”
Note: This blog was revised on May 7th after the May 6th announcement that the controversial “hula” STD alert app will receive a name change in the near future. I thank CEO Ramin Bastani for his decision to do the right thing and for his willingness to learn from the Native Hawaiians who contacted him.